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Authors To Do Lists

There's a bit of talk going round about how an author has to take responsibility of his/her career.

The talk spun out of the argument I linked yesterday, and which I was involved in. In case you didn't read it last time, the basic point being made is that, since it is the author's responsibility to manage their career, then I am to blame for work not being sent to the proper venues, and that I've got no one to blame except myself. A similar argument was raised around the time of the Aurealis Awards, where some people believed that, just because certain stories were not given to judges, that it was the author's fault for not managing their career properly.

So what I want to talk about a little here is the Author Responsibility. Ignore all that other shit beforehand. We're just looking at what an author should do.

The problem with the Author Career Responsibility Card is that it often seeks to shift responsibility solely onto the author. Maybe that's fair--some people tend to think that the argument stops there, and maybe it does. Personally, I tend to think it doesn't.

Consider the question of responsibility if you are running a 'professional level' award. If you're an author who appears in a publication at the top of the industry like sci-fi.com*, then I believe you have every right to believe that your story will be naturally included by the judges. You cannot claim that such a publication is under the radar, that no one of industry standing reads it, and is thus going to slip by the judges simply because, hey, who knew? When a top level publication slips by as a whole, then you have to have a seriously look at the administration of the award, and begin making sure that such things do not reoccur. You want to do this because it's bad for the award. You want an award that is respected, one that people pay attention to--which I figure is what we're going to use for a definition of professional--and if you want this, then you have to be aware of what the industry leading markets are doing, and either hunt down the work, or contact the editors to inform them of the ways in which they can submit the work. If the editors forget (and they might, but they have a vested interest in making sure they don't) then I'd even go as far as to say that it is the awards responsibility to ensure that that work is there.

That said, if you're in a publication that flies well under the radar, then the responsibility falls to you, the author. Since you're not appearing in publications that are known for setting industry standards, and which might be limited to the circulation of your friends, and maybe a couple of cat litter boxes, you can't really go round acting indignant when someone isn't aware of your work. So you got to look at that and decide if you want to go to the effort of making copies and sending them around. This will apply to you if you're sending your work to Year's Best anthologies, obscure review journals, your long last brother, whatever.

However, if you appear in a professional publication, you can expect a certain amount of things done for you, the author. You'll know you're in a professional publication because they'll pay you something like five cents a word. You'll get pretty contracts. You'll get reviews. The presentation of the site/magazine will be of an acceptable level. The editing will have been done so that you're story isn't filled with typos, and it hasn't been rewritten. You'll get some free editions of the work, if it's a print publication. You will find that strangers read it. Respected strangers, even. You will also find that the editors and publishers of these publications will send your work out to awards and Year's Best editors and various other venues from which a bit of credibility might be bleed out of that rock. They will do this not because they think that sending things to places is a perk, or because they have the spare time for it, but because it is part of how they, as editors and publishers, gain respect and recognition for the work that they are doing, and that getting this respect/readership will allow them to continue existing at a professional level in the industry. In short, they will do it because it is, in combination with all the tasks of selecting fiction, editing it, and all that stuff involved with being an editor and publisher--they will do it all because it is part of their job.

(And in some cases, a professional publication like Shadowed Realms may indeed make half sized posters of the issue you appeared in, and which you may think is expensive and rather unnecessary, but by then the editor will have sent it and maybe signed it put it in a tube that has been cut in half. Which sounds expensive, and may cause you later, when a  professional paying publication is currently complaining about the 'costs' about sending print outs to Year's Best Editors... well, it may just make you think about the Poster Money.)

Now, if you appear in publications that pay you in token payments, or not at all, your mileage will vary. A good small press market, for either novels or short fiction, will do these things that the professional editor does, much for the same reason that the professional does: recognition, respectability, and so forth. They want to see their publication recognised.  Think of all the small and independent press outlets that you know, and which you view with respect, and think about how they got it. They didn't get it sitting round and doing nothing, or crying poor constantly. They got there through the shitty hard work, through the personal financial loss, and everything involved. As an author, you may wish to help them--after all, helping them is helping yourself--but that's all depending on yourself, and if something doesn't get done and you knew the press wouldn't be able to do it, then yes, that falls to you. As the author you become responsible.

