Stargate Monuments


Martha Wells

My Flying Lizard Circus

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Question Answers and More

On Dreamwidth, grammarwoman asked Once you get an idea for a story/novel/work, how do you evaluate its viability? How much time do you put into it and what paces do you put it through to determine go/no-go?

That's a tough one to answer. It really depends on how excited I am about the idea, and if I stay excited about it through the first fifty pages or so. If I do, it does help me at that point to have other people (sometimes friends, sometimes my agent) read it and give me feedback. Good feedback on something will help keep up my enthusiasm for it. If I'm not enthusiastic about something I'm working on, I generally feel that prospective future readers won't be, either.

One thing I try not to think about is whether it will sell or not. I know I'm no good at judging that.

limb_of_satan asked My friend and I were recently discussing the rise of e-books and self-publishing. I feel like I'm seeing more and more authors (Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, Liz Williams for example) doing projects and stories that are available directly from them, to their fans, without the benefits (or hindrances) of a traditional publisher. I'm all for this because I want the authors I enjoy to be able to make money and continue to share their stories, but I wonder a little bit about whether the quality suffers from lack of an editor. For most readers the editor is all but an invisible presence in a book. Do you feel editors, in the traditional sense, are important for a book to be their best? Do you think self-published work suffers from any stigma?

I think professional editors are really important. For me personally, even if you get feedback/beta reading/editing help from your friends and your agent, to have someone who edits for a living and comes at the book from an objective perspective is a huge help. A good editor will be looking at your work with the attitude of making sure your book is the best version of your book that it can be, not trying to turn it into a different book or into the book they would have written if they felt like it or had the time, etc.

And one thing that's important to remember is that the "hindrance" of a traditional publisher includes paying you an advance for the book, distributing the book to bookstores and libraries (especially libraries, where people who are too poor to afford books or ereaders can still read it), and paying for cover art, design, copyediting, etc.

Self-publishing is a lot of work, and to me, it would be a last resort for a new novel. For reprints of previously published books, or short fiction or novellas, I think it works great. I do think self-publishing still suffers from a stigma, and it's more likely than not that a good self-published book will get lost and go unnoticed among the thousands of bad ones. Unless you already have an audience of readers, or friends who have an audience of readers who can recommend your book, you can be out of luck. Self-publishing is something that's very easy to do, but very hard to do right.

Glad you are still writing - I started reading you with The Element of Fire and have always enjoyed your books and admire that you are willing to start new worlds and new characters and aren't churning out book 12 in a series (even if that would perhaps make you richer!)

Thank you very much! I appreciate that.


Con or Bust

con_or_bust's fundraiser auction, which helps fans of color/non-white fans attend SFF conventions, ends Sunday, February 25, 2012. There are tons of great items up for auction here.

There are tons of signed books, jewelry, knitting, homemade cookies, and more. My auction for signed trade paperback copies of The Cloud Roads and The Serpent Sea is here.


Things I've been meaning to link to:

Mur Lafferty: Definition: Work For Hire: The latest publishing brou-ha-ha is the tale of LJ Smith and her being fired from writing “her own” series.

Book Smugglers: Smuggler’s Ponderings: Thoughts on Wonder by R. J. Palacio
I’ve been thinking about Wonder by R.J. Palacio a lot and about my reaction to it since I finished reading it. There are many things I loved about the book and I do recommend it to everybody, including its intended audience (Middle Grade) although I do so with reservations and the hope that the book can – should – engender thoughtful discussions.

Cherie Priest's ConDFW report: Dallas gives me nosebleeds: A love song for Texas

Lisa Mantchev: This is EXACTLY what's it's like to finish a new book.

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Regarding limb of satan's question, of course there are editors for hire out there; in fact, more and more of them. And because of the personnel reductions of the Big 6, many who have the kind of experience you speak of, are now available as freelancers. I found a great critique editor in my writing group (more of a story doctor than a line editor), but in that same group (Writer Unboxed) I've met at least a dozen other editors - some with NY publishing experience.

The problem, I think (besides the fact that many self-publishing authors will not, or cannot afford to, hire them), is that they are working 'for you.' Much more difficult to convey problems to 'the client' than to 'a new author my company has agreed to publish.' I agree with you, Martha, and self-pub will be a last resort for me.

Martha, thank you for your thoughtful reply to my question.

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