Tuesday, October 27, 2009

7 Proofing Steps For Quality Writing

How could a writer possibly decide whether their own story or even article has a low, medium, or high "quality?"

"Quality" is a word, and concept that means something different to each person who uses it, and in each context where you find it.

"Quality" essentially means "it feels good to me, so it doesn't matter what you like."

But "Quality" is also a comparison measure to other things "like" this one -- whatever it is; a sofa, a dress, a silk neck tie, a painting, a story.

The problem with applying the word "Quality" to writing is that writing is an amalgam of Craft and Art.

Art does have some objective parameters to it, but different people respond to or care about different parameters. You really can't assign an objective measure to the "Quality" of Art.

Craft, however, is almost entirely objective, and the measure of "Quality" in craftsmanship has two dimensions.

1) Does the craftsmanship produce a seamless, smooth, useful product? (i.e. if it's a plumbing pipe, does it hold water? If it's a story, does it deliver an emotional punch, intellectual high or spiritual journey?)

2) Does the craftsmanship of this object compare well to the craftsman of similar objects? (i.e. does this pipe hold water better than that pipe? Does this story deliver a bigger punch than that story?)

The problem in judging "Quality" is that readers, or end-users of any product, measure "quality" by different standards than the originator of the object -- or the purveyor (in writing, that's the publisher).

For a writer, "Quality" means, "Does it say what I wanted to say?"

For a publisher, "Quality" means, "Does it have a huge market, bigger than anything else like it?"

For a reader, "Quality" means, "Does it satisfy me? Is this what I've been wishing for?"

It sounds like an impossible task for a writer (an originator) to look at the brand new product and judge whether the reader, end-user, will see it as a "Quality" item.

And in a way it is, and in a way it's not that hard because there are a few objective measures of quality in writing.

The writer is half-way-born-editor, just as most editors have some writing in them.

Editors, however, are not publishers. A publisher is someone who is in the business of peddling a product to a market. An editor is in the business of finding or generating product the publisher can peddle at a profit.

We've discussed writing as a business, and you've read many other blogs here and elsewhere about self-publishing, the fastest growing segment of publishing.

But there's something going on at YouTube and on the Web 2.0 sites like it that you need to understand in order to apply the objective measures of quality to your work AT A PROFIT.

This article explains where a lot of the most popular videos on YouTube are coming from, who makes them, and what their profit margin is, and why that profit margin is so slim -- and this article also offers a way for writers and videographers to make a little money on the side, provided they understand this "Quality" issue I'm discussing here.


Demand Media is doing what the Dime Novel did for the Wild West. But Demand Media has developed an algorithm to data-mine all the searches people do on google etc. They buy the search terms people put in from the search engine company, then sift and arrange the terms to generate topics of interest to lots of people at any given time.

Then they hire a videographer or writer to do a video or article explaining the topic. They have a web page where they post topics they want material on. They pay almost nothing, but they do pay writers. They're a volume shop.

The videographers and writers doing this work are often professionals who have worked to the extremely high and demanding specifications of the general media.

But now these craftsmen are learning a new way to look at their trade, and it's a lesson all writers, especially e-book or self-published writers and eventually traditionally published writers have to learn.

Traditional publishing is withdrawing support for writers so that publishers expect writers to fund and execute publicity for themselves. So eventually, traditionally published writers will be in the same boat as self-published writers (or vice-versa).

So read that article in Wired Magazine and think about what it says about the higher "quality" videos produced for much more money, and the business model behind that. Think about what this article implies about the shifting parameters in this world, and what it implies about craft mastery, and objective measures of "Quality."

This article in Wired Magazine is actually describing what used to be the difference between the Hardcover or Trade Paperback and the Mass Market paperback. Writers working in Mass Market had much less time to spend rewriting and polishing. Writers working in Hard Cover were expected to spend ten to a hundred times more time but Mass Market paid more. The trick was to get a Hard Cover into a Mass Market edition to get paid for the extra time spent.

