Thursday, September 15, 2011

You Can Only Control Your Writing

When it comes to writing, authors have a lot of control. That control, however, is limited to what happens on the pages of their stories. Unfortunately, that control ends right there. Once that story is out there on the market, either in the initial stages to find a home, or even after it is signed with an editor, there are far too many variables that come into play.

It is important to remember that agents, editors, publicists, marketing departments, art departments and everyone associated with the book are all gambling. They look at trends, they look at what works and doesn't work, and then make attempts to either ride waves or start something new. But again, this is all a guess.

We have to remember that sales of books depends on the readers. It depends on the release date. It depends on the stores selling the books. This list goes on and on.

For example. during this last summer, if a book was released at that time, the book now had to contend with the closure of the Borders stores. Now, while many say it really doesn't matter,  they fail to realize that there are many individuals that ONLY shopped at Borders, due to loyalty, location and what not. Those potential buyers are now gone. Books that might have done well are now faced with a huge uphill battle simply due to timing.

We see the same thing when it comes to movie releases. Your movie might be the perfect flick but if another production company releases one at the same time, you might have just lost 1/2 of your audience (or maybe more). If you look back at the movies that came out with GONE WITH THE WIND, there were a ton that had potential. These included: LOVE AFFAIR, STAGECOACH, MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, WUTHERING HEIGHTS (w/ Lawrence Olivier), GOOD BUY MR. CHIPS... you get the idea. How did they know that the GWTW would have done so well?

Even simple issues of book covers can control a lot. If we think about it, most readers buy books based on the covers, the titles and the author's names. If the book doesn't look "appealing" from the outside, the human nature of the reader will take over and they will pass on the book.

What about for those of you submitting stories to agents and editors. Catch us on a wrong day, submit right after we signed someone with a similar story??? The same things goes here. You may have the best dang story out there, but there are NO promises.

I do have to stress here that saying you are going into self-publishing just to avoid this issue isn't going to work. ALL authors, regardless of where or how they publish will face these same issues. Sure, you might have all of the control over the book, but that doesn't mean you put together the right variables.

We all wish we had the capability of knowing a "sure thing" but that is simply not going to happen. All we can do is write the best story you can and hope you have timed it right.

I do want to say, I am not wanting to depress all of you out there. Just know that you have chosen a career that requires taking risks.



  1. I've noticed a consensus forming in the blog-iverse. It comes down to this: the best use of a writers time is A) perfecting the craft, and B) making the best story he/she can make. Everything else is largely out of his/her control, and will fall in place if he/she focuses (primarily) on A and B.
    I like this theory.

  2. I'm posting a rumination on my blog tomorrow about what makes a bestseller. I hope you don't mind if I link to you, for an expert's viewpoint.

  3. This is what I know for sure...I don't know nearly enough. It's why most of us turn to experts such as yourself Scott, for feedback, direction and little tid bits of information to help fill the many blanks. Nice post.