Thursday, August 20, 2009

Friday Funny - And Market Thoughts

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Caption: "Geeze, when I said I wanted my novel to go to auction, this isn't what I was thinking!"









picture courtesy of my daughter....caption by me (hahahahahaha, I felt so clever)


Now, I know publishing houses are not going out of business. I don't want to stir up any dust there...


but I did want to make a point about the current market.


Recently, my novel was on submission. It came back with a revision request and a response that included a phrase like...."in today's tight market"


Have you heard that one?
The one about how we need to write our very best because the market is tighter? And the one about how we should be conscientious of the stories we choose to tell? Case in point: I love writing historical fiction but have been told it is a more difficult sell in this children's market. Should I try to write something more 'marketable'?


What are your opinions on this? Is it changing the way you write? What you write? When you decide to query and submit?


I am giving it some serious thought. I tend to say YES we need to be more careful about the quality of our writing and more thoughtful about when we submit/query. But, I tend to say Hmmm, MAYBE on the what we write. I need to write from my heart. What is in me. What I love. If I try to follow a trend then it will show in the quality of my work (I think). Still, I want to at least try to write something that is relatively easy to sell and market in this current economy.


What are your thoughts? I'd really love to know.
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44 comments:

Jody Hedlund said...

Ah, Tess. I'm dealing with this very thing myself. In fact I'm blogging about it this week too.

I've gotten very similar feedback with both of my books that are out there. I've been told that as a new author it's about building a readership. We have to start with something that will help promote our name, something that will attract the most readers. If our setting or genre are not selling well, then as new authors we'll lose out on attracting readers.

Anyway, I'm learning this is a very real concern to editors as the choose which new authors they will represent.

Corey Schwartz said...

Tess, have you ever thought about historical fiction for adults? If that is your true love it might be better than to switch audiences, than genres? YA has a lot of crossover with adult anyway, doesn't it? (Then again, I am a PB writer, so what do I know?)

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

I agree 100% with last paragraph. Write what you love. Careful about quality. Don't follow trends...my .02$

~ Wendy

Tess said...

Jody: yes, it seems there is some similarity between our current journey's. How interesting that you have heard similar feedback. If it is a real concern for editors, then it needs to be a concern for me as a writer as well.

Corey: unfortunately, my 'voice' reads Middle Grade. It's not that I necessarily try to write that...it just somes out that way. Thanks for the good advice, though.

Wendy: I agree...our work should reflect our passion for the subject/idea. Still, like Jody said, can I find a middle ground? It is giving me pause and soemthing I had never even considered before this particular point.

Lazy Writer said...

I think the most important thing is to write from the hear. Like you said, if you don't it shows, and the writing isn't as good. I've also heard that if we write for the market, by the time, we finish and start querying, the market may have changed. I also see the point of writing something that is more marketable, though. It's a tough one! Let me know if you come up with the answer.

Michelle said...

I agree with Lazy Writer. All is cyclical. If you're not insistent on selling your work at this very minute, it's likely that whatever you're writing will have its day in the market in time. Imagine if ten years ago someone had said how hot vampires would be! Fiction is like fashion. Trends come and go, and come back again.

Scott said...

It's not changing the way I write. Like you, I write from my heart . . . and I write to the best of my abilities. The publishing industry goes through phases of genre popularity. Epic Fantasy was popular. Now it isn't. Vampires are currently popular. In a few years, probably not so much.

So, my personal philosophy is: keep writing from your heart.

Sooner or later, what you're writing will be "in" again. So, it might take a bit longer to get published. So what? I mean, yeah, I want to see my books on the shelves in trendy bookstores . . . but I also don't want to sacrifice part of who I am to get there just a bit sooner.

I just don't want to - basically - 'sell out'. The best writing, at least in my opinion, I do, is when I just write without a thought to audience, society, or anybody but me. Yeah, I know, I have to worry about audience at some point. I don't have to write a YA Vampire novel just because that's the in thing right now.

I guess, in the end, we all face the dilemma of whether to write for ourselves or to sacrifice a piece of ourselves to see that book on the bookshelf in the trendy store. : )

S

Cindy said...

