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.