Friday, June 12, 2009

Whether we like it or not, writing is a business...

I liked this discussion over at Jane Smith's blog on how it's readers that drive publishing. As we know publishing is a business and publishers are in the business of publishing books they think people will want to read. Okay there are a lot of other players in the game as Jane lists in her post, but ultimately if the reader doesn't pay money for the books they publish, the publisher cannot stay in business. No, publishers don't always get it right (think Harry Potter) when they try to guess what the public wants. And there are plenty of times when they pay big bucks and print thousands of books that the public turn their nose up at. But generally their intent is to find books readers want to buy and read. I've spoken before about not wanting to try and guess at and write to trends myself. I write best when I write what makes my wheels spin. But its good to remind ourselves about this basic tenet of the publishing industry. Sometimes a rejection is not about the quality of the writing or the story, but the fact that publisher just doesn't think there will be enough buyers to cover the costs of publication. Of course I won't always agree with their assessment. Sometimes they don't agree with each other on this either. But its not necessarily a criticism of your writing, its a marketplace decision. I don't like it. I am always writing stories I think readers will like. For me as a writer, I know I need readers. In the beginning I wrote for myself. I tried to write the kinds of stories I liked most as a child. My focus was on finishing the book and sending it to publishers and with luck getting published, but once that happened I knew the readers were who I wanted to connect with. I want to write something people will enjoy, maybe make discoveries from or learn something from as a result. I'm certainly not trying to produce stories readers won't like. But my bottom line is I want to keep writing the stories I want to write. And I guess that means sucking it up when a publisher says no. It won't change the way I write or the things I write about. Getting published is not the goal. It's getting the books I like to write, that I think readers will like, published.

Of course, having said all of this, the biggest issue I face as a writer (apart from convincing the publisher to take on my work) is letting readers know about my stories. Readers may like what I have written but might not be aware I even exist. And readers have a huge choice of titles to pick from. So readers drive publishing? then getting their attention has to be part of the game plan.

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