Book by Definition

book insideby Pamela Morsi

The attached screen shot was just an early morning pun—ishment on SARA & FRIENDS. Maybe you saw it. But Curtis’s words started me thinking. In the world of e-format, what does it mean to be “writing a book”.

According to WIKIPEDIA (my go-to source when I’m timing myself to see if I can accomplish a blog post in less than 20 minutes):

A book is a set of written, printed, illustrated, or blank sheets, made of ink, paper, parchment, or other materials, usually fastened together to hinge at one side.

But that definition is so 20th Century!

To WIKIPEDIA’s credit, they add:

A set of text-filled or illustrated pages produced in electronic format is known as an electronic book, or e-book.

This separation of definition is undoubtedly very helpful when planning library or office space shelving. But has almost no value in the creation of a novel. Worse than no value…it has been a negative for writers.

At RWA this year, I was in the bar (of course) and looking for a spot to rest my weary bones. I took an empty seat. The writer next to me at the little table knew who I was. I did not know her and therefore asked the very lame question, “Is this your first conference?”

The answer quickly evolved into a mini-diatribe on snooty traditionally published authors (like me). And why she had stayed away from RWA so long.

Yikes! Ultimately it was all cool and she was able to get it out, once and hopefully for all, without me throwing a drink in her face and storming off. (Thankfully, that’s not really my style).

There had been a time for her when she had felt hurt and excluded. And I represented a kind of “Mean Girls” scenario that had played out in her conference experience.

Being totally honest here, I was not an early adopter of e-format. I seriously did not get it. Why would I? Before Amazon, before e-readers, really even before the laptop, the first e-format came out on little floppy discs that authors had to sell themselves out of the trunk of their cars. Readers brave enough to buy would put the discs into their big hulking desktops and have to sit there reading them page by page on a glaring CRT screen.

“Nobody is going to do that.” I probably said. If I didn’t say it, I thought it.

One thing that I KNOW that I said at a SARA meeting (probably when I was president, since I can’t imagine why else I would have been making declarations) was that the designation of “Published Writer” in our organization was going to be left in the eye of the individual member. I.E. if you say you are a “published author”, however you define that, then for purposes of SARA, you are a published author. National eventually got around to establishing a policy that disallowed my handling of it. But I thought my solution worked…at least for me, it did.

When I was a very, very new author, I met an old veteran who still wrote her novels on a typewriter. How quaint! Did you know the terms “cut & paste” actually come from that era? She showed me a manuscript where she done corrections by typing them onto a blank sheet of paper, cutting the piece out and pasting it onto the manuscript. Seriously. That’s how they did it. But I digress.

Time marches on. Things change. The way we do things change. I’m sure that “writers” who used pen and paper initially imagined that their process was different from “type-writers” who were people who used machines. And although I never heard it said directly, I’m sure that those authors that continued with typewriters after the flood of us computer nerds hit the market probably resented our easy production of a manuscript.

Maybe the thing for us all to keep in mind is that our product is not the printed pages or the mobi file document. It is the story that came out of our crazy/cluttered/muddled mind to flow by some medium into the bright/busy/barraged brains of our readers. In that, we all seek the same thing. We are novelists. And how we manifest that destiny is not as important as that we do it.

Or, as I told Curtis, fracturing Marshall McLuhan, “It’s more the message than the media.”

Pamela MorsiPamela Morsi is a USA Today, Waldenbooks, and Barnes & Noble bestselling author of romance. She broke into publishing in 1991 with Heaven Sent and has been gracing readers with at least a book a year ever since. Two of her novels, Courting Miss Hattie (1992) and Something Shady (1996), won the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award, the highest honor in romance publishing, and others have been RITA finalists.

Read more at Pamela Morsi’s website or on Twitter.

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