Jeff VanderMeer has posted an excerpt from his upcoming ‘Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for 21st-Century Writers‘. In that excerpt, VanderMeer writes that “reader perceptions are so often driven not just by their opinion of your writing but of you.” I would add that your readers’ perceptions of you are often driven by their reactions to your writing. If I write a poem in the first person about beating my wife, and I have the capacity to invoke my readers’ horror with my words, they may have a hard time accepting it as non-representative of my character. That said, VanderMeer’s timeless quote serves as a strong basis for all ’21st-Century Writers’ to give serious thought to the ways in which their public activities can affect their perceived character.
VanderMeer asks the readers of his excerpt to keep in mind that “I don’t advocate being a PR hound in the book–I advocate being a balanced person who puts creativity first, while acknowledging you have to do some public things if you want your books to reach an audience…”. Those ‘public things’, in Jeff VanderMeer’s opinion, involve maintaining a consistently high quality of work. One way to maintain that quality would be to employ an editor.
Whether or not you employ the services of an editor, many of you are ultimately concerned with the quality of your work. For VanderMeer “[a] high-quality creative project could be anything from an esoteric experimental science fiction novel to a heartbreakingly tragic literary novella posted on a website, a book of poems about your neighbor’s talking chicken or a techno-thriller about zombies. The genre is irrelevant.”
Unfortunately, Jeff Sparrow’s comments at Overland seem to have alienated at least one major audience for VanderMeer’s book. Specifically, the editor of Overland states that “[t]o get a novel published in Australia today, you have to sell it to someone who thinks it will make money.” By that comment, we may conclude that Jeff Sparrow believes that if you are a writer of novels in Australia, there is not much point in taking advice from a book that advocates putting your creativity first.