Friday, September 18, 2009

RMFW Gold Conference, Part II

I know I said I was going to talk about mingling and getting to know agents/editors/writers outside the organized conference, but I want to touch back on the critique circle with Kristin Nelson. There are some points she made that I think were very important.

So, how's this for an issue: What if you have an agent read your pages, tell you she/he loves your writing, thinks the story is fantastic, but there's no way they could sell it.

*blink blink*

You think there's no way in the world this could happen. Well, my friends, it happened in our critique circle.

Without going into specific details, Kristin said pretty much these very same things about one of the submissions. I gotta tell you, that has to be hard to hear as a writer. Sure, there's a lot to love in a situation like this. Namely, the agent loves your writing and thinks your story has a lot of potential.

There's also a lot to really be bummed out about. Because even though the agent is feeling the love, they've told you flat out that your project will never sell.


I mean OUCH.

You've essentially done everything right, but there's one minor problem. You didn't give enough consideration for the market, nor the way your book will be sold.

Kristin made a very good point in our circle. As writers, we're always being told we're artists -- and that as artists, we shouldn't try to write to the market. We should instead write what we love. Write what is speaking to us. Write what makes the angels weep and the birds sing. Oh, yes. This is what we all want to do.

But Kristen pointed out that while all that is great, at the end of the day, your agent still needs to be able to sell your manuscript. And whether or not we want to, we must think about what is selling--what your agent can compare your book to--where it would ultimately be shelved in a bookstore, etc. IOW, you have to give the business side of things due consideration when choosing what to write.

Let's face it. We all want that break out hit. We all think that if we bend genres, come up with some new high concept novel or what not that WE can make it work. That somehow it will make us stand out from the pack. But is that the right attitude to have? In the end, it does work for some people -- but for most, it probably won't. If you're playing the odds, it's something you probably wouldn't want to risk.

But I'm a writer in the end. I would never tell someone not to write what they love. My suggestion would be to keep 90% of yourself trained on your work in progress, and the remainder with one eye on the market. If you're going to go in with something new, know where your book will fit in.

In other words, if you write young adult, you should know what is selling. What books your book would be comparable to. How your agent would go about selling your book -- what you would call it, where it would be shelved. Pssst. That means you actually have to READ YA. (Just a friendly reminder. (G))

I know none of us likes to think about the business side of things. Heck, that's why we have agents, right? But as Kristin said, you have to be there to HELP your agent. Neither the writing nor the selling should be done without direct consideration for the other half of the equation.


Tara Parker said...

Good one. LOL! I agree completely.

Charlotte Cook said...

You wrote: "You've essentially done everything right ..." I want to add to that: "... to create a great writing project." Part two ... for some writers ... is getting published and that requires looking at the marketplace. You can't do both simultaneously or you won't write the work you need to write. Getting published isn't and shouldn't be the object of your attention in writing when you're writing. Then, when you're done writing, maybe publishing is the next step. I write first to write and rarely to get published. But then I am a publisher and the division between one phase and another is easy for me to understand now.

Jennifer Hendren said...

Tara -- I knew you would. :)

Jennifer Hendren said...


Thanks for stopping by! I saw you speak on the editor panel in Denver -- very informative.

I totally agree that you should write for writing's sake. That said, I should've clarified that I meant this for people who WANT to be published. If that's the ultimate goal, I think some consideration needs to be given to what's in the market already -- even if it's just to make sure you're not duplicating a book that's been published a dozen times over.

I hate to think of publishing as a business. In fact, I'd like to not think about it in those terms at all. (g) But alas, I think Kristin made a good point. Darn it. :)