Friday, July 3, 2009

It is still your choice

Writers are often torn between writing THEIR story, the one they truly believe in and what THE MARKET wants to see. This is tough and I have seen a lot of new writers end up giving up pretty quick when they realize they have to make a decision. But here's the thing. It is always your choice as a writer what you want to do. Please understand I am not talking about the legal side of things, but the craft side of the business.

If a writer wants to sell their stories and really does want to look at writing as a profession, they do have to really understand that there are rules to the game. Marketing departments in each of the publishing houses know exactly what sells. Each house is different because they do market their books differently, but they are very clear. It isn't just a matter of shoving it on the book shelf and just going for it. There is much more to it. It is for this reason that you even see many different titles being changed. While you might have spent countless hours with your critique groups trying to find the perfect title, the marketing department comes up with something different. According to one editor I have worked with, "we know that certain words simply sell better than others."

Please also remember that bookstores also have rules and guidelines they have established that work with the type of books they sell. Borders, Barnes and Noble and the like, all have specific marketing plans that have demonstrated what does well and what doesn't. It is for this reason that many authors that self-publish, suddenly find it difficult to get that book of theirs on the shelf at specific book stores. It isn't that they don't like you personally, or are "in the pocket of coroporate America"; it simply comes down to the fact that your particular book isn't what they are looking for.

Editors and agents are not arbitrarily making up rules. We are in this business to make money, just like you as a writer want to do. Taking the time on a book that simply will not sell, regardless of how good the actual writing might be is not worth it in the long run. Sure, there are times when we might think the book will sell and it flops. The business isn't flawless. But, one flawed sale doesn't mean you bail on the whole plan.

If you are a writer and simply don't like the way the established publishers are doing, and you feel your writing career is better off "away from people like that" then I wish you all the best and I encourage you to stick to your guns. You still get to make the decision. The only thing I would say is to not blame others if your book doesn't sell.

Now, go out there and write that book!


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