Thursday, January 25, 2018

Choose Your Words Carefully

In addition to writing erotic romance, I’m an avid reader. And sometimes, when my favorite authors are being slow in giving me new material, I turn to the internet to find new material.

Sometimes I hit gold – hello, Laura Kaye! – and sometimes I don’t. This week, gold was in short supply. I won’t name names, because I’m not here to jump all over other authors. And frankly, what doesn’t suit me as a reader will undoubtedly suit others. That’s the beauty of this wild and wonderful world we live in; there is something for everyone. But this particular book struck me as almost unbearably awkward. Not the premise, that was actually quite good. But the way it was written? *shudder*  There were lots of times where phrasing or word choice worked to pull me away from the story rather than pull me deeper into it, making it difficult to continue reading. For example, the use of the word ‘jism’. Cue gag reflex – this is NOT a word I want to read in a sex scene. EVER.

Though to be fair, I may be more sensitive about word choice than other readers - and don't get me started on how nuts I can be over it as a writer. I once had a week long fight with my editor over the use of the word ‘cunt’. You see, the Powers That Were at my old publisher had decreed that this was a Bad Word, only to be used in dialogue, and only by a male character. It could not appear in descriptive prose, and it could not cross the lips of a female character. It was deemed too crass, and potentially offensive. And I get the offensive bit – lots of people, especially women, dislike that word as its often used pejoratively. But here’s the thing; I chose that word for a reason, and when they told me to change it to something more acceptable like ‘pussy’? Well, I sort of had a fit about it.

Because those two words may be describing the same thing, but they are Not The Same ™. They don’t elicit the same emotion from the reader, and that was the whole point. I chose the word I did because it fit the scene, it fit how the people in the scene felt about what they were doing, and if I replaced it I was undercutting all of that. Watering it down, if you will. And I resisted – MIGHTILY.

I eventually caved, and rewrote a few sentences to fit within the guidelines and still convey what I wanted to. I wasn’t thrilled about it (a dozen years later, it still chaps my ass), but it was a good lesson for me. I figured out a way to make the publisher happy and still get across what I needed to, and things like that make one grow as an author. And I figured out that when you put your editor through hell, you send her chocolate afterwards, because really, her job is hard enough. And I learned that no matter how much I like what I’ve written, there will be people who don’t like it, and I might have to compromise to get what I ultimately want.

The author of the Awkward Book? Maybe she really felt that ‘jism’ was the best word to convey the emotion and state of mind of her characters. Maybe she felt the same way I did about the word ‘cunt’. Maybe nobody else shuddered in distaste when they read it. Who knows?

I did finish the book, though I cringed every time the J word popped up – and yes, it popped up more than once. And trigger words aside, it wasn’t a bad read. But I really hope I never see that word again, unless it’s being said by a drunk frat boy who is then immediately shamed by everyone in earshot.

I don’t think that’s too much to ask, do you?

Friday, December 15, 2017

We All Deserve to Get Paid for Our Art

Recently, on Twitter, I stumbled across a thread about illustrations for books, children’s books in particular, and how much one could expect to pay an artist to provide drawings for your manuscript.

As a self published author—a recent one—this is a question I had when I started looking at self publishing as an option. One of the nice things about traditional publishing is that the writer doesn’t have to worry about the nuts and bolts of getting the book published. Formatting, cover art, marketing—in a traditional publishing world, the publisher handles all that. But for a self published author, all of these things fall in your domain. And a lot of them you have to pay for.

Some you can do yourself—formatting, for example. Personally, I chose to find someone who could do that for me, and paid them their asking rate. I did it that way for two reasons: 1) I knew I would probably screw it up if I tried to do it on my own, and it would likely take me five times as long as it would someone who actually did that for a living; and 2) I found their asking rate to be reasonable. I had no idea if it was or not, but a quick Google search told me that it was in line with what a lot of other people were asking, and the person I chose came recommended, so I figured it was a good deal. And he formatted my manuscripts well and on time, and I would absolutely go to him again the next time I need such work done.

I also needed new cover art. The books I was putting up for sale had been previously published, but the rights had recently reverted to me, and I wanted a new look for them. So again, I turned to Google. And with art, there’s a LOT more variation in price. I found pre-made covers for as little as $40.00, and custom made covers for as much as $200.00 and up. Again, I looked around until I found a few sites I liked, read the reviews, and bought the covers I both liked and could afford. Would I have liked to have custom covers for each title? Of course. But I knew I couldn’t afford that, so I looked for ones I could.

Which brings me to the twitter conversation I mentioned in the first paragraph. The debate was about what constituted a ‘fair’ price for such work. If you’re a children’s book author, and your book has twenty-five pages, you’re probably looking for at least twelve drawings, plus front and back cover art. That’s one drawing for every two pages, so there’s a visual each time you turn the page. And remember that stock art isn’t going to work here – you have to have an artist who will read your story and craft the art work that goes with that story.

I get that as a self-published author, you have to keep your overhead low. You can’t spend $3,000 on art when you’re trying to make a name for yourself, and a profit, because you might make the first but you likely won’t make the second. But the artist has to make a living as well, so where’s the sweet spot? Where’s the middle ground, where the artist is still making a decent living, being fairly compensated for his or her work, and the author isn’t breaking the bank?

I suppose that sweet spot is different for every author, and every artist. One compromise that occurred to me would be for an author to offer the artist a percentage of profits as compensation. The drawings will run $3k, and you can’t afford it, so maybe you offer 20% of your net earnings in exchange for the art. Maybe you cap it at a certain point, maybe you don’t. But it strikes me as a fair deal, and also gives the artist even more incentive to create art that helps sell your book. But as I said, this isn’t my dilemma, and I don’t know how other authors or artists might view such a compromise.

But I do know that as an author, I gain nothing by trying to get a great deal if it means low-balling my artist. I sincerely hope for the day when I’m making enough as an author to be able to contract with first class artists, and pay them first class money for their work. I’m not there yet, so I’ll be looking at stock art and pre-made covers until I am.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

And So It Begins...

Hello, all.

This blog is going to be my space to kvetch. About writing, life, love, the ins and outs of writing erotic romance (pun intended), and pretty much anything else I can think of. It probably won't be daily. Definitely won't be daily - I have a three year old and a husband, it's a miracle I find time to do anything except laundry and dishes.

But I imagine I'll get around here once or twice a week. Comments are welcome (don't be a jerk), as is feedback (same). Questions will be answered as promptly as possible (please recall the aforementioned toddler and husband). Hopefully I'll be informative, entertaining, and we'll all have some fun with this.