If you find a genre you love and write for it, I definitely think it will show in your writing. You'll be more passionate about it and the writing "from the heart" as they say, will come through. The difficulty with writing for the market is that you still have to write a superb story. And not only that, if you do write that Break-In novel, you're going to need to continue with that genre. So you'd better make sure you can continue with those type of novels.

storyqueen said...

I agree with you, Tess. You can only write the stuff that you can write. There's no guarantee that anything will sell, so you might as well indulge yourself while writing you book, at least you will enjoy the writing of it!

Shelley

TereLiz said...

Stick with your gut, Tess. You know who you are as a writer, and you have a great "voice". "Tightened" is not a bad thing if it means that the craft must be as polished as it can be, but not if it means stripping your "voice" of personality.

Best wishes,
~Tere

Jill Kemerer said...

I've been blessed to listen to many seasoned, multi-pubbed authors. They all shared tales of their book not being right for the market, but they set it aside, sold other books, and eventually the genre came back to life. Sometimes we just have to wait out the genre cycles.

Tess said...

Lazy: but you were supposed to come up with the answer for me ;) lol

Michelle: good point on the cyclical thing. I know it, but hadn't thought about it in this context. very helpful thought.

Scott: thanks so much for the very heartfelt post. you are spot on. who are we writing for??? and yet, can there be a middle ground?

Cindy: good point! what we start writing will be what we might need to continue writing...because we will be building an audience. something more for me to think about...thanks!

StoryQueen: indulge. yes, I like that one.

TereLiz: thanks for the vote of confidence, it is sooo helpful. I think there may a way to do just what you suggest.

Angela said...

I think writing has to be stellar to get picked up, and likely stellar writing will be writing from the heart...which means writing what calls to us, not writing what's flashy right now.

Great writing will always get noticed. HF is still picked up and published. Yes it's harder, but better to write something we connect to than something we are so-so about. It will show in the manuscript.

Tess said...

Jill: I really like the idea of being able to set something aside, SELL OTHER THINGS and then come back as things cycle in the market. How'd I miss that thought??? thanks.

Amy Allgeyer Cook said...

Absolutely -- write from the heart. We heard that from nearly every speaker at Chautauqua last year. (I miss you!)

And remember the book our good friend Jerry Spinelli put in his closet? If something isn't popular now, it may very well turn out to be a blockbuster after fifteen years of hibernation!

Davin Malasarn said...

Tess, I've been thinking about this a lot this week. For me, personally, I can't control if my writing is marketable. I want to write what I want to write. Having said that, I do believe that as I gain more experience my writing is becoming more marketable. I think I'm more in touch with what I like to read, which will hopefully help my own writing find good homes. But, I'm okay with people who are willing to change what they write to be more marketable. I think some writers just love to write. Anything. They want to make a profession out of writing. And, in those cases, they may need to pen the occasional article on postage stamps or write a book about water bottle plastic. Really, it can still be satisfying if that's what you are looking for.

Tess said...

Angela: I think you have said something really important. My husband tells me this...that there will always be room for an exceptionally written 'whatever'. Something to aspire to...

Amy: I had forgotten about that Wringer story! And it is a perfect reminder for this discussion :)

Davin: You say my thoughts exactly. Is it wrong to shift? I'm not talking about following trends here...I'll never be able to write a dark, vampire book (sigh) but maybe I can find a topic that I feel passionate about that isn't necessarily historical? I hope so.

thanks for the great discussion, guys! No wrong or right answers to this quesion...just good discussion fodder :)

FictionGroupie said...

I agree that you have to write what you're passionate about. If you don't, it will show in the novel. I have received a nice rejection with those dreaded words "in today's tight market". It is what it is.

Lisa and Laura said...

Oh yes, we are very familiar with that phrase. Damn economy.

But, the good news is that it's forcing all of us writers to be the very best we can be. Not a bad silver lining, I suppose.

Scott said...

Tess - middle ground? I think there is always a middle ground, but we have to rectify our choices with how much of ourselves we are willing to give up, sacrifice, sell for the almighty dollar, and so on. I think every writer makes some sort of concession with their writing, especially as their manuscript nears the query stage. Then, there's the whole 'well the agent wants you to change this' and 'the editor wants you to change that' oh, and 'the publisher feels . . .'.

