Log in

No account? Create an account
Don't Blame the Writer When It's Not the Writer's Fault! - MoonScape [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

[ website | My Website ]
[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ archive | journal archive ]

Don't Blame the Writer When It's Not the Writer's Fault! [Feb. 23rd, 2012|05:35 pm]
[Tags|, ]
[Current Mood |annoyed]

Many of the things book-buyers blame writers for are not the writer's fault...in fact the conventionally published writer has no control over the following:

1) The book's cover price.  This is set by the publisher after intricate calculations that may allow the publisher to make some money.

2) The book's cover art.   Cover art is designed by art departments at the publisher's with input from marketing and editorial, but none to little from writers.

3) The book's publication date:  This is set by the publisher in hopes of finding the sweet spot for that book where it will show well against the competition (or to protect a similar book from the same publisher.)  

4) The book's actual appearance in a store or as a download.   This is decided by the bookseller, who may or may not pay any attention to the publisher's stated release date.   For books sold through multiple outlets (most conventionally published books) each bookseller makes the decision when to sell the book. 

          A) This means that  Store A may order half as many copies as Store B, and put them on sale earlier or later than Store B.    The writer did not have a conspiracy to make you buy at one store or the other.   The stores (or corporations running dozens of stores) made the decision. 

         B) This also means that a bookseller like Amazon can completely ignore the publisher's release date for paper copies and insist (for whatever purpose who knows?) on withholding downloads to Kindle or other e-readers.  

The very talented Seanan McGuire, for instance, is stuck right now in exactly this situation.  Amazon decided to deliver the paper copies of her new book to those who'd pre-ordered two whole weeks before the release date...but withheld the e-copies from those who'd preordered it for their Kindle.   Naturally, Kindle readers were angry.   But they were angry with McGuire, when they should have been angry with Amazon.   McGuire didn't even know (until abusive emails started pouring into her inbox) that Amazon had wrongfully shipped the hard copies or refused to release the e-books.   Not her fault.  Yet...she got piled on, with accusations that she was trying to force people to buy the hard copy out of greed.   And she is justifiably upset and hurt that she was blamed for something she didn't do, especially in the abusive terms people used..

She had nothing to do with it.   She had nothing to do with Barnes & Noble, who held out for a few days, deciding that they'd sell the books they had in the store (rather than lose more market share to Amazon.)   That wasn't her decision; it was B&N's decision.   She and her agent and her publisher and the distributor haven't been able to budge Amazon a millimeter from what was a stupid decision on Amazon's part, guaranteed to make customers angry.  

So...why aren't these customers angry with Amazon?  Why are they angry with McGuire?  It makes no sense.  It makes no sense that people would automatically blame the writer without even asking who made that decision.   It's obvious to other writers that the writer doesn't control Amazon's decisions.  And it should--after the number of writers who've taken the time to explain over and over--be obvious to those buying books.

But in case it prevents future abusive attacks on some hapless writer, here are some other things
 the writer has no control over:

5) The price at which Amazon or other discounting booksellers sell the book.   Some of this is contractual between publisher and bookseller; the writer isn't consulted.   Amazon, for its part, claims the right to change the price of self-published books at any time, for any reason.    It's not the writer trying to game the market: it's Amazon.

6)  The quality of paper, printing, and binding.   The publisher chooses the printer and binder and attempts quality control, but it's really the responsibility of printer and binder.   If you find a chapter of another book upside down in the middle of one you bought...it's not the writer's fault.  If the glue on the binding fails...it's not the writer's fault. 

7) The book's overall design (size of font, width of margins, "cramped" or "open" appearance).  The publisher designs the book. 

8)  The book's advertising  (or lack of.)  There again, the publisher decides how much (if any) advertising budget to spend on a given book.  

9) The book's placement in the store or on racks in airports (and anywhere else there are still racks of books on sale.)   

Bottom line:  If you've got a gripe about a book, think before you trash the writer.   If you don't like the cover, the print run, the book's design, the quality of the binding,  the price, etc. etc.  complain to the publisher.  If the book's not in your local store, ask the store manager why it's not carried.   If it's not carried in an entire chain, gripe at the CEO.   If Amazon's not shipping your book or e-book, complain to Amazon.

Complain to the right person.  You might get some satisfaction and you'll avoid hurting the innocent.


