Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Internet (Guest post by Claude Bouchard)

I first met Claude Bouchard through Twitter. He was a fellow writer and seemed socially nimble, able to speak fluent writer's language, yet have a prankster mentality all at the same time. I decided one day to read his very first novel "Vigilante," and boy am I glad I did.  It's a terrific read.  He's now an experienced author of four Barry/McCall novels which began with "Vigilante."  Claude has been in the publishing trenches for many years, so when he has something on his mind, it's only right to give him a forum for his views.
He currently lives in Montreal, Canada with his wife Joanne and their two cats, Krystalle and Midnight.  Claude is represented by Tribe Literary Agency.


The Good, the Bad and the Internet:

When I started writing in 1995, any required research was done using reference books, encyclopaedias, maps, etc, as well as onsite visits if one hoped to write with accuracy. When it came time to query agents, the process was done by snail mail, with SASEs included, hopefully for a request for a partial or full manuscript but more often than not, a ‘thanks but no thanks’ letter sent with the stamp I paid for.


Then cometh the Internet; Slow at first, hardly user-friendly navigation on most sites and without necessarily a wealth of information. However, time does fly and we found ourselves nearing the year 2010, then beyond, with today’s Internet. Millions upon millions of users, sites, blogs, references, dictionaries, modes of communication, digital photos, videos, satellite maps and more, a researching writer’s dream. With works I’ve written in recent years, no longer was I required to head downtown to scope settings for exactitude, nor did I have to drive around North America or fly abroad to ensure that locations were as I described. Rare has it been that I couldn’t find that bit of information that I absolutely needed to make something just right. With finished works, the Internet allowed me to self-publish and make my novels available to the masses. It also allowed me to tell the masses, through social media platforms and other advertising, that my books were there for them. Thanks to the Internet, I even found my amazing agent without having to buy one stamp. Others whom I’ve met have had similar experiences and have produced wonderful works of literature as well. This is all good.

Because of the Internet and, more specifically self-publishing service providers, anyone can now call themselves a writer and I do, unfortunately, mean anyone. In the last year or two, I have come to realize that many of these ‘writers’ do not know what a writer, or a novel for that matter, actually is. Self-publication does not and must not mean that one can simply have stuff written, printed and bound in a book format. Yet, this is what many people do. Improper formatting, horrendous grammar, typos, poor or no research, spotty or lacking storylines all contribute to giving self-publication a bad reputation which it doesn’t deserve. I’ve read such books and given my opinion, with examples, to such writers to be told that, “That’s the best that I can do, I’m not a professional, I have no one to help me, I can’t afford an editor…” The list goes on. Writing is an art form and if one doesn’t have the talent to do so, one should not call oneself an artist, nor have the gall to expect the masses to pay for substandard work. When one does, this is all bad.

The Internet and the abundance of possibilities it offers are amazing resources but should be used as additional benefits and tools without letting established publishing standards slide.

 

5 comments:

  1. Emma Tyre "emeleste"September 2, 2010 at 1:38 PM

    Amen! I've had some good fortune finding some very excellent "self published" works...and some pretty dismal disappointments, too. Just because a person "can" self publish, is not a guarantee that he should. I do think it's an exciting time in the world of books right now.

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  2. Emma, I agree. A poor book probably won't sell and all the publicity in the world won't change that. Heck, most good books don't sell well. So if you can't produce a good product, self-publishing isn't the answer. A good self-published book though can be like finding a great spot to fish. You want to yell at your friends, "Hey over here." That's how a good book really gets noticed.

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  3. lowecat (writing as wanderingchat on fanfiction.net)September 2, 2010 at 6:02 PM

    I read Ceebee's post earlier today, but didn't have time to write. I agree with everything he's said. The good part of the internet is that it's made it easier to research information. One doesn't have to spend $$$$ to go to a place to check things for accuracy, nor spend hours at the library taking voluminous notes.
    The bad thing about self-published books in true book form, or those books/stories posted on various websites is the lack of grammar, punctuation, spelling, nnd sentence structure. An idea might have a very good premise but gets lost in a very bad presentation.
    I consider myself a non-professionally published writer. My career began in the 1970's with Classic Star Trek fan fiction when 'zines were mimeographed and often sold only by snail mail and at conventions. As a writer, you submitted your work to the 'zine editor, who would make appropriate corrections/suggestions. If published, you considered yourself lucky to get a copy of the 'zine. You got no money, just the joy of being 'published'.
    Today, my forte is fanfic, and I pride myself on staying as close to canon with character, speech, thought process, descriptions, and the basics. There might be a few typos here and there in my work, but I like to think that the end result flows like a lazy river. You get there, but not in a rush and it's an enjoyable ride.
    Some of the self-published stuff I've bought has been great, which is also in the fan fiction area. Some of it really needed a lot of the red editing pen.
    Still, I consider the advantages of the world wide web and social networking to get the word out about fiction of any kind well wroth the small price of the bitter dregs.
    Thanks for letting me share some ideas.

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  4. Hear, hear (or is it here, here?).

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