With the $$/hour parameter of the business model dominating all your choices, there are two attitudes you might choose from.

A) It's all shlock so why bother trying so hard?

B) What I do is worth $20 so I have to do it three times an hour in order to live. So how can I produce "Quality" without spending time?

In other words, how do you train your art producing subconscious to spit out words already crafted in a high-quality product (or photograph images that you can clean up pretty good in the time allotted?).

How do you perfect SPEED and ACCURACY in craftsmanship?

The answer is simple and rather horrid to contemplate.

Slow, tedious repetition and self-correction, critical analysis of your own work, refusing to accept the first shlock that comes out, until at last that very first effluent from your subconscious is "Quality" crafted. Training subconscious is like training a puppy.

That's how you get to Carnegie Hall - practice, disciplined practice.

But not practicing your errors, practicing doing it right. The company that the Wired Magazine article is talking about might be a great place to do that practice and get paid for it.

Marion Zimmer Bradley once fed her family by writing True Confessions and Astrology articles for a market very much like the one Wired is describing. She rose to edit the Astrology magazine, too. She often said writing short non-fiction made her a better fiction writer.

Remember what I learned from Alma Hill that "Writing Is A Performing Art" -- and this $20/article concept is a perfect illustration of that fact. To do this at a profit a videographer or writer must PERFORM as if on stage before a live audience.

That's what you're practicing for - a performance.

When you practice writing, think of it as rehearsal. Any mistake you make is part of the permanent impression on your audience. So rehearse until you can perform your story flawlessly, in the time allotted.

That's not degrading your ART -- it's perfecting your craft.

Now, exactly what do you do, as a writer, to self-correct and train your craftsmanship to the point where you produce objectively measurable quality at the drop of a hat (or paypal deposit).

The following tests are for the objective part of story writing, the craft itself. Art is a totally different subject, but some of these tests will turn up flaws in the Art as well. If you find a flaw in your Art, you can choose to cover it up with Craft real-quick-n-dirty, or tear the story apart and re-do the Art from scratch. Choose by remembering the $$/hour parameter and the "rehearse until it's smooth" parameter.

7 points to self-test a novel for "quality"

1) PLOT INTEGRITY - check to make sure what I call the "because-line" actually tracks logically. If YOU think it tracks, ask someone you don't know to read it then ask them questions about why things happened in the novel. To FIX missing links, make sure every event happens BECAUSE OF the initial event. Anything with a very tight PLOT (PLOT = BECAUSE LINE) but very little EXPOSITION will sell somewhere (that's from Robert A. Heinlein).

2) CHARACTER MOTIVATION (i.e. the STORY-LINE which is the sequence of emotional states that leads the main character to change) must be clear to the target readership (not just to you). You have to explain WHY people do things in SHOW rather than TELL -- that WHY is inside the chosen plot events. When a character DOES SOMETHING the world responds with a LOGICAL consequence from which the CHARACTER derives a (possibly illogical but human) LESSON which the CHARACTER tests by doing something different "next time" which CAUSES (plot-line) another logical consequence, until the character has learned his/her lesson (theme=lesson learned)

3) When you've got both these lines whole, complete, transparent, accessible to your target reader, and precisely formulated to the genre that the symbolism belongs to, when everything makes complete sense, REDUCE THE WHOLE THING to an outline (chapter-by-chapter, describe what happens, why, and what it means in just 2 or 3 complete sentences -- this is your sales tool for your pitch). If you can't do that reduction, there's something wrong with the structure. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE NOT VIOLATED A TROPE OF YOUR GENRE (that is the real criteria by which Manhattan Agents and Editors work - trope-trope-trope.) Trope is often the cause of the PACING issue that editors will cite when rejecting. Editors don't know what's wrong or how to fix it. They're not writers. That's your job. Readers expect you to do your job. If you don't, they call the work badly written or low quality.

