A true gentleman of the publishing world, Geoff Brown/G.N. Braun is an author, an editor, the irresistable force behind Cohesion Press and Cohesion Editing, as well as a prolific Facebook status-poster.
I caught up with him recently and pitched five questions and a statement his way …
Geoff, what made you a writer? (As opposed to a fireman or astronaut or short order cook).
I don’t think anything really made me a writer. I’ve always loved to read, and I’ve always written. When I was in high school, I did best in English classes, and my creative writing stuff always earned me high marks. I’ve always been a storyteller, whether vocally or writing things down, so I think I have always been a writer, and it just took over my life as I grew older.
What lead you to become an editor, in addition to writing?
I’m a grammar ninja. Always have been. The reading that I mention in the first answer was always a case of noticing the errors and typos in books while I read them. After I started getting published, I worked with editors and saw the job from the aspect of a writer. Then, I completed a full-time Diploma course at TAFE – Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing – and the editing side of things was something I just felt was natural for me. As anyone serious about their writing knows, there is little money to be made in books unless you are King or Patterson or Child, so the natural thing for me was to move into a field where there was money to be made while working with the things I loved the most – words.
Tell us about your last release as G.N. Braun. What was its genesis and the thing you’re most proud of?
Well, my only full-length release so far has been Hammered: Memoir of an Addict, and it holds a special place in my heart. It’s the true-life account of my early life as a substance abuser who mixed on the edges of criminality for many, many years.
It shows my history as a drug-user throughout the 80s, 90s and 2000s in Melbourne, Australia. It tells how I was first introduced to drugs in my mid-teens, the lifestyle I led while using and selling drugs – from marijuana through to speed and heroin – and how I finally gained the strength and conviction to get off drugs. Hammered is available from Amazon as a Kindle book (http://www.amazon.com/Hammered-Memoir-Addict-ebook/dp/B007F2851W) and in print (http://www.amazon.com/Hammered-Memoir-Addict-G-N-Braun/dp/0987159267) and on all the standard online sales points, including Apple, Nook, and Kobo. I’d read many memoirs of addiction. I loved A Million Little Pieces until I found out it was mostly rubbish embellished by the author. I struggled through The Heroin Diaries by Nikki Sixx, mostly due to the fractured narrative set up in diary form. Best of all, I read William S Burroughs’ timeless memoir Junkie, his first published book. I fell in love with his writing. It was both dead and alive, just like I was. There were all the standard junkie tropes, but there was something more. An undercurrent of blandness and focus that only another junkie could relate to, yet put in a way that it would be somewhat apparent to readers of all stripes. It rang of my truth. I tried for the same subtext in Hammered. I’d like to believe I rang that bell.
I own a copy of that book and found it compelling. I gave it a 5 star review on Goodreads…Tell us about your publishing house. What inspired it?
I already had Cohesion Editing and Proofreading running, so it wasn’t too hard to incorporate the new direction into the current business. It really makes me feel good to put new and established authors out into the world, to help spread the word about great writers, either Australian or from another country. I wanted to show what I thought was great writing. We’re not in this for short-term gain. We offer some of the best royalty percentages in the business, and for me it’s all about the writers making as much as they possibly can, while still leaving us enough to cover costs and promotion of the books.
What annoys you in the publishing world?
I see it all the time, all over Facebook. The ‘author’ that claims to be an editor and then charges people for sub-standard work that does little to nothing to improve the manuscript they work on.
I studied full-time for two years at college level, gaining a Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing, and upon graduation was awarded two ‘Student of the Year’ awards, for Christ sake. I opened my own editing business halfway through the course, and it has built up to the point where I subcontract to a number of highly-skilled professionals. Yet I see all these untrained people calling themselves editors and taking money from people and offering no real expertise in the field. I look at their (usually amateurish) website, and I see no list of qualifications. At least, nothing that really applies to professional editing. It really galls me that so many people think that just because you can read and write it means you can also edit. For God’s sake, people, go and get some proper training and then come back.
Professional editors get trained and educated. Professional editors work so hard at improving their skills that they bleed sweat every single day learning the difference between tenses, the minutiae of grammar, the many and varied plot elements, characters, story arcs, and everything else that makes a great book. Editors constantly stay abreast of new skills and styles. Editors have an eye for design, an eye for voice, an eye for a unique narrative style, and they have qualifications to show this. Yes, there are some naturally-good editors, but they are few and far between. For the rest of us, the skills are learnt, every single day of our lives. Most of all, editors read as much as writers should read.
Just because someone can self-publish and open a Facebook page doesn’t make them an editor. And it never will.
Statement – please respond: The overabundance of sub-par (and poorly edited) novels and short fiction online nowadays makes it more difficult for readers to find and purchase quality fiction.
Apart from untrained editors (who contribute a lot toward this problem) my other bugbear in the publishing word is authors who rush through a novel, write the second draft after untrained beta-readers have given some feedback, and then upload to Amazon an unedited work that is full of typos and mistakes. They usually top it off with cover art that looks like a bad cut-and-paste job done in Microsoft Paint, or like someone has given a few pencils to their talented five year old child.
Every book needs an editor. Writers, no matter how great, need a new pair of (trained and experienced) eyes to look over their work. Writers see what they believe is there, yet editors provide the fresh eyes that see what really is there. No matter how great the writer, an editor, a good editor, will find the flaws, the problems, and the blind spots that the author can’t due to being too close to the story to see what is really needed to make the manuscript great rather than good. And get professional cover art, too.
I will say, however, that the abundance of bad cover art makes it easier for readers to sort out the good books from the bad. You always hear not to judge a book by its cover, but that’s what we do. It’s a fair assumption that an author who didn’t spring for a great cover likely didn’t spring for a great editor, either.
Geoff has kindly offered the following as prizes to eager readers! There are five ebook copies of Hammered (epub or Kindle), and five of Martin Livings’ Carnies (also epub or Kindle and published by Cohesion Press).
To win a copy of Hammered, post an answer to the following question in the comments section of this blog post: What’s the name of G.N. Braun’s first short story listed on his “bibliography”? First five correct answers win the prize.
To win a copy of Carnies, post an answer to the following question in the comments section of this blog post: In what year was Carnies originally published? First five correct answers win the prize.
Note 1: Don’t be a putz. Please. This is a competition in good faith. I decide which victors receive the spoils and I will do my best to be fair and just.
Note 2: Yes, you will need to click a few links and do a bit of “research” to find the answers. The links below will no doubt help you in your quest for knowledge.