At our Writers Meetup in December (https://www.meetup.com/Fort-Valley-Writers-Meetup-St-Lukes/), we talked about publishing and marketing.
The Literary Marketplace is the gold standard for finding out about publishing one’s work, but we focused on the more accessible Writers Market, published by Writers Digest. One of the many useful features of Writers Market is the description of what each publisher wants to receive from submitters, whether it be queries, sample chapters, outlines, or complete works. Generally, those who publish novels or poetry want to see the finished work (unless you’re a highly published novelist already). Those who publish non-fiction, self-help, etc., want to see queries, plans or samples. Memoirs seem to be in the middle. I suspect that memoirs that are like how-to’s would be more like non-fiction, so you could submit a prospectus or a sample. Memoirs that are real life stories would be more like novels, so you should wait until your book is completed. Again, the publishers will specify what they will accept.
I have submitted poetry to magazines and journals in the past with a little success. But now I am seriously writing a memoir and playing with a possible novel. The others in our Writers Meetup are doing memoir, fantasy, drama, historical fiction, science fiction, poetry and even blogs. I have a friend who is on a very disciplined schedule writing mysteries and publishing them through Amazon. She makes a small income. I have a former student (from the seventies!) who has kept up his writing on African themes, including fantasy, action novels and other approaches to fiction. He self-publishes and has done marketing at book stores. My Twitter feed includes many book marketers and publishing opportunities. Today, many kinds of writing, writers, and publication venues exist.
In addition to knowing what the various publishers, magazines and other publishing venues will accept, we should decide on our priorities when it comes to publishing. Some of our Writers Meetup members prize getting published and making money as their goal. Of course I would be elated to become a best-selling author in hard copies or online! And I should not be ignorant about the process of being published. But at my age, and with my sensibilities, I plan to concentrate on the writing first. I want what I put out to be as good as I can make it, so I will write and revise my memoir and my novel, then look to publication for each of them.
Jena’s small office was in the back room, and the secretary’s desk was in the room in front with the windows to the hall on one side, and beige filing cabinets on the other. Jena had been working, but she stepped out from her desk and into Ms Grace’s office when she heard some of the students talking—they were getting a bit lively. It was fall at last, and a football game was coming up between their college and St. Georges, which was over a hundred miles away.
“You all ain’t gonna beat the Georges Knights!” said Keesha, who was being loud, as usual. “They bigger.” St. Georges just happened to be located in Keesha’s hometown.
Chinememne, a Nigerian-American student, was at Oconee State on an athletic scholarship and was very loyal to its sports teams. Her eyes flashed as she took Keesha on. “Then why don’t you just go to school at St. George’s?"
Keesha’s voice took on a meaner tone. “Why you don’t just go back to Africa?”
Without giving Chinememne a chance to respond, Jena said, “That’s enough, Keesha! You’re not supposed to say things like that to people!” Mistreatment of outsiders was something Jena absolutely could not tolerate.
Ms Grace, Chinememne, and especially Keesha were stunned into silence for a second. Jena was their program coordinator, and she was low-key and business-like most of the time.
“I don’t have to listen to you!” snapped Keesha, and she left, heading to the office of a staff member she was friendly with—unfortunately it was a staff member who resisted Jena’s policies and talked against her to the students.
Chinememne left, too, and Ms Grace stayed quiet and got back to work. Jena continued to feel righteous indignation. But after a while, she began to realize that Chinememne actually had advantages over Keesha and may not have been so much the underdog. Her parents were medical professionals, from Nigeria originally but now naturalized and working in Kansas. She had a good high school education. Keesha probably had a single parent, or at least Jena had only met her mother and brother, no father. Her grades were mediocre, probably due to schools not being that great down there in St. Georges. And her attachment to the female staff member in the next office, though highly irritating, probably came out of her need for someone to guide her and for someone to follow.
Keesha should not have insulted Chinememne by accusing her of being an unwanted foreigner. But Jena realized she herself should have been big enough to keep from administering a put down. By this time, the building was quiet. She couldn’t see or hear anyone on the other side of those windows facing the hallway. She knew she got along well with the faculty she worked with in this building and most of the students, but not so well with the staff and any students who happened to be allied with them. Being righteous was fine, but Jena wished she could have a do-over sometimes when it came to getting along with people.
My sister Nancy suggested that I write a blog on the difficulty of selecting the right vocabulary when addressing an audience that’s mixed in terms of their understanding of words.
My first reaction is, “Well that depends!” To be specific, it depends on the scenario.
Scenario 1 is editing or writing a book or long document to be read by experts and aficionados but also by the uninitiated and managers who have only a general knowledge of the subject.
Organization is our secret weapon here. The text can begin with a general introduction that all can understand to establish the subject at hand, the purpose, and the tone. It could be about how to start a business at home and keep proper records, and it could have either a serious accounting tone or a humorous how-to-make-your-taxes-easier-to-file tone. (The manager in this case might be the publisher who will decide whether to publish the book.)
In this introduction or immediately after, sections can be listed and even linked to so users can find what they need. Each section can begin with a general explanation, but this can be followed with details and can use vocabulary necessary to be specific. The supervisor and the uninitiated may not be familiar with the specialized vocabulary or follow all the details, but they may be skimming these parts, anyway. A concluding section can be similar to the general introduction in terms of vocabulary and details. If it’s a long book, each chapter can be organized as seen above.
Scenario 2 consists of giving a semi-interactive talk or lecture to a live audience (or one online with chat allowed) that includes very literate people and experts on one end of the spectrum and, on the other end, novices and people with limited vocabularies.
I became good at this as a college professor. My own professors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the 60s were like stars of greater or lesser repute. Professors Whitley, Kroeber, and Mosse were famous on campus and beyond, and students who were not even enrolled in their classes came to listen to them. We increased our vocabularies by listening to them. They, and nearly all of our professors, stood in front, even on the stage in many cases, and held our attention by lecturing.
When I became a college instructor at a small college, however, it took very little time for me to realize, as I tried to make eye-contact with my students, that some were with me, and some clearly were not. Lecturing as my professors had done was not working. So I began saying things in several different ways and asking questions. How is the Golden Chain of Being they believed in during the early Renaissance different from the later idea that governments rule by consent of the governed? Why is it a pun when Hamlet says to his uncle, who married his mother, 'Not so, my lord; I am too much in the sun'? (Hint: son/sun.)
I tried to get discussions going. Although our texts used fairly high-level vocabularies, I concentrated on breaking the subjects down so they would be understood by the majority of my students. I couldn’t actually teach if I wasn’t making myself understood.
Scenario 3 is giving a sermon (or maybe a TED Talk?) to a congregation or group whose members have various levels of expertise and verbal proficiency when interaction is not allowed or not customary.
This is the most challenging scenario to be discussed here. The study of audience and purpose can’t be dispensed with, and attention-getting devices must be considered as well. What is the main objective of the talk? What details and examples are crucial for the audience to understand? How can repetition, touching or memorable examples, and a structure that culminates in the main idea be used to facilitate understanding? Are there certain words or phrases that are essential to understanding the main idea and supporting points? In that case, how can these words be defined and redefined so that they become part of everyone’s tool box?
To my mind, Arthur Brooks’s TED Talk on work and happiness https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDH4mzsQP0w&t=74s is an excellent example of a lecture that can be appreciated by nearly everyone, although some may miss his man on the motorcycle on a dirt road metaphor.
Come to think of it, perhaps Alvin Whitley, Karl Kroeber, and George L. Mosse knew how to include us all when they lectured, whether they did so instinctively or as a result of years of practice.
Observations on the subjects of friends, family, country, cultures and nature.