Wednesday, July 27, 2011

From Amateur to School Girl -- Again

A reviewer, who admitted she doesn't read the kind of book I write, said "the writing and character development seemed a little amateurish." I guess a little amateurish is like being a little virginal. On the cusp of being a tramp and on the road to whorish -- or something like that. At least it's a three-star review, so I'm not going to worry.

Not worry? I'm going back to school. Maybe I can burnish the rest of the amateur out of my writing.

I did decide to go back to school, in a way, by signing up for Great Courses. It was a huge bargain, $39.95 down from $215. College at bargain basement prices, and no exams or dissertations or angst about what to wear to class. I always obsessed about having enough paper and a pen and pencil that worked. Silly me. I may even take the course on rhetoric and critique. It's likely my reviewing skills may also seem a little amateurish. Of course, I've earned enough money to buy food when the bills depleted my regular income, and I've had to pay taxes on the earnings for the past six years. Do amateurs pay taxes on earnings? Oh, well, not important.

I decided to try out one of the Great Courses since I've been receiving their catalogues for years. With the long list for the Booker Prize out today, it just makes sense to brush up my reading, writing, and critiquing skills. I took a look at the list and checked them all out on Amazon to see what was available for Kindle and at what prices.

Surprisingly, four of the books were out of print even though they were published within the past few months, and nearly all of the books were priced at near hard cover price, and often more than the paperback price. I guess publishers just don't get it.

How does a book go out of print in the seven weeks since it was published? Low print runs. Most of the books were published with a less than 6000 print run -- for all countries. Had they chosen to offer digital files (at realistic rates), the books would still be available while reprint orders were being made. I guess they didn't believe in the books enough to order a print run sufficient to sell to interested readers, and ebooks readers do actually read. I've finished six books on Kindle and just received the Kindle the first of May. Of course, it goes without saying that I've read many more books in print (that's what the office sends me to review) and a few in digital form that is not compatible with the Kindle. The total is, I believe thirty books that I didn't read on Kindle, and that's a conservative estimate. I've also read two of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice books (A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings, and have begun A Storm of Swords) and have nibbled The Bone People, a Booker Prize winner from 1985 that was a gift from a friend who said after the second chapter she realized the main female character was me.

One of my guilty pleasures, and not including Martin's saga, is the Nikki Heat mysteries written by Richard Castle, of television fame. Now there was a bright marketing ploy. A character on a TV show (one of the few I stream) is an author of mystery novels and, in real life, there are books written by said TV character featuring his partner and love interest, Detective Kate Beckett, aptly named Nikki Heat.

The writing is simple and the mysteries not that difficult to solve, and the byplay between Heat and her literary shadow, magazine writer Jameson Rook (who also writes romance novels as Victoria St. Clair), is heated, to say the least. It's fluff writing but it's fun, hence guilty pleasure. I've read Heat Wave and am working my way through Naked Heat, although the naked part is sadly missing so far, and I'm reading them on Kindle at a price below the paperback price. What a concept. The thing is, I'm enjoying the books, just as I enjoyed reading Terry Pratchett's Discworld series on Kindle.

Kindle is a great product and I'm enjoying the heck out of mine -- when I'm not reading review books, like Prophecy by S. J. Parris or Deed to Death by D. B. Henson, whose writing is long on detail and short on action through the first half of the book. D. B. Henson was first self-published and then picked up by Simon & Schuster, so indie to traditionally published still happens, and not just to Amanda Hocking, who is wringing the very last drop of tease out of her move to St. Martin's Press with her troll series.

What surprised me about the Booker Prize news this morning was the slap at Apple for not having any of the digital books available from the long list and being questioned as to whether they were players or just playing. I guess Apple is an amateur compared to Amazon, but you didn't hear that from me.

So, while the publishing world is heating up and plots are being bandied about, I will return to the beginning and learn to construct artful sentences in an effort to shake off that amateurish taint in my writing and character development. After all, writing is evolution and to write and sell one must evolve.


Helen Ginger said...

I want an eReader. Notice, I didn't say "need." I just covet one. It sounds like you're making good use of yours.

About the review...I hope you're taking the class just because you want to, not because you got only 3 stars and someone called the writing "a little amateurish." That's one review. One out of hundreds or thousands you will get over time.

J.M.Cornwell said...

No, I saw the review this morning and had already signed up for and begun the course of study. The title intrigued me, constructing better sentences. It's always about learning and evolving, even it's from amateurish to something less so.

I really enjoy my Kindle. I still refuse to buy books that cost as much as hard cover and more than paperback, which means I'm missing a lot of good books, but the publishers will either cave or I'll get the book from the library. Either way, I win, because I can get books for my Kindle from the library. You really should get one. At $114, it's a steal.