Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What you can't control

In one of the conversations at Sunday's pig-pickin', a few folks asked me a lot of questions that all began with the same phrase: "Why don't you...?" The topics included covers, prices, and all sorts of things related to my novels. The answer was always the same: Because I don't get to control whatever the topic was.

Before I go any further, let me say something about my particular situation: I have an amazing amount of input into many aspects of my work. For a writer. For an early-stage novelist. Toni, my publisher, is incredibly nice to me, as she and all of Baen Books generally are to writers. At the end of the day, though, it's her job to publish books, while mine is to write them.

For those who are curious, here's a list of just some of the things you don't get to control as a writer (unless, of course, you're a huge bestselling writer, but if you are, you already know this stuff):

your book's cover art

You might get input, though even that is uncommon, but the final call belongs to the artist, the cover designer, the art director, and the publisher.

except at the moment you sell your book, whether it's a hardback or a paperback

You can choose not to sell your novel as a paperback original or a trade paperback or whatever format you don't like, but that's the last time you can control its format.

the book's price

Sales and marketing and market conditions affect the price, which the publisher ultimately sets.

when the book appears

You can affect this one by being late or early, and begging never hurts, but ultimately the publisher slots the book in the month that she or he feels will work best for both your title and the entire line.

whether Hollywood makes a movie of your book

I'd love Hollywood to option and then film my novels--all my novels. I'd love to see Will Smith on the big screen as Jon, Angelina Jolie as Alissa (yeah, I know, Jolie is not of Asian extraction, but I don't care: she's Angelina!), and Spielberg directing. I'd love to cash the checks. But I can't do anything to make any of that happen.

In the interest of accuracy, I should say that you can control one person making a movie of your work: you. Get out your FlipHD, and go to town.

Lest this all sound negative, please realize that there is one bit of extremely good news, one thing that you can control: the work.

Focus on that.

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