Publishers know what sells as do book shop managers and the two rely on each other to bring a book to the market place that customers will buy. The industry is noticeably risk averse especially when it comes to debut authors and feel safe buying the tried and tested writers who have proved to be good sellers. That’s the bottom line.
This is tough for those of us trying to create a platform for our work and I would say to newbie writers that if you’re not prepared to put in the work, develop resilience and a heap of patience then this might not be the career for you. Most of us don’t earn a squeak in the first year never mind the year or two before publication in writing the thing.
If you’re hoping for a big advance with promises of best seller stardom then talk to other writers and get a reality check. You’ve really, really got to want be in it for the long haul.
Suppose you’ve written a novel that’s a bit off the wall and you’re not sure who the audience might be. If you’re vague about its marketing strength it doesn’t augur well for sales. It’s a tough one as you thrash out 80,000 words of a novel that really means something to you only to find that your readership might be turned off by an aspect or a theme and so never finish it. That means that they are less likely to recommend it as opinion can colour buying decisions.
Maybe you feel so strongly about your storyline that it’s publish and be damned. Integrity matters but your agent/publisher is taking a risk on you in the hope that your book will make money for both of you. The bald truth about writing novels is that they are a product which are racked alongside millions of others all clamouring for the reader’s hard earned spare cash. Millions of people have never heard of you and are less likely to take a risk on a book that’s out of their comfort zone.
So what to do?
If your editor/publisher/agent comes back and says they like the main theme of the book but they want you to rip out a large section which to you is the heart of the book there’s little point standing up indignantly to defend it. It’s not a PhD thesis. You have to ask yourself a few searching questions. Do you trust your publisher to know what they’re talking about? Do you want this book to sell? Are you serious about being a writer? Are you in it for the long haul? Can you swallow your pride and do as you’re told? J
You might find you write more saleable novels for a different audience. In fact there’s a lot to be said for not getting locked into a genre like a Coronation Street character. It’s all about being flexible, listening to those with the experience, being a bit humble but not ever, ever giving up.
I’m not a great believer in overnight success. To me if there has been slog, grit and determination ( and in my case a lot of swearing, shouting and lap top tossing J) then the rewards are so much sweeter.
I’m 61 next week (groan) and I’m determined to leave a best seller behind me whatever it takes and the money can go to a support group for writers who regularly tear their hair out. I believe the condition is called trichotillomania.:)
So if you see a balder version of me in months to come you’ll know why!