Thursday, January 15, 2009

Playing the game

I was talking with one of my writers this last week about what she needed to do with her current work in progress. During that talk, she brought up an interesting comment that I believe deserves some time here on the blog.

Should a writer do as the editors and agents always say on those panels - to write the book of their dreams, or, should they play the game?

What those editors and agents are really saying is to not try to produce a book simply based on what the editor or agent said they wanted. I think the Chick-lit market proved just that. The writing became almost formulaic and in the end, the genre, which had some fun elements to it, crashed and burned. The problem? Writers were not telling stories that they believed in, but instead, were writing stories that were trying to be all that the editors wanted.

Now here is the twist. Can writing the book of your dreams be the key to selling? Not always. The book of your dreams may not be marketable. You may love it. Your friends may love it, but if it isn't what the editors and agents see as being something the market will love, they just won't jump on board with you. This is where the "playing the game" part comes in.

If you want to write and do this as a career, it is important that you know there are times that you have to play the game the way the business wants to play it. If you have a setting that sounds great and makes for a great story, but the market analysis says it won't sell, then it is time to find a way to transfer that story to a setting that will sell. It may be tough, but that is unfortunatly how this business works. In fact, that is really how the entire business world works. You just can't be this wild maverick out there and hope to be successful.

Sure, there are some who have done it and were successful, but they are the exceptions to the rule. In all likelyhood, they had something else going for them that allowed them to be that radical an still succeed.

Therefore, as a writer, it is vital that you sit down and determine what you want. Then you need to sit down and reflect on what you are doing. Is this writing and/or is this behavior something that will be marketable even if it is coming from your heart? If not, maybe that is the reason why you have been struggling.


  1. Can't recall who said it but, just yesterday, I saw a comment on this that suggested writers need to find a balance between pursuing their passion ala the book of their dreams and what the market seems to be calling for. (Maybe it was Kara Lennox over on Romancing the Blog?)

  2. Good advice. I think it's in how you view things. I don't mind writing salable at all, but I still like to work on things that may or may not sell down the road.

  3. From Merriam-Webster:

    Prostitute: (2) to devote to corrupt or unworthy purposes : debase prostitute one's talents

  4. The hard part is that we hear things like they don't want to see paranormal for example, yet if you watch Publishers Marketplace that's what they are buying.

    So where do we look for the "real" market analysis and pulse of what "game" we should be playing?

    Nancy who just keeps writing love stories and honing her craft

  5. Nancy,
    The issue isn't so much that they don't want paranormal, they just want to see something different. Sure, we continue to see vampire and werewolf books out there, but they want to see something unique with it.

    The issue is that many authors are looking for unique plot twists. That is not so much the case. The deal is to find something deeper than the expected.