Friday, March 22, 2013

Paper Lantern Lit UPDATE

Do you remember the post I did a few weeks back about Paper Lantern Lit and its work as a "literary incubator" (read: book packager)? In it, I puzzled over the PLL model and tried to figure out how I felt about the fact that some extremely popular books (Meant To Be, Venom, Fury, etc.) were essentially a think tank's brainchildren. PLL crafts an outline, but paid writers are the ones who step in and attempt to breathe life into the constructed frame.

We chatted about it. A consensus was reached... sort of. Judging on the comments, you all (and I) agreed on the following statements:

1) The PLL model is not that different from ghost writing, which has been around a long time.

2) It's a really cool idea in theory, because it gives fresh talent a boost.

3) One big caveat is whether the model is inherently fair to the writer, given the flat fee involved. We will not let our writers be taken advantage of!

4) It also is cool only as far as the writers involved are allowed to voice their opinions. Don't put the authorial Baby in a corner!

5) Despite the positive feelings in 1 and 2, and even if the concerns in 3 and 4 are proved invalid, it still makes us feel squicky.

Some of that squickiness is, I suspect, due to the lack of information. It's hard to feel comfortable with something new and untraditional without a full plate of information to feast upon. We as humans are wary of angles. What's the catch? What aren't you telling us?

With that in mind, I thought it best to update you all with the information that has come to light since I posted my ramblings.

First, we received clarification via the gracious Beth Revis regarding which books are certainly not from the PLL stables. It turns out that Fast Company, the site that had originally posted the article that I used as the starting point for my own post, had used a very misleading photo. In their original photo (which I should have saved, dagnabit), they featured PLL books such as Venom and Fury, but behind those books were other books such as Across the Universe (Beth Revis), Origin (Jessica Khoury), Jellicoe Road (Melina Marchetta), and Matched (Ally Condie). I and others mistakenly assumed that these books were PLL books as well. However, it turns out those other books were NOT PLL books, and after a push from Ms. Revis, Fast Company changed their photo to better reflect the PLL catalog. (Though, as Ms. Revis points out, Matched is still incorrectly lurking in the background.)

Second, Ms. Fiona Paul (a.k.a. Paula Stokes) decided to take the initiative and write her own blog posts about her experiences with PLL while writing Venom and its sequels. I LOVE that she's doing this, because knowledge is power, right? The more you know, the more you grow, or something like that. At her invitation, I emailed a bunch of questions I had about her experiences, which she in turn incorporated into her posts.

The first post, which explains what work-for-hire is and how she first started working with PLL, as well as answering some of my questions, appeared on March 12. The second half of the Q&A appeared on March 14 and finishes answering my questions. Granted, it's all based on Ms. Paula's personal experiences, but I thought the answers were very enlightening.

For instance, I loved learning about the give and take between PLL and Ms. Paula when it came to changes to the outline. Also, Ms. Paula is a BEAST when it comes to writing. Seriously, I am in awe of her stamina. I also really enjoyed that PLL gave her little "homework" assignments in the beginning, such as character interviews and analyses of scary books. (Oh, and the big question about Venom's six-figure deal is answered as well.)

The big takeaway for me was a truth that Ms. Paula eloquently summed up in our email exchange, which she has allowed me to quote directly. The underlined sentences are my favorite bit.
In the end I get that a lot of people wouldn't want to do work-for-hire and I would NEVER advocate it for anyone if it meant putting their own writing on hold, but I managed to do both so it felt beneficial without hindering my dreams. It's a pretty common business model though ... and I felt the need to speak up for that part of it. We writers aren't talentless hacks who can't make it on our own or schmoes being victimized by corporations. We're just people who like to write and so why not get paid for freelance stuff along with doing our own things?
Take some time and check out both parts of the Q&A and let me know what you all think. And if you're interested in reading more about work-for-hire, check out the the final part of Ms. Paula's series, where she helps readers figure out whether work-for-hire is right for them. It's a great list, and she has a whole slew of links at the bottom for further reading.