Wednesday, July 2, 2008

So While I'm Biting My Fingernails

...I'll talk about writing. And selling. Because the craft is one part, and the sales is the other, and they can be very different paths.

My critique buddies and I often discuss things other than each others' manuscripts. And one of our favorite topics is the celebrity children's book. Now, please don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of Jamie Lee Curtis, Henry Winkler, and other celebs who are really very good writers who just happen to be famous prior to writing their very good books. But we all know that there are famous folks whose books have been published for no reason other than their fame.

I'm noticing fewer of these of late. I think publishers may be finally cottoning on to something: that a good book that makes a good read is written by someone who works very hard at perfecting the craft of writing.

So, sales. Editors. They used to scare me like crazy. I'd go to conferences and watch them from afar as if they were aliens from another planet. And then I discovered - they just want great books. Great writing. Craftsmanship.

And what a great word that is - craftsmanship. Like the old days of guilds and apprentices. Where you weren't ready to practice the art of whatever until your master said so.

So I'm heading back to school - to find my master!


PJ Hoover said...

You may be right about fewer celeb books. I'll have to notice more next time I'm at the bookstore.
And I love our craftsman/master thing. So perfect!

Dawn Buthorn said...

As a struggling unpublished writer, I have a real problem with celebs writing books. I found a great article about it on's an excerpt:

Publishing houses have a limited number of books they will release each year. When celebrities crowd out the better writers, the children's book industry eventually suffers. Books by better authors... ones whose names you probably wouldn't recognize... get passed over by editors. I know a great many authors and writers who struggle every day to make wonderful new books for children. Writing for children is their passion-their life's ambition. And they work very hard at it. I fear that for celebrities, the idea to write a children's book is more of an afterthought than a passionate dream.
When a celebrity decides, "Hmmm, I think I'll write a children's book," his publicist contacts a publisher, who becomes interested in the possible proceeds of selling a book by a famous person. So right from the beginning, the name of the celebrity is the primary consideration-not the story. An experienced editor then molds the celebrity manuscript into something passable, to get it on the shelves. When this happens, the best writing available is not reaching your children's eyes, ears, minds, and hearts. Why does this matter? Because your child matters. Your child is the future of our world.

I think that sums up my feelings pretty well.

Janet Fox said...

Hi guys - Terrific quote, Dawn. And that goes for books that may be fast reads but are poorly written. And yes, PJ, let me know what you discover - mine's a very subjective snapshot.

And now, back to the nail=biting!