[User Picture]From: rap541
2012-02-23 11:46 pm (UTC)
Out of personal curiousity (and because of a fight I had with an author on an Amazon forum) is it fair to say that if you find a book rife with grammatical errors, in particular "I should of" for "I should've" and "I could of" instead of "I could've", is it fair to say that THAT is the author's fault? And not the fault of the book publisher's editing staff as one Dr. William Forstchen likes to insist?
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-02-24 12:17 am (UTC)
If the words on the page are the words the writer wrote (not, for instance, the words of an editor or copyeditor replacing the words the writer wrote--which happens) then yes, the writer is responsible. Typos are harder to judge. Yes, the writer should get rid of them...but they're sometimes reintroduced by the production process, since the modern production process depends on software, and software is not glitch-free. Some writers are not given the chance to see the typeset version before it goes "live." (It's happened to me, and to others as well.

I've also had copy editors make smooth writing clunky, "correct" the right word with the wrong word, and just generally tromp all over the book with the hobnailed boots of "I'm the boss; you're just a dumb writer."

On the question of "should of" rather than "should've" or "should have" I would pay attention to where that usage occurs. Dialogue, in particular, should not be judged the same as narrative, and may require nonstandard grammar to express the character. That included internal dialogue--to write a quick example:

Jed brooded all afternoon about that insult. He should of smacked ol' Henry upside the head. He should of picked up that hammer--that hammer right there beside him--and just clobbered the sumbitch. And why hadn't he? Jus' cause Anna Mae Carhart was standin' there grinnin' all over her face? He should of whacked both of 'em, and he would. With more than a hammer.

In this instance, "should of" is the way Jed thinks, and confirms Jed as at best semi-literate. "Should've" in this situation is weaker and doesn't give near the impression of Jed that "should of" does.

Now in straight narrative, unless you're dealing with an illiterate/semi-literate narrator (again, depends on the book) "should of" is definitely an error the educated writer should not make, although conditionals in narrative usually mean the intrusion of a narrator (author or other.) Someone is talking to the reader, not living in the book. (If I wrote "Jane should have gone to the store rather than lie around watching TV" as narrative, I'm talking to the reader. We're both watching Jane from outside. That's a valid POV choice, though rarely used today.) It's less intrusive, less a break in point of view, in such impersonal passages as: "The freight should have been on the siding, but an error in signaling left it in the path of the onrushing express". "Should of" in this case would be wrong.

I once wrote a story that needed a consistent local dialect throughout--the POV character was a country boy who'd chosen to stay ignorant and bigoted, and even one phrase too correct, too "educated" would have ruined the story. I can't write that way for long--it hurts. But for that story it worked. What matters is what works for a given story. So I can't answer your question without knowing the full context of the usage you're talking about. Dialogue? Narrative? If narrative, is there an obvious narrator, an "invisible" POV?

But if the writer thinks the editors should change the writer's ungrammatical speech, when "ungrammatical" wasn't the intent...that writer's got the wrong attitude. In my opinion.

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
[User Picture]From: wldrose
2012-02-23 11:55 pm (UTC)
Oye growing up in publishing I forget how the public sees things. I know most writers would love to have $10 hardback on acid free paper in lovey type for all their books (if they got paid the same) But sadly many if not most publishers are not folks who love or even understand books anymore and the dollar is king.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-02-24 12:51 am (UTC)
Publishers have to mind the bottom line or they go out of business. The pressures on them are greater, I think.

Among the pressures are the "entitlement" issues too many readers now have, treating writers as serfs who can be beaten whenever the reader has a gripe. The notion that anything someone with an internet connection wants should be instantly available for the pittance they want to pay is...ludicrous and unworkable. And if they're going to send rude abusive emails to someone, it should be the person actually responsible for their grievance.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
[User Picture]From: shalanna
2012-02-24 12:22 am (UTC)


People!! Don't be idiots! ! This is your beloved author you are attacking! If you hurt her enough, she may not write any more of the books you want. What is the MATTER with people?? Would they have attacked the Beatles for a late album? (sigh)