4) Go back and DELETE 15% of the words, cut-cut-cut, use better words, delete all the adjectives and adverbs, and shift to well-chosen words. Then if necessary add-add-add to get the exact length for the genre. Then delete almost all the EXPOSITION. Take what's left and break it up like a sonic beam breaks up a kidney stone. Pulverize the exposition and sprinkle it here and there in LOGICAL sequence. The trick with exposition is to make the reader curious to know the fact you need to impart -- take about 50 pages to build the curiosity -- meanwhile drive up the suspense until the reader just HAS TO KNOW. Then tell them in a dependent clause buried in the middle of something -- use an oblique reference, nothing "on the nose." Make the reader FIGURE OUT what you want to tell them in exposition. That's a dodge for SHOW DON'T TELL -- make the reader think it's their own idea, not yours. If you do the work for them, they don't have any fun even though you do. Writing is selling FUN, which means you have to give away your fun in return for money. So you don't get to tell. You have to work to induce the reader to figure it out.

5) Send it out to test readers you DON'T KNOW and who don't know you personally (not work-shoppers you see every month- actual people who have no stake in stroking your ego -- yes, building a cadre of such folks you have access to is one thing online networking can do best). Get tech experts in fields you have used to check the facts.

6) NOW - after all that, you polish the text, not just running spell check, but going through the whole MS looking for word-substitution typos, bad sentence structure, wordy constructions "Well, the fact of the matter is that he lied" becomes "Well... he lied." Don't use grammar-check, learn grammar.

7) Yet another test reader, one who knows grammar, punctuation, spelling and reads books from your target publisher in your target genre. (each publishing house has a style sheet dictating grammar, spelling, punctuation). That's your final step - no sense polishing words you're going to delete. In hand-written times, that was known as "making a fair copy." On foolscap.

After doing this 7 step self-test on various projects, you will eventually come to where your test readers aren't finding so many things to fix. With repetition, you start producing things that actually are publishable if not of the highest quality on second or even first draft. First draft is the goal in low-paying markets, and that means you must PERFORM your writing at concert pitch. In higher paying markets, you might run the story through these 7 tests several times and keep perfecting on each draft, raising the "quality."


Even if you meet the self-test criteria above, you can still attain the level of "badly written" IF THERE IS NO APPARENT CONFLICT.

Likewise, you can attain the label "boring" -- or "I couldn't get through it" -- if there is NO COHERENT THEME that is illustrated by the conflict.

A "story" is a sequence sliced out of a character's life wherein they LEARN A LESSON (your theme) by OVERCOMING OBSTACLES or ATTAINING A GOAL (obstacles and goal generate the plot-line).

If you pick the wrong primary character (lead, star or hero), no matter how well you do the objective mechanics in the 7 point checklist, the art fails and your novel is "badly written" or "low quality."

If you pick the right primary character, BUT start at the wrong place in that character's story, the art fails and your novel is "badly written."

"Quality" is actually NOT TASTE -- it is not mysterious.

That's why slush pile readers, screenplay coverage readers, editors, agents, and reviewers can sort a stack of manuscripts, screenplays, ARCs, or published books very quickly and toss out more than half that don't meet the quality standard necessary.

Here's how it's done. (all beginners think this is unfair and won't work, but it is fair and it does work when done professionally)

1) check first page -- any error of craft, toss the MS
2) check p5 -- if the story-development point (beat) is not there, toss.
3) check the MIDDLE. If the high or low EVENT isn't there, toss.
4) check the END. Compare to beginning and middle. If the final image doesn't RESOLVE the conflict set out on pgs 1-5 - toss without reading the whole thing.
5) check the 1/4 and 3/4 points -- if the plot development is correct on those points, then read the whole thing. (a novel is generally 4 "acts" or "movements" like a 1-hour TV episode, so it's quarter-points you look at; but with a screenplay for a feature film, it's usually 3 acts, so the pages for the beats are different, but the principle is the same.

