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Friday, May 30, 2014

It Is What It Is -- Who Dictates The Book?


I've been thinking about this a lot lately: industry-driven and reader-driven publications vs. author-driven work.

Here's how I see the break-down...


1. Industry-Driven

This is NOT the "book of your heart."

This is the book--you/your editor, publisher, agent--anticipate will SELL.

Many professional authors write this way, trying to anticipate/predict what will sell, what is hot, what is the latest trend.

This is why so many authors "jump on the bandwagon" (writing billionaires, NA, BDSM, serials, a few years ago it was vampires, etc).

Example #1: I know an author who was given a list of "hot topics" by her publisher. She had to choose one to write about. She chose "motorcycle clubs."

When an author does not have the creative freedom to even choose her own book topic, this is an example of industry-driven writing.

Example #2: I know an author who wrote a lovely historical romance. Her agent told her it was not sexy enough to sell in the market, and made her "up" the heat level. This level of sexiness was not appropriate for the story. Nevertheless, the author complied. She had no choice.

When the market dictates sensuality level in a book, instead of the author/story itself, this is an example of industry-driven writing.

Example #3:

When jumping on the bandwagon of hot trends trumps good writing, good storytelling, unique story ideas, this is another example of industry-driven writing.



2. Reader-Driven

What do readers want?

There are plenty of non-discriminating readers who are cheap and like porn.

Exhibit A...Monster Erotica.

These books are poor quality and priced accordingly. They also sell like hotcakes.

Books of questionable quality are popping up on the NYT Bestseller list. What does this mean?
A) The NYT Bestseller list is no longer a badge of honor.
B) People are cheap.

Is there a disconnect between what industry predicts and what readers really want?

I see readers complaining bitterly on the message boards about serials and feeling manipulated by authors/publishers with cliffhanger books and over-priced serials. It is one of the most passionate topics. Nevertheless, the publishers keep cranking out over-priced serials with cliffhanger endings. I'm not sure what this means. Are they really selling well? Are there plenty of readers who love them, buy them, and are just not represented on the message boards? Or is there a huge disconnect between what publishers are peddling and what readers really want?

This is a good question, and I don't have the answer.

I'm not sure if "reader desires" and "publisher desires" are actually the same thing. There is over-lap, but I get the distinct feeling that the pubs are flailing in a lot of ways.
 


3. Author-Driven....

You write your own story.

You come up with the idea on your own, don't copy it from someone else.

You have no idea how long it will be.

You focus on good-quality writing, good storytelling.

You are not anticipating trends, how to market it, etc. You just write it, tell the story.

IT IS WHAT IT IS.

You let it develop organically, naturally. It could be short, or long, or plot-driven, character-driven.
And then, AFTER you write it, you can figure out the proper way to publish and market.



There are pros and cons with all three of these.

What if you write the "story of your heart" and no one wants to buy it?

What if you write a monster erotica and become a millionaire (laugh your way to the bank)?

What if you follow all the rules your publisher dictates, and book doesn't sell well because it doesn't "sing"--sometimes writing is stale if you try to write to market.

I don't think any of these are right or wrong necessarily.

You have to decide what your goal is when you write.

To make money?
To become a bestseller?
To satisfy your readers? yourself? your agent?

To satisfy a creative need?

To establish a professional career?


Can you write the story of your heart, and satisfy the readers and industry at the same time?

One can only hope.



Signing Off,
Penny

5 comments:

Ros said...

For what it's worth, my suspicion is that 'break-out' books - books that reshape the genre or catch readers' imagination in new and powerful ways - are almost always books of the heart. Maybe you can make that happen by writing to trend, but I doubt it, since that automatically aims to replicate previous successes. Of course, not all books of the heart become break-out books.

For me, I've found that when I try to write to someone else's demands, I just can't do it. I tried and tried at the end of last year to write a book with a synopsis I'd worked on with a senior editor. Couldn't do it. I was bored, I didn't like the characters. The book wasn't mine. It was such a relief when I finally admitted defeat and went off to write something I wanted to. So, I guess I'll never be the journeyman author, but maybe one day there's a chance I'll be the next big thing. Well, a girl can dream, right?

Julia Barrett said...

Oh how I love your rants. Yup and yup!

Penelope said...

Ros...I think this brings up a really good point. Some folks really treat writing like a "job" and can write on demand. Some folks need to be creatively inspired in order for their muse to work.

Penelope said...

Thanks, Julia! Ranty McRanterson!

Ros said...

Right, and I don't think either way is wrong. In many ways I'm envious of authors who can write on demand. There's a much more reliable income to be made that way, and it can be fun too.