So, my philosophy, right now, is to write for me and worry about the changes agents, editors, publishers (and Mom, we can't forget Mom) want me to make at some later date. : )

Then again, as I've been going through the whole revision process, I have edited out some things that made me go "hmmmmm, what would Mom think if she read this book". So, I make a concession or two, but try to stay as true to myself as possible.

I'm like you, I'm not going to write a vampire book. I'm also not going to write a book about a boy wizard. Now, a book about magical beings in a struggle to save the world? Well, yeah, I could see me doing that.

Have a great weekend.

S

Solvang Sherrie said...

I think you have to write what's important to you. Trying to make your book fit the market doesn't work and trying to sound like something you're not doesn't work. Some people just get lucky in that what they love to write is also highly marketable. But there's always a market for a good book. The tricky part is finding someone who believes in it as much as you do.

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

yeah...read jody's post today. got me thinking about this thing. esp. read my comment about what author brandilyn collins had happen with one of her first breakout books....it got noticed B/C it was different...not b/c it conformed. just thoughts...

lotusgirl said...

I think you just have to write what you write. You have to be passionate about what you're working on, or it will show in what you produce. If you feel passionate about something that is commercial that's fine, but, if not, then I think you have to be true to what is in you. Your writing is beautiful, and it will be appreciated. Just because there are huge audiences for something like Harry Potter doesn't mean that it appeals to everyone. People are all different with different likes. Trends shift all the time. In a few years time we could be back in the historical fiction mode. Who knows.

Suzette Saxton said...

Love the cartoon. Thanks for the laugh! Maybe the NYT will pick it up. ;)

As for writing what I love, what I fall in love with is my characters. I've written historical fiction, fairy tales, contemporary, sci-fi, and urban fantasy. The setting doesn't matter nearly as much as the characters. So my vote is, give a different time period a try - you might be pleasantly surprised. :)

And from what I've heard, nearly all publishers are asking for a round of revisions before they make the deal. Seems to be the new standard.

Best of luck!

Tess said...

Thanks, friends! Some excellent and sage advice given here. My wheels are turning and that is always a good thing.

Sharon aka Sapphire said...

Tess, I agree with you. Write what moves you. I never know what genre is going to pop into my head. It changes with my mood, where I am, what I'm doing or who I'm with. I never go anywhere without a notebook and a pen, just incase I come up with a thought. Like you, I write down words and phrases that interest me.

Great topic!

Crystal said...

Tess, I think I'm in the same boat as you since I'm also writing a historical middle grade novel. So I don't think I can offer too much advice. Ah! But what to do? Well, like others have said, I think we have to write from the heart, because if we don't, it will definitely show. Now, I know I won't write a vampire book, even a middle grade vampire book. It's just not in me. I just don't have a feel, or "voice," for it, I guess. But, I think I could write a contemporary middle grade or YA novel (although it probably wouldn't have vampires or werewolves or faeries). So even if we write something that's not "in the market" right now, it could still be of interest because it would still be new and different, but in our voice. I don't know if this makes any sense . . .

And NOT all kids are into vampire novels. My ten-year-old daughter likes Nancy Drew, the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series, Moxie Maxwell, Katie Kazoo, the Amazing Days of Abby Hayes series.

So take heart, Tess. Your story IS good. And it WILL get published; you just need the right editor to take it on. Have faith and trust your instincts. Historicals are still being published; just look at What I saw and How I lied (J. Blundell), When the whistle blows (F. Cannon Slayton), Flygirl (Sherri Smith), Carolina Harmony (M. McDowell)--all published in 2008 & 2009.

I think I'm taking Scott's advice to write just for me now and worry about the changes agents and editors will want to make later. But I know it's a bit easier to say this now since I haven't started querying yet.

Sorry I couldn't offer better advice. Thanks, Tess, though, for the heads up on what some publishers are thinking. We just have to hang in there . . . I'm believing a sale for you soon!

Sarah said...

Good question!