Furthermore, an author becomes responsible when he/she makes choices about what he/she wants to write. It's no use complaining about not making millions if you write short fiction and publish it in obscure journals. Same with poetry. Poetry is a choice. Like drinking. And there are hundreds of other things authors have a responsibility for: such as showing up at venues and promoting their work. Signings. Jugglings. Having the right agent. Even selecting the venues in which their work appears. I don't want it to make it seem as if I think the author doesn't have to do anything--the author is responsible for a lot, but the idea that the author is solely responsible, that they alone bear the responsibility when something is not done, is, I think, not one that is correct.

Anyhow, that's my take on this. I feel it's a view that is perfectly fair, reasonable, balanced, and one that is serving me well in the world. If you disagree, then that's cool, cause it's fair. If you disagree a whole lot, to the point that you think I'm a cunt who just goes round causing shit, then I wish to remind you that badges--



--are still available.




* This was the case with the Aurealis Awards. It's just an example, nothing more.

Comments

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jaylake
Jul. 31st, 2006 01:43 pm (UTC)
Yanno, to me this is a very simple argument. The author is responsible for their career. Endit.

Not the agent.
Not the editor.
Not the publisher.
Not the publicist.
Not the reviewer.
Not the awards administrator.
Not the awards jury (or voters).
Not the readers.
Not the fans.
Not the Fen.

The author. Any other issues come up, see statement one.

All that being said, you are correct that one can have expectations, even reasonable expectations, of one's role in the whole process of publishing and (hopefully) recognition of one's work. But at the end of the day, no one anywhere is under any obligation whatsover to further the author's work or their career.
capnoblivious
Jul. 31st, 2006 01:58 pm (UTC)
But at the end of the day, no one anywhere is under any obligation whatsover to further the author's work or their career.

Yeahtrue, I guess.

But ... for a lot of these things, the author, agent, editor, publisher, publicist, reviewer, awards administrator ... and after that you lose me ... would have reasons for pursuing the same goals as the author. And maybe "responsibility" isn't the right word here, but there'd be a reasonable expectation that these people would be pulling in the same direction.

As in, a publisher who forgets to nominate a work for an award is doing themselves a disservice, with an additional, accidental, disservice to the author.
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drjon
Jul. 31st, 2006 01:52 pm (UTC)
I read the discussion which raised the point. Can I ask, where does a writer's Agent fit into this? Should an Agent be chasing nominations, do you think?
benpeek
Jul. 31st, 2006 02:00 pm (UTC)
i don't have an agent, so i can't speak from experience. someone else should be able to answer, i imagine, but i wouldn't imagine so--but then maybe they do. some awards mean good busines.
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ironed_orchid
Jul. 31st, 2006 04:37 pm (UTC)
The editing will have been done so that you're story isn't filled with typos

Did you write this line on purpose?
/nitpicking

I really don't know what to think about any of this, except that were there no authors, there would be nothing to publish, so surely the whole institution needs authors just as authors need it. I guess that it's because people actually want to be published authors that people are able to claim that it's an author's responsibility to manage their career. The same goes for the other creative arts. Sure, other people are willing to play some role (and to take a percentage) but it only works because of the people out there who want their work to reach the public.
benpeek
Jul. 31st, 2006 10:55 pm (UTC)
Did you write this line on purpose?

heh. sorry. you know me. i write these things off the top of my head.

further up, the word collaborative was used. what i think the author responsibility thing ignores is that it's often a collaborative thing, and that editors and publishers have jobs too, and responsibilities within it.
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iagor
Jul. 31st, 2006 04:43 pm (UTC)
Mmmm. The author is responsible to choose the right people to further his career. The right agent being step one. The right editor being step two. The right publisher being step three.

A good agent, a good editor, and a good publisher should want to manage the author's career to help him live up to his maximum potential earnings. Writer's responsibility is a) to write good copy b) to not sabotage his career by being an asshole and therefore impossible to work with.

Imho, of course.
reudaly
Jul. 31st, 2006 05:25 pm (UTC)
For what it's worth, I agree with Jay, but like this.