I mean . . . COME ON. This is fifth grade bullying, besides. She has my complete sympathy.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: knittingwoman
2012-02-24 12:24 am (UTC)
what completely baffles me is that people are heaping abuse on seanan because they have to wait to read this first book in what looks like it will be a fabulous new series. I just don't get that??? On the one hand they can't wait to read this great book written by the talented seanan McGuire and on the other hand they are being abusive to her for something that she no control over and no involvement in besides suffering from the situation and the abuse:(
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-02-24 12:54 am (UTC)
Yup. It doesn't baffle me, exactly, since I know others have been subject to similar abuse...and the patience and forbearance of readers seems to have disappeared entirely even as other things became harder on writers. I think they're just spoiled by such easy access. Putting on my Old Lady hat, when I was younger, and knew of a book I wanted to read about to come out...I usually had to wait until it got to the library (or even used book store) before I could read it. And it would never have occurred to me to bash the writer. Because we can get some things almost instantly, some people think everything should be that easy.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
[User Picture]From: gauroth
2012-02-24 12:56 am (UTC)
Re: 2) I've been trying to explain to a young friend that it's not Branderson's fault that the date of the last 'Wheel of Time' book has been pushed into next year. My friend doesn't understand why, if the book's ready, it can't be produced. To be honest, neither do I, in this case! It seems to be a PR meltdown.

Thank you for reminding us all who to complain to!
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-02-24 02:01 am (UTC)
Possibly placement. THE SPEED OF DARK was pushed back--I think it was seven full months, in two and three month increments, and it drove me crazy. But they wanted to place it where it would have a chance at a major award, I think. Sales weren't great at first, but it got the Nebula, so...something worked.

Placement is both within a publishing house and outside--"big" books need to come out with a little distance from other "big" books (Sanderson's definitely "bigger" in that sense than I am.) Every month has one or more "leads" (each subgenre may have one, or there may be one for each major genre) and several below that. The larger in importance the lead, the more it will deflect buyers from that month's other releases (one would not have wanted to be a YA fantasy release the same month as a Harry Potter book!) Buyers spending their all on the very important bestseller may not be able to afford another book next month...so very good books adjacent to the super book can be affected. Their editors try to protect them. But something has to lead every month.

Also, you don't want same-month or back-to-back leads that are very much alike. Hindsight suggests that _The Speed of Dark_ may have been held back initially because another imprint of Random House was publishing _The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime_--another unusual fiction about an autistic protagonist. It came out within a month or my first scheduled release date. I don't know that for a fact; it's just my hindsight guess.

And then there's rumor and speculation about what the other houses are working on and when the next (giant of that house) is coming out.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
[User Picture]From: litch
2012-02-24 07:32 am (UTC)
I wonder if it is somewhat like when as a woman getting mad at the chick her boyfriend sleeps with rather than the boyfriend. But that's usually more about deflecting the anger from someone you care about to someone you don't and that doesn't seem like whats here. This actually has something of a hint of jealousy about it.

For argument's sake though, do you think it is fair to be mad at the author for their choice of which publisher to work with? Amazon is kind of new but they've already done a number of things that pretty clearly indicate that their first, foremost obsession is wringing out the bucks and they really don't care about readers, writers, or allied professionals.

(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: oreouk
2012-02-24 10:56 am (UTC)
Authors do not get to choose which publisher they work with in any meaningful way that I can tell (or at least if they ever do get such an ability it doesn't come until they acquire a level of status like Neil Gaiman or Stephen King maybe), so no, I don't think it's in any way fair to be mad at an author for who ends up publishing them.

For all that they are jumping into the self publishing market I don't think that you can realistically claim that Amazon is a publisher.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
[User Picture]From: mrs_redboots
2012-02-24 08:14 am (UTC)
Perhaps they attack the author - very silly of them, also very rude - because they don't know who the publisher/bookseller/copy editor is? All the same, there's a huge difference between asking you politely if you know when Amazon is planning to ship ECHOES OF BETRAYAL (don't worry, they already have and it's every bit as good as its predecessors, if not better! I'm loving it!) and yelling at you because they haven't yet!

Incidentally, talking of SPEED OF DARK, I've just read it for the first time, and absolutely adored it, too! I'm gradually working my way through your backlist on my Kindle, and thoroughly enjoying myself in the process. Thank you.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-02-24 02:47 pm (UTC)
But...how hard is it to find the publisher's name? It's right there on the book, on my website, in advertising. As for not finding the bookseller--they ordered it from the bookseller. If you order something from Amazon then Amazon should be the first place to complain if whatever it was doesn't arrive. When I know UPS or FedEx shipped something and it hasn't arrived, I use their tracking software and--if necessary--call that shipping company.