These 5 checks quickly reveal if the writer has violated the TROPE the professional reader is looking for. If the trope the reader wants isn't there, even if the item is high quality of its type, it isn't worth the professional reader's time ($$/Hour remember? Business model rules supreme.)

So what chance does a writer have of getting through this screening process and having a manuscript read by someone who might pay for it?

Getting through those tests is also a learn-able bit of craft.

Focus on the simple fact that these tests are entirely objective.

Matters of taste and art are judged after the objective craft is judged. And according to that article in Wired Magazine, matters of taste and art are currently much less important than they once were.

Note how the article points out that using this computer algorithm to sift search results for what people want, and then providing exactly what they are searching for is more effective than a room full of professional experts creating topics they think people ought to want.

Soon feature films will be marketed that way, I'm sure, maybe novels first. Remember what Rowena Cherry found in that survey of Romance readers -- half want more sex. Survey replaces art.

The MAJORITY AUDIENCE will soon be conditioned to expect this kind of responsiveness from the media. "Quality" means "what I like." And now people are being mass-conditioned to expect their expectations to be met.

When you take their money for a book but betray expectations -- they have no clue what's wrong, so they say "badly written" and don't waste money on that byline again (and warn off all their blog readers).

A lot of editors either fall in that bewildered category, or simply have no time to waste with "writers" who can't write the required trope in the required time. It's not the editor's job to teach you to write. ($$/hour - remember that. Read that Wired Magazine article carefully.)

I have been tackling ways of explaining these parameters of "well written" stories for a couple of years now (not systematically) on this blog.

One thing Marion Zimmer Bradley taught, I have found to be true -- anyone who can write a literate English sentence can sell fiction. A LOT of my students have done so.

And though the article in Wired Magazine points to Demand Media as something "new" -- it actually isn't new from a writer's point of view. Since the commercialization of the printing press, quick-n-dirty production has been a component of the writer's business model. And as I said above, the Dime Novel, the Mass Market paperback, and now today YouTube videos, are all about $$/hour and professionalism.

Professional writing is not a mystery, it's not arbitrary, it's not a secret. It's not even hard except for the part where you take what your artistic subconscious produces and externalize it.

Failing to externalize your art produces what Marion Zimmer Bradley called "self-indulgent" novels. A particular editor might buy it - but readers will call it "badly written" because they don't know where the failure happened.

Externalizing your art is an entirely different process for each writer, it's idiosyncratic, but something you can teach yourself with the 7 point checklist for "Quality" of craft.

E-pub and self-pub is the ONLY route open to those who can do all these other things on the checklist, but fail to externalize their art, de-personlize it, universalize it.

The best way is to train your subconscious in your genre's trope until it produces fiction pre-configured to fit your market.

That's why professional writers warn neo-writers off "workshops" and posting "fanfic" online. You end up rewarding your subconscious for practicing your mistakes, and you train your subconscious to AVOID EXTERNALIZING. That will doom you to a lot of rewriting once you understand which step you have skipped.

"Quality" is often, alas, proportionate to time spent re-doing and perfecting the craft underlying the art. The ingredients of a quality product are often rare (fine olive oil is "virgin" -- the rest of the press is used for something else). Flawed diamonds are not used in the crown jewels, though they work fine for industrial purposes.

Are you in the business of fine art? Or commercial art? Knowing the difference and the difference in business model, could be the real key to success in your life.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. Hey, did you write that just for me, Jacqueline? :)

    Seems like it. Thanks. Lots of good advice.

  2. Thanks for this straightforward and in-depth explanation! (I can see MZB's hand in the background.)

    There are some exceptions to the general fact that readers don't understand "why" a book doesn't work for them. I've run across a few excellent reviewers capable of analyzing a novel in terms of genre tropes -- notably the review of my Lovecraftian romance WINDWALKER'S MATE by the Innsmouth Free Press (innsmouthfreepress.com) a few weeks ago. I value a mixed response like this, with insightful comments that demonstrate the reviewer actually *thought* about the story, more than a 4-star review that merely summarizes the plot with one line of praise.

