PIRs – A NOVEL EXPERIENCE – By Nicole Murphy

I have just completed the first editor-requested changes to my soon-to-be first published novel. It’s been a nerve-wracking and yet exciting couple of weeks. Can I make the changes that are needed to make the book even better, without losing all the aspects of it that made it publishable in the first place?

As I check the spelling, and make sure it’s ready to send off for my editor’s perusal, I’ve found myself thinking about what this process would be like for newbie authors like myself if the Australian publishing industry dies, as the changes to PIR would make likely.

This would be a process that I would be going through with an overseas editor, rather than an Australian one, and that has me thinking – it could well be much harder. For starters, there’s the practicalities of trying to communicate with someone in a different time zone. Sure, you can do so on email fairly easily – the feedback gets sent to you during their working hours, you get it and work on it during your working hours, send it back and they’ll get it when they’re ready.

Except there’s that issue that email just can’t escape – the great potential for miscommunication. What if your editor has made suggestions that you don’t understand? You’d like to call, but it’s the wrong time, or it’s too expensive. So you email, but then it will take twenty-four or more hours to get a response back, and when you’ve only got a couple of weeks to do the edit, that’s a wait you don’t want.

So maybe you make a decision as to what they are saying, and write it, and send it to them, only to find out you’re wrong, and you’ve got to re-write it. What if this happens several times in the process of editing your novel? Frustration, for both writer and editor, and the potential that the book that results won’t be the best work from either of you.

Even if you do get through this part of the process easily enough, then there’s the copyedits. The sales. The marketing. All being done mostly via email, and therefore all with the possibility of miscommunication.

Those complications don’t assume the problems that can come with cultural differences, both in terms of doing business and in terms of the content of the book.

StudentHaving your first book is already a tense and at times terrifying experience – you’re handing control of your much loved and sweated-over prose over to someone else, trusting them to do the right thing by you and your book. Luckily, I’m doing so with someone who I know through working in the industry, someone who I trust and admire and respect for the work I know they do.

Imagine how much harder it would be if this was with a complete stranger, from another land. Someone that I couldn’t call if I needed to at a moment’s notice. Someone that if things got really tough I couldn’t go and see to nut things out.

That’s a very real possibility if the PIRs are repealed. I can’t see it overly affecting already established Australian writers like Tim Winton, Bryce Courtney, or in my field of science fiction and fantasy, Jennifer Fallon or Trudi Canavan. They will still be worth being published, with established sales records here and overseas.

But for newbies like I am at the moment – well, Australian publishers are going to be less likely to take chances on us, knowing their profits can be undersold if we publish overseas. So that first experience, with the additional hardships and possible difficulties, will have be undertaken with huge physical and perhaps philosophical distances between writer and editor.

Sometimes it will work. Possibly most of the time. But there will be times it won’t work, when not being able to have that first experience in a comfortable, familiar environment could end careers that could have been brilliant.

Is that worth risking, for the potential of some books being cheaper? I don’t think so.

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