Monday, October 15, 2012

The Business Side to Writing

      It is a reality that the book publishing industry has a bottom line. No matter how dear a writing project is to our hearts, no matter how long and hard we have worked on our “baby,” the project must be marketable. And we as authors are under constant pressure to remain commercial, even as times and tastes and styles continue to change around us. Remaining current in an ever-changing marketplace is a daunting task.
     I have been saddened by the recent termination of contracts for a few of our friends and colleagues. It not only saddens me but frightens me as well. I’ve asked myself repeatedly: Am I headed in the right direction with my new project? Will what I’m working on right now be acceptable two years from now when it’s finally published? Have I run my course and had my “fifteen minutes of fame”? The old saying “You’re only as good as your last book” has taken on new meaning for me. In this day and age, I’m not sure how much “track record” still means.
     A friend contacted me recently and asked for advice on getting published. I told her: “You need to know your target audience. And you also need to decide on the genre that best suits that target audience. You also should ask yourself: Does my story have commercial appeal? Because like it or not, book publishing is a business, and publishers won't take on a book that they don't think they can sell. Your grandmother's diary, for example, might be special and treasured by your family, but is it something the general public will go out in droves and buy? I don't want to discourage you but book publishing is very much a business venture and your product has to be marketable or it won't be accepted. So ask yourself the basic questions I've outlined, and if you feel confident about the answers, then by all means proceed with an eye toward getting published.”
I wish my friend all the best. And I extend best wishes to those who lost contracts. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
     I hope each one of us can find fulfillment in writing and remember the singular joy that comes from putting words on a blank space where they did not exist before. The royalty check is nice . . . but fortunately that isn’t the bottom line for writers.


Jillian Kent said...

Hi Darrel,
The publishing world is in such turmoil that it's hard to know what will happen next. A friend of mine recently reminded me that I was called to be faithful, not successful. Ouch. That's true. I'd like to be both, but in the end all any of us can do is the best we can do and the rest is up to God.

The good news is that we can keep on writing no matter what happens. It may not bring us what we initially hoped for (fill in your own personal blank) but the fact that we are where we are is pretty wonderful.

This is a tough business and like any business there is a bottom line. I've heard from many authors that are suffering from low sales and don't know if more contracts will be forthcoming. So all we really can do is be faithful. One thing is for certain, God is in control. Just trust.

Beth Shriver said...

Beautiful cover!