Maybe it's that the writer is a specific person, and the publishing house, or the vast octopus that is Amazon, are faceless...but still people could have the elementary courtesy to ASK what happened rather than calling vicious names. (McGuire has now posted about it to her LJ, and it's clear the usual internet sexualization of any perceived problem with a female is going strong. http://seanan-mcguire.livejournal.com/425907.html Jim Hines' response, http://www.jimchines.com/2012/02/oatmeal-mcguire-entitlement/ offers another view of this mess.)

Glad you've got your copy of ECHOES and that you enjoyed SPEED OF DARK.

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
[User Picture]From: teriegarrison
2012-02-24 09:37 am (UTC)
If I may add another item?

10) The narrator chosen to read the audiobook.

I was astonished to see how many people criticised Jim Butcher for not 'using' James Marsters for Dresden 13, as if it were his choice.

I do understand why the publisher chose to hire someone else when Marsters was already booked, so that the audiobook could be released concurrently with the hardback. I personally wish they'd chosen to wait for Marsters' availability and released the audiobook a bit late.

But I certainly don't blame Butcher for the decision, and it spun my head that so many people faulted *him* for it.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-02-24 02:19 pm (UTC)
Yes. That. Thank you; I knew there was another one but couldn't think of it. I've had people complain because they didn't like the voices chosen for this or that audiobook. Or complain that a particular book wasn't available in audiobook format and why was I being mean to that person. (Of course I still get people complaining that books that have e-editions don't have e-editions, or that the book isn't available in their preferred format.)

I don't make those choices. The audiobook publisher has to decide that my book will sell enough copies to be profitable...and then there'll be a contract. No interest from audio publishers, no contract, no audiobook.

The publisher, not me, decides which e-formats to issue the book in...I am not "trying to make someone buy a Kindle."

I write books. That's what I do. Period. It's enough work to fill my days at least six days a week, all year long.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ladymurmur
2012-02-24 02:45 pm (UTC)
A tiny clarification Re: #5 - the writer has no control over the price that a discounting bookseller sells the paper book.

For big 6 published titles, neither the writer nor the bookseller (be it B&N, Amazon, whoever), has no control over the price that the publisher sets on the ebook.

And thank you for a very well-written post on this. I'm just sick knowing the unwarranted abuse being heaped on Ms. Mcguire for something that is out of her control and already stressful for her.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-02-25 04:15 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the clarification!
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: pgranzeau
2012-02-24 04:36 pm (UTC)
I figured that people who read your LJ already knew enough about writing and publishing, to the point you may be preaching to the choir, here.

There was one SF&F writer whose spouse was a cover artist--and I have no knowledge if spouse ever painted a cover for spouse's book or not. I forget who, unfortunately.

I always enjoyed your covers, even those at Baen (whose covers are about as bad as they can get, IMHO).

Book publishing being enough of a collaborative effort, I get irritated when obvious errors of grammar (of which I am NOT an expert, but "you and I" when "you and me" should be correct)) or misuses of words occur (discrete for discreet, forex), or when obvious errors of fact are written. Someone in the editing process should pick up on those things.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-02-25 04:14 pm (UTC)
You're right, someone should pick up on those errors. But the process should give that someone enough time to do so. In my case, all of us--editor, copy editor, proofreaders, me--do pick up errors that don't get into the final book. But we would each need another round or two of reading to get them all, and time does not permit. The error-free book needs many eyes and many runs, including after the software conversion from writing-software to typesetting-software, when errors are often introduced. Today's rushed schedules just don't allow enough time, in my opinion. (And yet--readers want things ever faster...)
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: gifted
2012-02-24 11:55 pm (UTC)
I've never thought to blame the author for these things. I have grumbled, one or twice, about editors missing glaringly obvious typos, though I understand scaling a novel is a lengthy process.

It's a shame this stuff isn't obvious to most people.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-02-25 04:10 pm (UTC)
Editors, like writers, are pushed to rush things through these days. With the smaller editorial staffs at publishing houses, it's just not possible to have as many eyes on a text as many times as it was back in the day. Some steps are usually contracted out to freelancers at low rates, which means they too are rushing so they can make enough to live on. In an ideal world, the profits from publishing a book would be large enough to support the number of eyes and the time it takes to make one flawless, but for most books it's not.