  3. Yes, and since most reliable reviewers are paid to review (with more than a free copy), they (we) don't have time or space to dig into what we really discovered inside the work of Art.

    I do try to review books in groups of books that all have a revelation or two in common, and discuss that revelation in a prolog to the review.

    I've never seen any other reviewer do that.

    However, something interesting turned up on Twitter today.

    A professional level screenwriter blog has an entry checklist for going from First Draft screenplay to second draft, and there's a strong relationship to what I had come up with for narrative.


    That post essentially says clear the clutter off the surface so the viewer CAN discover what's in the art.

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

  4. Anonymous12:02 PM EDT

    This is awesome.
    A great read and I read so much on the net. Must say yours is one that I connect with it.

  5. Anonymous11:41 AM EST

    I disagree. It sounds good in theory but doesn't come close to explaining how so much of modern fantasy is, dare I say it, crap not worth the paper it's been printed on. Someone liked it, however, but it's failed to resonate with me. But maybe I'm quirky. When I read, I yearn for artistic depth in a piece, as well as grammar and handle on language. Unfortunately, so much of what's being tossed out on the market these days has none of the above. So their precious trope is failing and becoming tripe. Just my opinion.

  6. Second Anonymous:

    In a very important way, you are correct, and it's nicely put - trope becomes tripe.

    But that's what always happens historically. It's a process. It's just that editors with their jobs riding on success get frozen in white-knuckled terror at trying anything new or different.

    They lose their jobs when the readers have passed on to another trope while the old one becomes tripe.

    And as for modern fantasy, it follows Sturgeon's Law. 90% tripe is what a publishing establishment will produce.

    My blog entries here have mostly been focused on the little things a writer needs to master to help upgrade their output into that top 10%. Just getting published, as you pointed out, doesn't put you there.

    What would it take to fix the fiction delivery system so that it produced only 10% tripe and 90% Great Stuff?

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

  7. Anonymous10:14 AM EST

    Right on, Jacquline! Sturgeon's law was exactly what I was thinking of. How do we change it? Put people in charge who care for the authors first and foremost, moreso than their pocketbooks, put people in charge who are artists themselves, and won't settle for more of the same slop. Put people in charge who realize glutting the market isn't the best way to go (do we really need fifteen copies of a twenty year old novel sitting on the shelves with different covers?)

    I know, that ain't gonna happen. I just look around (and this goes for all genres) and find so much that doesn't even come close to say, an Arthur C. Clarke, Sturgeon, or even a classic 19th century author, and I wonder will any of the books published today stand the test of time? I don't think so--or don't think there are many.

    And that's just a shame. But who's responsible for that: The companies that push the glut, the authors that continue to write the glut, or the readers that continue to buy more of the same? Here's a thought: Are we *all* to blame, when we don't demand quality for our bucks, or of ourselves--when we can't even remember what quality is? Or is it really all just subjective, and maybe it seems like there's glut when there actually isn't, because we don't "change the channel" so to speak? It's something to think about, anyway. :)

  8. Anonymous:

    Oh, now you've hit square on something very important and I should be writing today's post not this! But this is so vital to the entire discussion we've been having on this blog.

    "Put people in charge who are artists and won't settle" etc paraphrasing you.

    That could point to a cultural structure problem I discussed a little in my post on Marketing

    Or it could have something to do with the essential personality of THE ARTIST - and what performing artists (writing is a performing Art) actually do for a living.

    Some actors make dandy directors and eventually become producers with considerable success.

    These are allied fields, and in film it's been a viable career track.

    It hasn't been so in publishing. All the editors I know have the ability to write and even the ambition, but are not prolific enough at it to make a living. Generally they polish a short story for several years.

    Fred Pohl of course is an example to the contrary! There are always exceptions.

    But who today is an example of a Fred Pohl or a John Campbell?

    There's been a cultural shift of enormous magnitude, and the fissure is opening between generations.

