Friday, June 7, 2013

... And More Bad Writing Advice

Bad writing advice comes in all forms.

In some cases, as in yesterday's example, it was bad advice about the content of the writing.

In other cases, as today, it's bad advice about the path to publication.

This morning, I found this guest post in a blog I follow. I usually like this blog, so I don't want to suggest that it's a bad place to get writing advice. Usually, it's not.

Today, it is.

In the post, the author--who by no coincidence is a paid ghostwriter--suggests that everyone who's seeking an agent or a publisher had better first employ the services of, you guessed it, a paid ghostwriter. Here are her exact words:

You don't want your book to be passed over. So it's best to always hire a professional book editor to give your manuscript a thorough going-through before presenting it to an agent or publisher.

I'd suggest that if you do hire a professional book editor, you don't hire this one, who obviously doesn't know what a split infinitive is.

But leaving that aside, is her advice sound?

Well, it depends. She tells us later that "spending money on your book is worth it" in today's competitive marketplace. But she also tells us that the kind of services she's advertising can run anywhere from 2,000 to 50,000 dollars. Do you know what the average advance for a debut author is?

I'll give you a hint: it ain't 50,000 dollars.

Look, there are some books that are in desperate need of editorial assistance.  There are some writers who don't write very well.

But those writers are probably not going to get published no matter how much someone else tinkers with their books. Those writers just aren't good enough.

Other writers can discover the weaknesses in their manuscripts with the assistance of unpaid critique partners or beta readers. And they can fix what's wrong themselves before subbing to an agent or editor.

Then there are some writers who are good enough to get published, but who need a paid editor to get a book into agent-or-publisher-ready shape. Those authors should consult their consciences and their pocket-books and make their own decision.

But to say it's "always" best to hire a paid editor is to put false hope in the minds of those writers who are unpublishable, while putting unnecessary fear into the minds of those writers who don't need to pay anyone.

And it's all done in the name of making a buck.

I'm an old-fashioned guy. I believe you don't lie to people or take advantage of them. In that respect, I guess I'm out of step with the whole capitalist mantra, which seems to be: anything goes.

So on the one hand, as a blogger, I'm thankful for all the bad advice out there. It gives me something to do. It keeps me in business (though obviously, I don't get paid for these posts).

But on the other hand, as a writer and a human being, it really ticks me off.

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