Book Review: Why Authors Shouldn't Believe Everything They Read

78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published
Subtitle: 14 Why It Just Might
Pat Walsh
Penguin, 2005
ISBN-10: 0143035657
ISBN-13: 978-0143035657
Nonfiction/Publishing/Writing
Contact Reviewer: hojoreviews@aol.com




Three Reasons Why You Would Be Better Served To Choose Something More Up-To-Date

Reviewed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, award-winning author of This Is the Place and Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered, Tracings, a chapbook of poetry, and the author of the HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers

Generally I review books that have been recently published because the review journals and sites I write for expect that. Sometimes that policy makes me grumpy because I love reviewing old books with stick-to-it-iveness to see what authors can learn from them that will make their own books hang around for longer than the traditional 90 day bookstore shelf life.

But I was exposed to 78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published: 14 Why It Just Might at a recent critique group meeting and the saucy title intrigued me. I asked to borrow it. I’m glad I did because the contents remind me of why “recent” is a good policy to have, at least for most nonfiction books.

It was also a good thing because it helped me realize how far the publishing industry has come since 2005 when this book was published by Penguin. It’s not that I’m not aware that people (including agents and publishers) still judge a book by its cover and by the press it is printed on. They do and I don’t like it much because I am sensitive to intolerance. That includes labeling people by their color or religion, or weight or . . . well, you get the idea. Most of my creative writing addresses this particular theme in one way or another. So I’ve also been an advocate for selecting books by their content. You know, the stuff of which books are really made.

There are some gems out there that never get published. It’s hogwash when people say, “Write an excellent book and it will find its way to publishing sooner or later.” Sometimes that is true but many times it is not. And that is one reason subsidy and self publishing has become so popular. (There are others but that may be material for another day and another rant.)

Back to this 2005 book on publishing. It’s not that there isn’t some good stuff in it. It’s not that author Pat Walsh might not have moderated his opinions over the years. But his disdain for authors shines through in too many place to have much hope for that. He doesn’t much like the ones who want a hand in publicizing their own books, for instance. Nope. He admits he doesn’t do a whole lot of promotion for his own authors but he also doesn’t want their input or the elbow grease they might provide in do-it-yourself projects or in partnership with his company. Authors (at least in 2005) were to be good little writers, know their places, and damn well shut up.

Walsh’s narrow take is that there is only one way to do things is not really all bad. It is important for writers to know about some of the biases in the industry that existed back then (a long time ago in the electronic age) and now. In The Frugal Editor, I advocated using zero-tolerance editing because I know it still exists and as authors we need to deal with it if we want our books published traditionally or agented.

Here’s the thing: Though Walsh’s humor comes through in much of the book, I fear any emerging author who gets hold of it might take it verbatim. We already have too much discrimination floating around in this world. It’s time we got a grip and started judging people and books on their individual merit. Oh, yes. And give authors as a group some credit for having more than peas in their brains. At least until they prove otherwise.

Mr. Walsh, if you’ve changed some of your opinions, please update your book. I’d like to recommend it as an example of what an open-minded and caring publisher might do for a an author’s work. I’d like to encourage many authors--particularly those who write creatively--to try the traditional route first. Until then, I fear your book might discourage writers with talent from wanting anything to do with our industry.

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s first novel, This is the Place, has won eight awards.
Her book of creative nonfiction Harkening, won three. A UCLA Writers' Program instructor, she also is the author of another book essential for writers, USA Book News' Best Professional Book of 2004, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't (www.budurl.com/FrugalBkPromo). The second in the HowToDoItFrugally series, The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success (www.budurl.com/TheFrugalEditor) covers writing successful query letters and includes helpful hints from twenty of the nation's top agents. It, too, won USA Book News top award in its category and Reader Views Literary award. Learn more at her site http://HowToDoItFrugally.com.

3 comments:

  1. Carolyn,

    This is such an important topic. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma attached to those who choose to self-publish. And, the traditional route is certainly a tough one.

    I agree that if new authors read this book first, they may choose to give up all together. Thanks for the heads-up!

    Karen

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  2. Carolyn:

    Great review and I'm glad you pointed out not to take it all for verbatim.

    Donna

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  3. Ah, part of why I started 4RV Publishing.

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