    And the issue lies within our value system, as you so aptly point out. What has been unacceptable is now the general rule.

    And Values are still shifting in our culture, faster than industry and business can morph.

    But the morphing is in progress which is what makes the world so confusing. Forces are in flux in the human psyche. The job of The Artist is to portray the truth hidden behind the roiled up surface.

    Today "to portray" means the artist must also be much more of a business person, marketing their own stuff.

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

  9. Anon @1014:

    Many 19th century authors wouldn't pass slush-pile muster today. The world is different, faster, more hectic, more diversified. Readers' tastes have--if not changed--then morphed. This will continue to happen--those authors deemed "classics" now may find their books shunted aside in another hundred years. Commercial genre fiction--and we need to distinguish that from literature--is a living art form that responds to current social and cultural milieus.

    That doesn't mean 19th century classics or Clarke aren't applicable today. It means they’re not the only novels that are applicable.

    Commercial genre fiction is entertainment and, as such, competes now with other forms of entertainment that didn't exist in the 19th century. Books are no longer possessions of the elite and wealthy. "Pulp fiction" put the adventure of walking in someone else's shoes in everyone's hands. That means you have a wider variety of tastes to satisfy.

    Don't misread me--I'm not advocating for thin plots, cardboard characters, or lousy grammar. But I think there is a lot of excellent commercial genre fiction out there, created in the past decade, that may well still be read a hundred years from now because it touches human emotions and teases the human intellect.

    *The companies that push the glut, the authors that continue to write the glut, or the readers that continue to buy more of the same?*

    Publishing companies are and should be motivated by profit. If they can't make money at it, if they can't pay their employees, if they're not responsive to the needs of the market...well, I shudder to think of a "goverment subsidized publishing house" where only certain plots are approved. The reader must be able to vote with his dollar, and if that means at times more votes are cast for lighter fare, then that's the market.

    What you have today you've not had in decades past is the ebook faction. Flavors of fiction gone off market at the moment, or not yet on market are often found in the smaller presses and epublishers, who have less overhead and less financial risk. With the advent of the Kindle and the Nook (just ordered mine), there's no reason not to explore the smaller presses. They may well have what you crave.

    As to authors who continue to write to the glut, I have no idea what occupation you're in, but I assume you have one, and I assume that you're not 100% satisfied with 100% of everything you do during your normal business day. (If you are, kudos to you--most of us don't have that experience.) I spent ten years as a private investigator before becoming a full-time author. As an investigator, and investigative agency owner, I still had to answer to my clients and, often, the courts. I had to tailor my work product to their needs and requirements and regulations. I did the best that I could within those parameters, but I can't think of any one case in ten years that was technically perfect.

    The same is true now as an author. I listen to my fans, I listen to my editor, I listen to other authors, I listen to the media. I don't write solely for my own edifiction, to listen to words bounce around in my head. I have an audience. I try to determine their needs and address them. And if my audience this year is hankering for some fluff, well, gosh golly gee, I'm going to write them the best darned fluff I know how. I want them to be happy. I want them to buy my books so I can pay my mortgage, my veterinary bills, and have a bit left over to splurge on eBay.

    I would like to think that a hundred years from now, one of my books might give a future reader a gasp and a giggle. But I'm not writing to that end. That reader one hundred years in the future isn't paying my veterinary bills right now. And isn't writing me fan mail.

    I listen to my fan mail.

    Commercial genre fiction, as Jacqueline has often noted, is drama. It's entertainment (cue music). Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

    IMHO, IMHE and the delete key is your friend. ;-)

    *end rant*
    Namaste, ~Linnea

  10. Linnea:

    Nice rant!

    Note that Shakespeare is still read and even performed today, and his era actually spawned the concept of "commercial" fiction (OK it was mostly patron supported, but he made money by drawing audiences, and that was the beginning of the end of the Patron system.)

    So the question here then becomes, "So genre or commercial fiction (include film & TV) is as it should be, responsive to "the market" and almost nothing else.

