Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Finding A Balance Between Message and Marketablity

The power of the written word is amazing! We have seen this power throughout the centuries when advocates for causes found that it was a lot easier and more effective to get a message out to the public through written material. Think of it, with the early messages of the Christians, much of that message had to be spread simply by the word of mouth!

I started thinking about this during one of my last rounds of reading submissions. This time, I had a ton of authors writing, what I would assume would be, pretty powerful messages. Pretty much, if you were to pull headlines out of the newspaper on some pretty obscure topics, you would have had these submissions. As I looked at the premise, I really had to ask myself if this was the time and the place to be promoting that message.

Before I go any further, let me say, I was not deciding if this was a message that was morally right or wrong. I was simply gauging the society and the market today to see if it was truthfully ready to handle such a message.

As a writer, you have to find that happy balance between these two ideas. First of all, you are in this profession as a job. This means, that your goal is to get that book out there to as many people as possible and to make money as you do so. This is also the intent of the publishers and the agents you send the project to. In simple terms, this is a business.

On the other side, you do have a message you want to send. We don't want to feel that our ideas are being hidden away because we don't want to deal with it. Many of the social issues we are personally drawn to are very important and need to be dealt with. However, these messages do take time for the public to get used to hearing before we slam it over their heads.

Think of it this way... When THE JEFFERSONS was on television, it really did take the world by storm by having an interracial couple. This was pretty darn daring at that time. The show ran between 1975 and 1985 and the nation was still trying to work through the aftermath of a pretty rough time with civil rights. Putting this show on DURING the civil rights movement simply wouldn't have worked. Yes, the message needed to be told, but... the timing would not have been that effective.

I signed an author a couple of years ago after hearing her pitch to me at the Chicago North RWA Conference. When she pitched that story to me, I too had to really weigh the message she was telling with the time. I have to say, I loved the story from the moment I read it. There was no doubt about it! The book was great! The author knew her stuff! And the message was timely. Yet, was the nation ready for it!

Well let me tell you, the nation was ready! If ENDANGERED by Jean Love Cush is not on your to be read pile, it needs to be. It will come out in July and the message is pretty powerful.

I want you to understand that we are working in a business where timing is everything. We are looking for great stories. We are looking for great messages. And, more importantly, we want you to tell that story you need to tell!. But remember, if agents and editors are passing on the project, it isn't that they are "afraid to put out a quality story," or because they "don't agree with your message." It could simply be that the time might not be right.

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