Saturday, December 10, 2011

Development of Taste

How has your reading taste changed over time?

I was always a voracious reader, ever since I realized I was pretty good at it. Funnily enough, I was in remedial reading at the beginning of my first grade year-I distinctly remember my correctly reading the word “world” was the trigger that convinced the teacher to move me up a level. By the end of that year, I was in advanced. Just goes to show-sometimes kids just need time.

But I digress. What did I like to read as a kid? What were my favorite books?

I started with the classics-Boxcar Kids, Hardy Boys, Beverly Clearly, and the like. Typical contemporary middle grade. I also admit reading a lot of the Sweet Valley High novels, which even back then I realized were a bit ridiculous-there was one novel where there is another set of twins, except they have black hair, who tried to steal Jessica and Elizabeth’s identity. It was soap opera stuff. I also read a lot of silly horror novels, like Goosebumps, and I did read Animorphs.

Around 4th and 5th grade I moved on to animal fantasy, which was the bulk of my reading for a while, especially considering I got all my books from my school’s library. Redwall, Martin’s Mice, any book with talking animal protagonists-I devoured them. I wish Warriors had been out then, because I would have loved it. That was also when I read my favorite book of all time-TailChaser’s Song.

Around 6th and 7th grade I started branching out a bit. I gave horror a try, trying and failing to find books with cool vampires. Even back then, I wasn’t that into paranormal. I also got my first taste of good historical fiction with A Separate Peace.

High school was where my tastes focused-when I read Wheel of Time. I became a fantasy fan, not limiting myself to animal fantasy. I also learned to enjoy science fiction when I read the Otherland series.

Since high school my tastes haven’t changed much. I’m open to nearly any genre, but my favorites are fantasy and science fiction. Naturally I insert gay romance into a lot of my writing, as that is my preference, but romance alone doesn’t do much for me-there has to be something otherworldly or fantastical in a story for me to really get sucked in.

I’m trying to find a pattern in my reading over time, but quite honestly I just think being open minded is what led to my reading patterns now. Also, being impressionable helps-if enough people say something is good, I’ll usually give it a try.  

I think having a good memory of the books you liked as a kid helps in writing, especially if you write for a younger audience. Childhood is where you discover what you like, and often it’s easier for children to  simply get sucked into a story and a world. When I write, I try to evoke that easy feeling of discovery.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Traditional vs E-Publishing

So I’ve been a published E-author for a while now, with two books released. It’s been an overall positive experience.

I have not yet been published traditionally-going the agent to big-6 publisher route. 

So, from my experiences with both types of publishing, what have I noticed?

First, E-publishing is easier. I spent a while trying to get various novels published with a legitimate E-publisher, with some false starts, but now I’m comfortable. I had to brush up on my writing after some rejections pointed out flaws, but I made it.

Traditional publishing? Tougher. It’s recommended that people go through agents first, and not directly to publishers. Agents are the first gatekeepers to the publishing world, and they are difficult to impress. No matter how unique you think your premise is, they’ve probably seen something similar before, and every agent may find something different wrong with your manuscript. 

Keep in mind, though, that my experiences are from writing as a hobby while working 9-5 (or 8-6 in some cases) every day. If you have plentiful free time to submit to agents and publishers, you may find that things move much faster.

Another major difference is how your materials are submitted. E-publishers take query letters, but will often look at part of or the entire manuscript, and often give you pointers even if they reject it.

With agents? You have one query letter with which to impress them. Make it count. Some will let you paste a few pages into the email, but it’s the query letter that really matters. And your rejections will typically be standard form rejections, so don’t expect anything helpful. Even rejections of partial and full manuscripts can take the form of “this is great, but not for me/this agency.” If two different agents reject something and do give you feedback, the feedback will often be contradictory. All you can do is keep trying.

So what about once you do get something out? The major difference here-and the biggest benefit of E-publishing-is turnaround time. I’ve heard agents say that if they sold a book tomorrow, it would be published in two years. E-publishers? 6 months. E-books are a great way to ride a fad, and if as a reader if you decide you like a certain genre, you can expect more soon. As an author, you can see your work available on Amazon less than a year after finishing your book if you edit quickly. E-publishers are often more willing to take shorter, novella length works, too, expanding an author’s shelf and providing quick, cheap reads.

So why bother with traditional publishing at all? It’s harder, slower, and often must create fads rather than fit into them.

The answer is obvious-sales and recognition. E-publishing is getting there, but for the moment sales can’t compare to a traditionally published book. On top of that, some genres do better as traditional books-middle grade kids typically can’t afford E-readers. Plus, most E-publishers don’t offer advances, so your money will depend entirely on how well your book does.

Both routes of publishing are valid and can lead to rewards. But keep the differences in mind when planning your future in writing.