    "What then, is missing?"

    What is it we're so hungry for that the commercial fiction market can't and shouldn't be delivering?

    Can or should we be looking to e-books and self-publishing to fill that need?

    I still haven't got this week's post finished!

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

  11. "I listen to my fan mail."
    Great point, Linnea.
    How much research do the publishers (other than Harlequin) do into the psychlogy of what readers want to read and why they read?
    If you're an established author like Linnea, you get that knowledge through your fanmail. And well deserved it is too.
    But publishers possibly make judgements on what to publish on what sells, without knowing why it sells.
    I saw a list of the top 100 books for the year the other day and "Romance" books which are the top sellers were lumped under "mass market" and had five entries.
    Do the publishers ever ask themselves why these books are selling?
    I'd love to see them do some research into what readers are looking for, but if we know the "why" behind it, maybe then we can do more of the: If you like books about 'a' then why not try 'b'.

  12. Ozambersand:

    No, the publishers DON'T look into "why" certain books sell, because they don't CARE.

    That was the point behind my post from today

    AMAZON is going gangbusters toward solving the problem of "why" without actually addressing it directly, and their business model shifted massively when they became a PUBLISHER (big legal arguments there too).

    That was when they first started posting some e-book and short stories for download. They made money on that, so they went for Kindle and POD (bought the POD printer business and integrated it).

    See? They've figured out how to connect readers who like this with writers who write that.

    And their computer doesn't know (I don't think) why any given person likes this or that.

    Every year that passes they get better at it, and every couple of years that add more publishing capacity.

    Soon they'll be buying up e-publishers, and the people who built those businesses will make money and retire well. (writers rarely do in the USA because "the arts" are maltreated here)

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

  13. I'm going to slightly disagree with my esteemed colleague, JL, here.

    Yes, some people in the publishing industry listen to what readers say.

    At the most recent RT convention, Bantam editor Shauna Summers gave a talk, explaining what her imprint (Dell) was buying and why. It was very informal and she graciously and warmly answered questions from the audience.

    Though I'm now under the Dell imprint, I'm still edited by the Spectra (SF) imprint. My editor there, Anne Groell, has also sat on panels at RT and other cons.

    If you listen to these editors, you'll learn that they're very aware of their authors and their authors' fan bases. If you go to these cons, you'll observe how they LISTEN to the audience.

    Now Random House is arguable the largest publisher on the planet of commercial genre fiction (and more). So the question then becomes, how much influenece do editors have?

    It starts with understanding how a book is "born." In a house like Random House that only takes agented materials, the agent pitches the editor, the editor then takes the desired product into the editorial meeting (weekly or monthly--I have no clue) and, along with other editors, fights--yes, FIGHTS--for a spot for their beloved project. So the support of an editor--while not a guarantee--is very important. It makes a difference. A tremendous difference.

    One only needs to talk to Shauna Summers outside the workshop--which at cons is rather easy to do--to hear her gush over not only authors in her stable, but others she's read. Ms. Summers is an avid reader. So is my editor.

    And to fly in the face of "editors can't write," google Anne Lesley Groell. Fantasy author. And Kate Brallier. Paranormal author. Both are Bantam Spectra editor Anne Groell.

    Literary agent Deidre Knight is paranormal author Deidre Knight. Literary agent Lucienne Diver is YA paranormal author Lucienne Diver.

    Probably more the exception than the rule, but it happens. And while I'd say that likely the overall corporation of Random House/Bantam has no clue who Linnea Sinclair is, I do feel the Spectra and Dell imprints know.

    My agent has also said many times in public that she'd love to find another Linnea Sinclair.

    So, Oz, there is an awareness out there in the industry of what fans want. I don't think that information is fully ignored. I think however it has limitations imposed by the nature of The Large Corporation. That's why smaller presses can be more responsive. But NY editors DO listen and they DO know.

    IMHO and IMHE. ~Linnea