Saturday, July 12, 2014

It Takes a Village

Posted by: Shawna Reppert

There’s a stereotype of the writer, laboring alone in an attic in a solitary effort to be discovered in a cold, cold world.  It is true that most writers work alone in the actual drafting stage (the exception being those that write in collaboration, and hats off to them, as I can’t imagine how they avoid homicide.)  But there’s a lot more to bringing a finished book into the world than the laying down of words, so today I want to sing the praises of all those hidden people who help make books what they are.  Some of them are unpaid as well as unsung.  Those that are paid often give of their time, their hearts and their souls a value far beyond their fee.

From the beginning, there are the writers that have gone before that have inspired us and the teachers and mentors who taught us how to get the story on the pages to match the one in our heads.  Let’s not forget all the specialists that take time out of their busy day to help us with our research.

Then there are the beta readers.  Some of them are fellow authors, some are just readers whose opinions we respect.  Because it’s next to impossible for most writers to step outside our work and see it as a reader would, betas are the ones who help us avoid over-explaining or under-explaining, and a myriad of other crimes.  When the work is as polished as we can make it, it goes past one or more editors.  (There are different kinds of editors, but sometimes one editor wears more than one hat.)  Content editors are like betas on steroids; they catch everything—from character inconsistencies to anachronistic language.  I’ve had serious discussions with an editor on the precise word for a certain shade of red.  The writer has the final say, but good writers think hard before rejecting their editor’s advice.  

The copyeditor is often a separate person, especially in a large publishing house.  Copyeditors have amazing skills at catching every little typo that the author and content editor managed to miss in their many passes through the book.  Truly, they have a rare and special talent, the worth of which is often overlooked.

Cover artists make a book look good (hopefully).  Sad as it seems, people do judge a book by its cover.  I was fortunate that Carina Press asks for writer’s input in the cover planning stage, and very fortunate that The Stolen Luck came out with such a gorgeous cover.  For my indie work-in-progress, a sequel to Ravensblood, I have the privilege of working even more directly with a talented artist.  The conception stage was very much a collaborative process, and she was very patient as I insisted this version of the raven looked too hopeful, that version too angry.

We may not always agree with our reviewers, but most of them are motivated by a sincere love of books.  We can't deny that they help us get the word out, and that counts for a lot.

Above all, we owe gratitude to our readers for their support.  For indie writers, that support is quite literal, as many indie novels only see light of day through crowdsource funding such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo.  In fact, the aforementioned cover artist for Raven’s Wing was paid for by a generous reader, even though the official crowdsource campaign has not begun.  Science fiction and fantasy writers are especially blessed with a vocal and supportive fandom.   Writers rely on readers to spread the word about our work through social media, blogs, and word of mouth.  A bit of fan mail can give us the umph we need to go on, and knowing that readers are waiting for the next book can drag us out of bed and to the laptop.  Let's face it, without readers, we'd be talking to ourselves.

Though it’s the author’s name on the cover, it takes a village to raise a book.

Shawna Reppert is the award-winning author of  The Stolen Luck and Ravensblood.
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