Book Publishing and Buzzfeed

The other day, while browsing Twitter, I came across this Buzzfeed article:

I thought it was an amazing article, and I hope this is alright with author Curtis Sittenfeld, but as a writer who is still getting acquainted with all the workings of the publishing industry, I thought I might do a little Book Publishing Commentary.

NOTE: I am paraphrasing her statements here and adding thoughts of my own.  The reason I am doing this is because I do not want to take credit for her work and because I want you to read her original article, because it’s fantastic. I am also not commenting on every single statement because some I have not yet experienced. More incentive for you to go read her article because you don’t know what I’m leaving out!


CS = Curtis Sittenfeld

JS = Jacqueline Smith

CS: Other writers are your friends.

JS: Yes.  Yes, yes, yes.  Never think of other authors as your competition.  They are your colleagues, and I’ve never met a group of people who are more willing to guide or offer encouragement to their peers.  I’ve often said that my very favorite thing about the book world, the indie world in particular, is the community and the support and their willingness to accept and to support other writers.  I like to think of it as a pay-it-forward group.  I had so many people help and encourage me, and I hope to do the same for other new authors.

CS: If you meet a stranger and they’ve heard of your book, be pleasantly surprised.

JS: As an indie, this is especially true.  I never expected anyone to have heard of me or my books.  I have, however, been quite pleasantly surprised.  I’ve had two instances, once walking into a coffee shop and once into a winery when someone’s asked, “Didn’t you write that ghost book?”  I have to tell you, I was floored.  I was even more surprised when I got to talking to a young man in Barnes and Noble only to find out that his mother had read Cemetery Tours and was trying to get him to read it too! He was hesitant, though, because he thought it might be dark and scary. Hey, it’s a ghost story!

CS: Everyone in publishing hates blurbs.

JS: I can’t speak for everyone in publishing, but I definitely hate blurbs.  Having to condense an entire book into a paragraph?  How do you expect me to do that?  I’m a wordy person.  That’s something that one of my grad school writing professors said about me.  He called me “wordy and abrasive.” Now, I’m not sure how abrasive I am, but I know I’m wordy.  And as a wordy person, I hate blurbs.  I don’t mind reading them, but I really hate writing them.

CS: The goal is to have a career.

JS: This is so true.  More than anything, I want to be an author with lots of different books and series.  I want this to be my life, my source of income, everything.  I want to be like Meg Cabot, who writes for all ages and has dozens and dozens of books and series to her name.  I want to write about ghosts and boy bands and lakes and Scotland and science and mythology.  I want different genres and different characters and different worlds.  I want people to read one of my books and think, “Woah! I can’t believe she wrote that other book!” because they’re so different.

CS: Readers are always curious about whether or not books are autobiographical.

JS: Again, I have found this one to be true.  I’ve had several people which character is supposed to be me, or which character is most like me.  The answer is none of them and all of them.  None of my characters represent me.  I make a point of making sure none of my characters look like me or act entirely like me.  However, I do put a little bit of myself or people I love into each character.  For example, one of the characters from Boy Band and my sister share the same phobia.  For another example, Luke Rainer and I are both Episcopalian.  His parents are also named after my parents, but they are not at all alike.

CS: When you read a new book by another author, you are excited to read it and not jealous.

JS: This is almost always true.  There have only been two books that I’ve attempted to read that I felt outright and petty contempt for them having been published.  I won’t name those books, but I will tell you that both originated online as fanfiction (you get three guesses, the first two don’t count).

CS: Fiercely protect your writing time.

JS: So agree.  Writing time is every bit as much work time as a 9 to 5 job.  It’s how we make money.  It’s how we create.  The key to being a writer is, well, WRITING!  It’s the very foundation of our livelihood.  Without writing, there is no writer.

Again, I chose not to comment on every point she made because I want you to read her article.  Her list is comprised of 24 observations.  I’ve only covered a handful.  But what she says at the end is true.  Writing is magic.  In fact, it might be the closest that humans can ever come to achieving real magic.  Words can take you anywhere, they can create worlds and characters and adventures from nothing.  And I’m always going to love it.

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