I write what's in my heart to write (and revise the crud out of it!). Then I'll try to do my research and submit it to folks who will take care of it (and revise the crud out of it).

I think it was Anne Lamott who said there are no new stories. The only unique thing in a story is our own voice and perspective. If we write only for a trend, we lose the one real and unique thing we can bring to a story: our self.

MG Higgins said...

Tess, I couldn't agree with you more. We do need to write our very best work, but WHAT we write should come from our hearts--that's where our passion is and where our best and truest stories come from.

Shelli said...

so cool on our bday - ill toast to you sunday night :)

Miss P said...

Because "in this market" people aren't reading? What's up with that? I agree that people may not be BUYING as many books in a tough economy. They may borrow or get books from the library before they go out and buy a new book, but I don't think writers need to change their writing style or what they are writing about. You write from your heart and just keep on writing.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Tess, I'm too tired to think straight except I always think the best writing is what fires up the author.
On another note, I seem to be neck-deep in awards, and you get one passed to you on my blog. But I flaunt rules so you can do anything about it you want. Ignore or follow rules. No pressure whatsoever. I just want people to visit your great blog if they haven't.

Suzanne said...

I just have to write what I write. Sometimes it surprises me, disappoints me, makes me cry.

I just have to keep on doing it. It's like air.

Qualifier: If someone wanted me to make revisions to make what I already wrote more saleable, Heck yeah!

Elizabeth Byler Younts said...

Well, my humble opinion is probably not much being that I'm a bit of a newby...but I think you should write what you love or as close to it as possible. changing genre's completely, I know for me, would be extremely difficult and far less satisfying, right???

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

Tess, what a great post and what great comments! I fall firmly on the side of most of those who commented here--Write what you love and what is in your heart. I agree that anything less will show through. It is hard to ignore the market, but I truly believe that if the writing is strong enough and the characters developed well enough, etc., the story will find its time and its place. This might take a while, but readers rule the market and readers love a well told, good story.

Charlie said...

Well the quality of our writing must be as good as we're capable of but the economy has nothing to do with it. What has changed is my buying habits. This year has been rough and I've only bought 4 or 5 books whereas usually it's that many per month.

Anna C. Morrison said...

Aside from always needing to write my very best and then make it even "very bester," I did receive a rejection letter that was apologetic about the current market and explained that my pb just wasn't a "must buy" even though she considered it long and hard. She commented that in a better market, it would not have been such a tough decision. Encouraging and disheartening at the same time.

PJ Hoover said...

Wow, I'm late to the party!
I totally think we need to be very careful about the quality of our writing. As for subject matter, on that I think a very well written story will find a home.

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

Late again. sigh. I was just telling Jody, I dont know what to think anymore. Everywhere we turn there is a new trend, rule, or opinion. It's enough to drive a writer to be a hermit. (which I've kind of been doing lately).

Lady Glamis said...

Oh, heavens. I just write what I can write. If I tried to conform to the industry without an agent's direction I'd be totally lost and never write anything good. Thanks for the thoughts! You have a lot of response on this one. :D

Amy De Trempe said...

I think every book should come from your heart and something you believe in. I think if a person tries to write for the "market" it will show and possibly come off stiff if it is not also from the heart.

Tess said...

Wonderful, helpful comments! Thanks so much for taking the time to come over and weigh in. :D There seems to be a real consensus of writing from your heart and following your natural muse....but maybe some allowance for working w/in parameters as well. Good thoughts.

KM said...

I think you should be in love with everything you write (because if you're not, a reader can tell), but having said that, I also think you should have a good idea of the market, trends, and where your book would fit in the publishing world. I'm having a hard time pitching my WIP as I query because it sort of falls between two genres. Plus, it's not what's "hot" right now. I read an agent's blog where she said that if you've got a couple manuscipts ready and waiting, submit the more "sellable" ones first and hold onto your "babies" you can't really seem to find a market for for when you're already established and have a platform.

Tess said...

KM: you have hit it exactly here. We can say that we always always have to write exactly what we want, but the truth is that we need to show some flexibilty as well. Is there another story line that is more marketable that we can love just as much? These are the questions we need to ask ourselves.

Thanks for weighing in!