Monday, January 7, 2013

Something I Could Have Done Better

Among the many resolutions I fail at is my resolution to stop complaining. Most of my other resolutions I break in the privacy of my apartment, where only Scooter notices, and as long as I keep my resolution to feed him whenever he wants, he overlooks the breakage.

I complain about my publisher a lot. It doesn't matter which publisher (and in the many decades I've been working, there have been many publishers). They do something I don't like, I complain about it. Since I have friends who are writers, I complain to them and they complain to me about their publishers and it all works out. If my complaints veer on hysteria, I complain to my agent, and if need be, she complains to my publisher, thus earning her 15%. And now, thanks to our friend the internet, I complain to all of you, without having to listen to your complaints or pay you 15%.

Since starting this blog, I know I've complained about waiting to hear from my publisher and waiting to get paid by my publisher. Those are traditional complaints, not worth anyone's 15%. I also probably complained about the jacket copy for This World We Live In, since it gives away a major portion of the last part of the book, for no reason except to make it easier for students to fake their book reports based on book jackets, if they still do that sort of thing, which they probably don't, thanks to our friend the internet.

But I don't remember ever complaining about the copy that my publisher sent to Amazon before. I do believe this is going to be a brand new complaint. A heartfelt brand new complaint.

It's the copy for The Shade Of The Moon, and to put it in simple, easy to understand, language, it stinks.

Book Description
September 3, 2013 Life As We Knew It Series (Book 4)
The eagerly awaited addition to the series begun with New York Times best-seller Life As We Knew It. Four years ago, a meteor knocked the moon off its orbit and the world changed forever. Seventeen-year-old Jon Evans is one of the lucky ones…he ended up in a Tennessee "enclave" instead of a dreaded "grubtown," where the government doesn’t even bother purifying the ash-polluted air. Despite the fact that his own relatives live in a grubtown, Jon buys into the idea of the innate superiority of "clavers." His worldview is upended, however, when he meets a green-eyed girl who believes in equality and vows to help right the world’s wrongs. Can Jon afford to be as idealistic as she is?

Well, I admit I do like that eagerly awaited part; that was pretty good. And the copy is kind of okay through the dreaded "grubtown," although I don't see any great need for the quotation marks (which get dumped a sentence later anyway).

But the rest. Oy, oy, and double oy.

Nasty government, not even purifying the ash-polluted air. Of course, the nasty government doesn't purify anyone's air. It's just in the enclave, buildings have air purifiers.

Nor does Jon buy into the idea of the innate superiority of clavers. He's not a Nazi. He accepts the concept that people who do more essential work are entitled to greater rewards. Nothing innate about it.

Then we bump into the green-eyed girl. While it's true, Sarah's the only character in The Shade Of The Moon whose eye color gets mentioned (most likely, she's the only character in any of my books whose eye color gets mentioned- you know me and descriptions), I don't think the color of her eyes is all that essential to the story. I gave her sandy hair too, but you don't see them mentioning that.

All right. The green-eyed girl believes in equality etc. It's not quite that simple, but I'm not going to argue. But couldn't the anonymous person who wrote this tripe come up with anything more dramatic than asking if Jon can afford to be as idealistic?

It would give away nothing of the plot to start (well, after that eagerly awaited part) by saying it's been four years, yet Jon Evans is haunted by the memory of people he has lost. Haunted is a nice strong word. Then you throw in the lucky one stuff, leaving out the purified air nonsense. Instead of casually saying his family lives in a grubtown, stress the difficulty of his living away from his family (and you know, it might not hurt to mention that family includes his sister Miranda, to remind people who exactly Jon is). Leave out the innate superiority, and put in something about Jon's insecurity, his knowing that he doesn't really belong in the enclave. Keep the green-eyed girl if you must, but instead of asking if Jon can afford all that idealism, mention that his family's lives would be at risk if he allows himself to believe as she does.

The cover shows burning buildings, for goodness sake. The copy should reflect some of that drama.

Hmm. Maybe instead of complaining to you, I should ask my publisher to let me rewrite the copy.

As the saying goes, it's better to burn a building than curse the darkness!


Jordan G. said...

I will be curious to read your copy. More than important than that, though, I am eager to get my hands on a copy. Shade of the Moon... happily pre-ordered. Woohoo!

Fear Death By Water said...

I didn't read the jacket copy for 'This World We Live In' until after I'd read it. I'll give 'Shade' the same treatment.

You'll note the first few lines of my review reflect my dismay (Just skip down a little).

Glen said...

Why isn't there any mention of zombies?

Anonymous said...

You have a point about Jon not being in the position to challenge the system. I see any challenges to the status quo being small and gradual -- like a secret greenhouse, or clandestine groups to teach those kids who want to learn more than what the "grub" curriculum offers (like history). The leaders of this quiet rebellion would be those who quietly do other work in the community despite having skills that might be useful to the state government. They've chosen to not reveal themselves because they disagree with the status quo but feel they could better serve the "grub" community by helping them prepare for a future when they MIGHT be able to take more direct action.

I don't see the government being as centralized as it was pre-meteor, but more like a patchwork system for each territory: Sexton being, perhaps, an example of the Kentucky/Pennsylvania/Tennessee(?) system.

Just a few thoughts for when the impossible happens and there is a Book 5.

Anonymous Santa Fe

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hello to Jordan G. and Fear Death By Water and Glen and Anonymous Santa Fe-

Thank you and thank you and I'm sorry there are no zombies and I'm sorry there are no plans for a fifth book!

Anonymous said...

Can't you "update product information" on Amazon with your own copy? (I also thought there was a place that authors could comment, but I don't see it).

PS Tried, but still having a lot of trouble reading the new blog typeface, darn it.

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Good evening, Anonymous W.S.

I don't totally understand how Amazon works, but I wouldn't change copy without my publisher's permission.

What I can change is the font on the blog, so I just did. I hope it's easier to read this way.

Tara said...

The description could just say "4th Moon book" and I would get it the second it was available! Although, I would love to see your rewrite of the description.

Just wondering - I'll be getting an e-copy (prefer reading that way) and a physical copy (to look pretty on my shelf). What would your publishing house and you as an author rather see? Would you prefer your readers pre-order the physical copy from Amazon, order it on the day of release or buy it from Barnes & Noble or whichever store is going to be stocking it on their shelves? My insomnia is driving me to think of the most random questions! Thanks, Susan! Hope you're having a great new year!

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Good morning Tara and thank you for your insomniac questions-

My publisher and I would want you not to spend too much money. That's for starters. After that, it doesn't matter, at least not to me. I'm not the kind of writer they give midnight store openings to, and my book won't race to the top of the best seller lists.

So do what's easiest for you, and get a good night's sleep tonight, and thank you again!