Genre writers posting their yearly income or the amount of their advances: This strikes me as a kind of bizarre thing to do. I certainly don’t object to anyone doing so–it’s their comfort level with how much they choose to reveal–but it’s not something you really see in most professions, and not much outside of SF/F, where it seems to have become kind of the trendy thing. But, the amount of your advance really tells me nothing about the quality of your book. Some of the crappiest novels I’ve ever read got huge advances.
This is why I say it doesn’t matter to me personally whether someone posts this info or not–it sure doesn’t influence me one way or the other if you got $50k over, say, $10k. Again–it may mean this is what the market will bear, but it does not necessarily tell me anything about the book’s quality. Nor does it really mean anything in terms of “transparency”. It’s just dollars (or Euros or whatever). If you want to be transparent on your blog, tell me more about how or why you write. Tell me more about what inspires you and what evokes passion within you. Tell me about those moments when you were transported by the writing, when it was epiphanal. Or do what Jay Lake does and talk about the craft and process of writing. A dollars post puts me to sleep. You also have to think of why employees don’t usually share their salaries with each other or what tactical or strategic advantage you give up by being so precise. Tobias Buckell has done a great survey or two on advances, and I totally think this kind of aggregate survey is valuable. But otherwise, and I really don’t mean this with anything other than a kind of bemused puzzlement, I’m not quite sure why you’d want to go around with a virtual sandwich board proclaiming, “I’m worth $10k.” Or, “I’m worth $50k.” It’s not making publishers pay writers more. It’s just…numbers. At least one World Fantasy Award-winning novel, and probably more, was the one that got a tiny advance and sold so crappily it cost the author in question their publishing contract with a major house.
Worshipping at the altar of transparent or invisible prose: Purple prose is underrated, and by this I mean that a lot of what’s described as “purple” is just dense or layered, sometimes or even often in a pleasing way, or a way that explains exactly why we sometimes read a novel rather than, say, a menu or an airline magazine or the side of a cereal box, or because that approach is intrinsic to the success of the story. And yet lately I’ve seen a kind of bombardment of advice saying to write transparent or invisible prose while denigrating other ways of writing fiction. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of prose, any more than there is anything wrong with a more layered approach. But there is something wrong with your prose if it’s transparent or invisible because you don’t actually have anything resembling a style at all. Go read an Elmore Leonard novel or a Ken Bruen novel. Sparse yet with a definite point of view and voice and tone. That’s an “invisible” style worthy of the name. Simply writing featureless prose, being unable to do the basic blocking necessary to set a scene, having no ability to work more than sight and hearing into your work on any regular basis, and thinking that having your characters basically move from empty room to empty room in a brisk fashion constitutes plot…well, that’s bad writing, not an invisible style. I think about this because it’s all too possible for a beginning writer to mistake simplicity for mastery. If fiction is going to continue to mean anything in this world, it needs to give up this jejune fight, usually initiated by acolytes of transparent prose, that puts two approaches in opposition artificially. The problem with championing one approach over the other as a writer is that you are limiting your range of options. Voice is something intrinsic to a writer and his or her world view. Style is something maleable that, in any writer worth his or her salt, should be fluid in the sense of being more or less invisible, more or less “purple,” depending on the needs of the story or novel. To rob yourself of that flexibility is to limit the kinds of stories you can tell.