Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Who's Really the Writer?

I've decided to go the indie route for publishing for several reasons, not the least of which being the freedom I'll have when my work comes out.  I often hear friends of mine who've gone the traditional publishing route gripe about how they feel constrained by their agent, their editor, their publishing house, etc.  "I can't write the story the way I want to write it" is a common complaint.

However, I often wonder just how much of this is legitimate and how much of it is complaint about a safety net.  After all, if the end product doesn't come out the way the writer wants, he or she can say that it was the fault of the editor(or whoever last had it).  It alleviates the writer of responsibility for the end product and gives that person an excuse for why it's not a wonderful piece of work.

To me, this is an absolute bullshit excuse.  As the writer, it's your responsibility for the finished product.  Your editor or agent can cajole, threaten, and intimidate you about changing it, but that doesn't change the fact that it's your name on the cover.  If the suggestions made are going to alter your story to the point where you feel it's no longer your story, then you have a duty to politely tell them to "fuck off."

Yes, this might cost you your publisher or agent.  That's when you have to ask yourself if they were buying your story or you, and then redesigning the story you thought you were selling them.  It's one thing if an editor helps tweak your work so that you can better get across your point, but it's something altogether different if they change the foundation of what you wrote.

Unfortunately, too many author-wannabes are so grateful to have gotten a glance from an agent or editor that they'll meekly go along with changes they know to be bad for the book.  And as long as writers are willing to tolerate this rather than walk away, it will continue.  There comes a time when you have to remember who really writes the story.  I know lots of editors and agents will crow loudly about how they can simply move on to the next wannabe, but I take comfort from the fact that traditional publishing is declining and readers are finding other ways to get their fix.  It's up to us as writers to know the difference between helping a story and creating a new one, one that destroys the vision that you as the writer initially held.

So who's in charge of your work?  Do you have final say, or is it someone who would like to have written your book and wants to change it to what they'd have written?  The answer to that will say a lot about whether this is a fun occupation that you will enjoy, or if it's just another job and you're just another cog.

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