“I’ve read a lot about the creative process. It’s a mysterious phenomenon. I don’t know what makes it work or what makes it malfunction as often as it works.” William Styron
Years ago, when I finished my first book, my friend suggested that I send the manuscript to an agency in UK that provided advice and criticism to writers prior to querying it to an agent or publisher. I took her advice and here’s is what I got:
“You’ve written an interesting and intriguing novel. Your characters are well drawn and the background against which you set them is extremely convincing. You write fluently and your dialogue is good. But all these good points must be weighed against commercial facts of life; the content and setting of the story are not those which are likely to appeal to large number of British or North American readers.”
I was both disappointed and heartbroken. I said to my friend:
“There should be someone out there who still believes in the value of the written word regardless of its market value.”
My friend didn’t agree. In fact she asked me to query one or two agents and find out. I did as was told. Those who took the time to consider my project replied:
“Thank you for querying me about your manuscript. I’m sorry to say that the project just isn’t a perfect fit with my current needs. This has less to do with your strengths as a writer and more to do with the trends of the current literary marketplace.”
So my novel did not comply with the literary marketplace and I got rejected for that one reason. During all those years that I was taking writing courses, seeking professional advice from writers and writing instructors and coaches, they all taught me to be true to myself, to write what I knew most about, and write from the heart, because my readers would know if and when I cheated.
Does this mean that I have to research the market and then write my book based on the requirements of the market? Or I shall continue to write what I honestly and truly believe in until someone will notice. In the words of Danielle Steel:
“You write what you write, and what happens after that is up to the public. There is no set formula, no guarantee for success, no surefire way to write a bestseller. All you can do is write a book and hope for the best.”
But if I write the book I like to write, what chances have I of getting it published if the priority of publishers today is the market value of the book, i.e. how much they will profit from the subject matter of the book?
When Jackie Collins was asked in an interview what the elements for a bestseller were, she replied:
“The elements for a bestseller: 1) Write about a subject that you really know about. 2) Don’t be hesitant about what you write. Don’t worry about what people are going to think about you. Just write what you want to write. 3) Write it in your own particular style. 4) Write. Don’t talk about it. Write it.”
Am I to believe that gone are the days when a publisher would take his chances and gamble with a book? Is it just me or do you feel that even with the accessibility of the e-book, and the possibility of self publishing digitally, publishers are reluctant to sign contracts with beginning writers unless the sales reports of their e-books are high? Is it the rule now? Do I have to self-publish and work my butt off to sell my book so that ‘someone’ may notice me? Or as Barnaby Conrad said:
“Each and every writer is different and that the rules are there to be broken.”