“We interrupt this program…” or this blog. Or as the Python folks used to say, “And now for something completely different.”
This week’s post isn’t about books, reading, or writing. Instead, I want to urge all our American readers to get out and VOTE.
This is NOT a partisan rant. We are not siding with the blue or red wave, or with any particular candidate or party. You need to vote your own conscience, whatever direction it may take you in, whichever path it leads you down. But whoever it is you favor, whatever candidates and issues or other ballot questions you choose to vote for, you DO need to get out and VOTE.
And that’s what we here at Roundtable urge you: Vote on Election Day, or vote early, or vote by mail…but VOTE.
And if your locality has any kind of referendum in favor of financial support of libraries, please vote for it. Our libraries across the nation need all the help they can get,
Again—vote your conscience, vote at your convenience (mail-in, or early, or “regular”), but VOTE.
I did a book-reading in a school last week. Due to a mix-up on the school’s part, although I was supposed to read to grades K through 4 in an assembly, I wound up reading to two kindergarten classes crammed together in one room and then to two first grades similarly sardined together in another classroom.
If you are or someone close to you—perhaps a parent or grandparent, a sibling or good friend, or maybe your spouse or S.O.—is retired or nearing retirement age, this week’s blogpost should be of interest.
Today is February 14—Valentine’s Day. So I’m sending love to all you readers out there.
Where would we writers be without our readers? We’d be “playing to an empty house,” to borrow the vernacular of the theatre.
If nobody read our books (and articles and poems and essays and miscellany), we’d soon be out of business. We’d have to find “job jobs”—we’d have to be bank tellers or teachers or store clerks or security guards or flight attendants or sales reps…which, in fact, some writers are already, working their day jobs and then writing at night with whatever energy they have left. But we’d ALL be in that boat without our readers.
You readers out there not only contribute to our financial well-being but give us an outlet and an audience for our creativity. And we love you for that. Hence this Valentine.
“It must be wonderful to do nothing but write all day. No boss, no job, work in your pajamas, just sit at the keyboard and write.” Thus sayeth many people. But they’re wrong.
Yes, the life of a writer IS wonderful. But it’s not what you imagine. Let’s take it from the top.
First: Many writers still have dayjobs. They work their 9-to-5s, come home, have dinner (and often have to cook that dinner themselves), and then, at the end of an exhausting day, have to summon the energy to sit, focus, and spend an hour or two or three or more writing—writing instead of spending time with whoever they live with (spouse or S.O., possibly kids) or with friends who are beckoning them to do something fun.
Second: Even of those of us fortunate enough to be able to be full-time freelancers, many do other kinds of writing to help support ourselves. I for one do freelance business writing, ghostwriting books for clients, editing books and other kinds of writing for authors and for publishers. I don’t just work on my books all day.
Third: Writing a book is only the beginning. Once it’s written, you need to find a publisher unless you’re planning to self-publish. Finding a publisher involves sending either a query letter or the whole manuscript, along with a well-crafted cover letter, to a variety of editors at publishing houses, then waiting…and waiting…and waiting. You might get an answer. You might never hear back. If you do get an answer, the odds are in favor of a decline (rejection). You don’t just send your book out and—bingo!—get a contract. If you’re self-publishing, you need to find an editor, a cover designer, a layout artist, and a printer. Although you can find them all in one package with a self-publishing company, you will pay a CONSIDERABLY higher price than if you negotiate for each item with individuals or companies that do that kind of work. Then, whether you publish conventionally or self-pub, you will need to read through the edited manuscript to be sure you are OK with all the edits, and you will need to read through the page proofs to be sure no screw-up was committed. Reading your own words yet again—and again—is tedious but necessary.
Fourth: Whether you self-pub or are published conventionally, it’s on you to publicize the book. Otherwise how do you expect potential readers to find it? You might do any or all of the following: Send announcements to everyone you know and, if you have previously published another book and have the names and addresses of some of the people who bought it, send announcements to them of your new book; send out press releases and other publicity; try to get on radio (including podcasts) and TV shows to promote the book; write an ongoing blog in hopes of attracting readers; join such sites as Goodreads and Amazon’s Author Central; hold book-readings and -signings; do anything else you can think of to promote your book.
Fifth: You are your own boss, but don’t think you don’t have a job. Writing IS your job. Treat it like one. Yes, you have the luxury of booking a visit to the nail salon in the middle of your workday, but don’t overdo it. Don’t take time off frivolously. You need that time to WORK. (And writing IS work.) Take it seriously. It’s a FUN and WONDERFUL job, but it’s a precarious way of earning a living. Unless you have another source of income—a dayjob or at least a side job, a monthly Social Security check, a working spouse who earns a decent dollar…unless you have some other form of income, you are going to be doing some serious nail-biting as you wonder whether you’ll be able to meet the mortgage or rent bill.
The life of a writer is wonderful but precarious. I wouldn’t trade lives with anyone else. But it isn’t what many non-writers or wannabe writers imagine it to be.
I read the article so long ago that I remember neither where I read it nor all the particulars. It concerned a difference between the genders when reading a novel or watching a movie, particularly one with a romance in it, whether that was the main thrust of the story or merely an incidental thread.
The article posited that one gender—and here is where my foggy memory betrays me, as I don’t remember which gender it is—watches the movie or reads the book and puts themselves in the plot in place of the hero or heroine. The other gender, on the other hand, watches the movie or reads the book and envisions the hero or heroine in the reader’s or viewer’s own life.
Do you do that?
Now, I must admit that I am not a moviegoer, and although I devour a lot of books, damn few of them are fiction and none are actual romances. (There have been at least two exceptions that I recall: Both were romance novels written by authors I had befriended. Unasked, they each sent me a copy of one of their books, which I felt bound to read.) But of course, among the smattering of fiction I have read, even though they weren’t romances per se, and also among memoirs, slice-of-life, and other nonfiction I’ve read, some contained love stories even though these weren’t the main theme or thrust of the book.
But I have never done either of the two things that article ascribed to the two different genders. I have never read a book or watched a movie and put myself in the heroine’s shoes. And I have never read a book or watched a movie and imagined the hero being in my life.
I can’t help wondering if the article was wrong or if this is just another way in which I am different from the average. What about you? Do you do either of these things? I really would like to know.
Remember when books were just…books? If you wanted to read a book, you picked up a book…period. In the beginning, all books were hardcover. Then came “mass market”—small paperbacks printed on inexpensive paper, they were mostly westerns for male readers, romances for females. The next advance was “trade paperbacks,” better-quality paperbacks, larger in size and printed on paper that was heavier, more durable, less brittle, and didn’t have the same tendency to yellow or break that the pages of mass market books did. Another advance was large-type books for people with low vision. And then there were Braille books, with their raised characters, for those who were not sighted at all.
The world of publishing has quietly been undergoing a revolution for some time now. Three forces have converged to level the playing field for authors, enlarge the selection of books for readers, and make the whole game more interesting all around.
As little kids in elementary school, you may have participated in “Show and Tell.” But as writers, we are always advised, “Show. Don’t tell.” This admonition is intended to guide us into showing rather than telling what a character in fiction or a real-life person in nonfiction is thinking, feeling, planning, and so forth.