There are tricks to help the eye not slide over a typo (the ones that are actually words are the hardest to spot)...reading backwards from the end, reading aloud, etc....but these all slow down the proofreading process. Excellent to slow down if you have the time, but if you're at a convention and get your 160,000 word manuscript by email with a "We need this by tomorrow at 3 pm" note attached...there's no way you can do a thorough, slow, job of it.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
[User Picture]From: paksenarrion2
2012-02-25 02:14 am (UTC)
My heart breaks for Seanan-because she is very open to her fans. Which also makes her open to those that are thoughtless and often entitled and down right nasty. The amazing lack of self awareness of the general public sometimes astounds me. Although in this instance I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, considering the people that gave her shit for not adopting cats from a shelter. this was a couple of months ago and she even got some death threats towards her cats. What in the ever living blue bloody blazes is WRONG with people.

Anyway, the point of posting to you and not to her, is to not further bring this to her because frankly I think she needs to just not dea with it right now. I have a question I hope you can answer.

I pre-ordered a hard copy from Amazon. I've been out of touch for about two weeks and didn't get the emails that told me they were changing the shipping date. So now that I have my book two weeks early, this copy doesn't count towards her first week numbers. Which was the purpose of getting it in the first place on a pre-order, under the assumption that Amazon wasn't going to pull this shit. So-if I order the Kindle edition on March 6th-when it is supposed to release, do they count e-books towards sales? Thanks.

Which reminds me, I need to go cancel my pre-order of Blackout. Just in case they pull this crap again...
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-02-25 04:03 pm (UTC)
How very nice of you! Yes, the e-books do count toward sales for bestseller status now (I think they didn't at first, but I know that my e-book sales counted toward NYT status last year.)

I probably should've mentioned (was too annoyed to think of it then)--anyone who hasn't yet bought the book should do so either at a brick-and-mortar store between March 6 and March 13, or order the e-book in the same range.

I don't normally follow Seanan's blog (if I followed the blogs of all the writers I've "met" online, I would never get my own stuff written!) so I hadn't known about the cat thing. They actually threatened her CATS? How can people claim to care about cats and then threaten someone's cats? That's...insane.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
[User Picture]From: arcaneblades
2012-02-25 07:05 am (UTC)
Thank you. I've read your books for years, and do love them, but I had not read your blog until now. I followed a mention to it over at Seanan McGuire's entry on the subject, and wanted to let you know that I really appreciate you putting in the time and effort to defend another authour.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-02-25 04:20 pm (UTC)
I was glad to do so. Some writers are so damaged by this kind of thing that they can't continue to write and risk another attack...and we don't find out about it until too late. Particularly now, when so many outside pressures make every writer vulnerable, we must support one another so that newer writers will have a chance to become established.

And in addition, the vicious online culture that uses sexualized attacks on women who displease someone needs to be confronted every single time or it will only get worse. I've seen it in venues others than readers v. a female writer. The internet makes bullying and abuse easy. We need to find some way to take that home to the bullies and abusers.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
[User Picture]From: wild_paladin
2012-02-25 08:32 pm (UTC)
The only time I complain about an author is when it's a matter of story; as example, I read a popular urban fantasy series that, to be honest, I enjoy greatly-- at the same time as I want to strangle the author.

He has given different backstories for the same character more than once. It seems that he either doesn't re-read his work, or doesn't take notes, as he contradicts himself on matters of plot-- in one case, he got wrong something that had happened only one book before.

That? I think that's the author's fault-- and very unprofessional besides.

Everything you listed? I know those things aren't the fault of any author. I've seen authors, on their own blogs, complain about covers that misrepresent stories or characters (most notably "whitewashing" characters), and... well, about most everything else you mentioned. As an aspiring author, I can't help but feel sympathy for these issues.

But the crap that Seanan McGuire is taking? I'd like to see all of the "fans" that are heaping abuse on her that way strung up by delicate portions of their anatomy. (And I've never read one of her books, even-- wrong is wrong, fan or not.)

I'd even vounteer to do the hanging....
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: serge_lj
2012-02-28 01:12 am (UTC)
Being married to a writer, I'm especially aware that a writer seldom has any control on any part of the process that turns their manuscript into a book. Even if I weren't aware, the last thing I'd do would be to pile on an author, especially one who brings me great pleasure.
(Reply) (Thread)