Yes, I can have a reasonable HOPE and DESIRE that professional level markets (and some of the bigger small markets) will do their jobs. They will publish me, they will put me on the shelves, they will HOPEFULLY be so blown away with my story that they do back flips getting the stuff before awards juries.

What do I actually expect and see as I progress in my career? That the actual job of not only producing that awe inspiring material fall to me the author, but also the JOB and RESPONSIBLITY to get out and bust my behind to promote it myself.

WHY? Why do I see this as a reality? Because the zines and publishers and even the occasional agent has several to dozens to HUNDREDS of clients/authors JUST LIKE ME with just as brilliant work to promote and nominate and pet and care for.

I just have ME. I can concentrate on ONE CLIENT/AUTHOR. And hey, it's ME, so I know me and like me and want to see me succeed beyond wild expectations. So why wouldn't I sit back and wait for a slice of someone ELSE'S attention when the complete focus of my attention is MY career?

Yes, it's selfish and egotistical and all that clap, but then so is expecting complete strangers to drop everything they're doing to focus on me.

In this analogy, I'm an adult now. I don't expect my mother to feed me and do my laundry - I jump for joy when she DOES, but I don't go hungry and smelly waiting for her to do it for me. If I get hungry, I make my own dinner. When I need clean underwear, I do laundry.
benpeek
Jul. 31st, 2006 11:01 pm (UTC)
i guess what i'm trying to get at isn't that the focus is you, so much, but rather that at a certain point, it is in fact the job of the agent, the publisher, the editor, and so forth, to do these things. not because you are important to them as yourself, but because, well... this is part of what running a professional level publication/organisation is about.

which is not to say that you don't have responsibilities, because you do, but by saying you are solely responsible, it tends to remove the fact that other people out there have jobs and responsibilities as well.
ex_benpayne119
Jul. 31st, 2006 08:24 pm (UTC)
I think ultimately I'm with Jay on this one. I mean, I agree with you on a lot of what you say about what editors/publishers should do, but when it comes down to, what people "should" do matters absolutely zip. When your story misses out on consideration there's not much consolation to be gained from being able to blame someone.

So for all practical purposes it's best to assume nothing. Better to send a redundant query than to miss out on consideration, imho.

It's like planning anything, you never assume that everyone is gonna do their job perfectly. Planning a writing career is, I imagine, no exception.
benpeek
Jul. 31st, 2006 11:04 pm (UTC)
see, i wrote this reply to the comment above, and then i reckoned it was the exact thing i'd say to you, so i'm pasting it:

i guess what i'm trying to get at isn't that the focus is you, so much, but rather that at a certain point, it is in fact the job of the agent, the publisher, the editor, and so forth, to do these things. not because you are important to them as yourself, but because, well... this is part of what running a professional level publication/organisation is about.

which is not to say that you don't have responsibilities, because you do, but by saying you are solely responsible, it tends to remove the fact that other people out there have jobs and responsibilities as well.

ha!

pasting.

anyhow, this post isn't about blame. what's done is done, and it's not a big deal, but i find this idea that the author has all responsibility to be kinda strange. every now and then, it feels to me that the power structure of publishing is so not in the authors favour, and i guess this is one of those things.
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catsparx
Jul. 31st, 2006 09:53 pm (UTC)
If I decided not to send out copies of Agog! Ripping Reads to years best editors, reviewers & etc, I would definitely let the authors know about it so that they could submit their own stories if they so desired. All authors are ultimately responsible for their own careers -- but I see no point in publishing an anthology like Agog and *not* submitting it for review & possible YB consideration. Reviews are part of the game. I don't pay my authors pro rates so the least I can do is try my best to see they get a bit of attention.
benpeek
Jul. 31st, 2006 11:05 pm (UTC)
that's cause you're super and why everyone loooves you :)
ataxi
Jul. 31st, 2006 11:12 pm (UTC)
"It's no use complaining about not making millions if you write short fiction and publish it in obscure journals."

Sometimes people need to be gently reminded that money is something you get for doing things that are valued by other people.
kylaw
Aug. 1st, 2006 10:17 am (UTC)
"Poetry is a choice. Like drinking."

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Kyla
benpeek
Aug. 1st, 2006 10:58 am (UTC)
yeah, i thought that was funny too. no one's seeing the humour, though ;)
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