Readers, Writers and the Least Common Denominator
by Deborah Kinnard
This may sound a little ranty. If so, so be it.
Writers often receive conflicting messages. “Write the book of your heart.” “Believe in yourself!” must be weighed in the balance with “The market wants XYZ types of fiction” and “That sort of story simply won’t sell.”
How does a conscientious and sales-focused writer strike a balance?
First, remember that the fiction market is not clairvoyant. Publishers could not have foreseen the success of the Harry Potter or Twilight books. Indeed, TWILIGHT was published two years before its sales began to take off toward the phenomenon it has become. The publisher is sometimes as surprised by a blockbuster book as anyone else.
That said, if a publisher sends a “no-thanks” that includes the statement they have no readership for this story, a writer does well not to take it too seriously. One publisher’s “no readership” may prove another publisher’s blockbuster-to-be.
Once a writer finishes the fiction project of his/her heart, someone somewhere is going to suggest the writer water it down for that elusive creature, The Market. “We can’t have this level of violence/romance/realism/fantasy/science in this genre!”
Can’t we? The problem is that the publishers guess. They cannot know. Writers create their stories to tell a tale to a listener/reader. It’s the tale they want to tell, which they hope will find an eager bunch of readers. Changing it radically to meet the expectation of a publisher that “Genre A must have characteristics X, Y and Z” does no honor either to story or reader. Neither will be pleased with the outcome.
What then do you, the writer, conclude? Obviously you do your market research as best you can. You read in your genre, you wander the bookshops and see what’s brand new and apparently selling. If you feel the vampire-love market has peaked, and you’re passionate about vamp romance, do you write the next one or turn your passion toward another subgenre?
The news here from where I sit at Casa Chaos is—we still don’t rightly know. So far I’ve seen several books published that would “never sell” due to the fact that they dealt with themes the market claimed it wasn’t ready to see. However, if Dumb It Down for the Market lies on the extreme left side of the continuum, and Write What You’d Like to Read Yourself is on the far right side, I think I’m leaning toward the right. So far, anyway.
What are your thoughts?
In college, she gained two degrees in health care and spent time observing hippies, basketball stars, el-ed majors and other strange species.
While raising two active girls and cherishing a husband, she enjoyed a career that has encompassed Spanish translation, volunteer work at a crisis line, years in assorted ERs that don’t resemble the one on TV, and a day job at a big Chicago teaching hospital.
She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, serves as Midwest Zone Director, and confesses to being a loud singer at church. In 2002 and 2003, she sold her first and second novels, Powerline and Oakwood to Treble Heart Books. Angel With a Ray Gun was released in May 2009 by Desert Breeze Publishing, “Something Borrowed” in the Brides and Bouquets 2007 anthology by ByGrace Publishing. Angel with a Nail Gun will come out in October 2009, and Damages in April 2010, from Desert Breeze Publishing. Seasons in the Mist will come out in April 2010 from Sheaf House.
When Deb’s not at the computer writing, she keeps busy with reading, playing the guitar, and needlework. She loves to travel and meet new people, some of whom turn up later in her stories. So if you meet a short woman with a light in her eye…
Visit Deb online at www.debkinnard.com