The Writer’s Lament
Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Lament One: I’ve written my first book. It’s not only fresh and well-written but I’ve experimented with technique and really pushed the envelope when it comes to content and format. My critique group calls it a work of literary genius. So why can’t I get anyone interested it it?
Lament Two: It’s like one writer from our group. He’s writing superb SciFi– some of the finest you’ve ever read. And it’s written for the Christian market, deeply spiritual with a character who is not ashamed to seek Jesus when things get tough. But just try to find an agent or editor even willing to read the manuscript. It makes no sense.
Lament Three: Every time the critique group gets together it has begun to feel like a lesson in futility. Another writer– an excellent writer– writes generational historical fiction. Her characters are well-drawn and her plots are multi-layered. These are big books, about 200,000 words each. Blood, sweat and tears have gone into each book but do you think she’s been able to sell a single book?
Lament Four: A newer member writes children’s books. Again these are good–really good by any standard–based on her great-grandmother’s life. These books read just like Little House on the Prairie.
Lament Five: Even our nonfiction writers keep getting passed over. We have one pastor who packs out the church each Sunday with his sermons. He’s compiled these into a book– kind of The Best of Pastor Miller. These are tried and tested messages. It sounds like a no-brainer for a publisher, right? Wrong. He can’t get a bite despite having attended a writer’s conference.
Lament One: I received this proposal and just sent out a rejection. There were indications the writer could write and the plot was intriguing but the technique was so showy the story took a back seat to the fancy footwork. Why do writers get so caught up in trying to write a book that that will impress their creative writing professors? That’s a mighty small audience. Besides a new author needs to gain a readership and gain the trust of those readers before he ever attempts to push into uncharted waters. Why do so many new writers long to “push the envelope?” Why not just try to write a great commercially viable book. That’s what I can sell to a publisher and that’s what publishers can sell to bookstores. That’s the book readers want to buy. Such a shame.
Lament Two: I can never figure out why a writer would write a whole book– a gargantuan task– without ever researching the market. Frustrating! This writer can write but as of yet there’s no discernible market for SciFi in CBA. A few publishers have tried it and abandoned it. It’s true that lots of people read SciFi but they buy it from the general market. If I confronted this writer with these facts he’d claim it would make a perfect “crossover” book or that he’s looking for an agent to sell it in the general market. One problem– a book filled with references to faith and Jesus is not going to find a home in the general market any sooner than a book with graphic sex and violence would find a home in the Christian market.
Lament Three: I love historical fiction but 200,00 words? It shows me this writer doesn’t understand the market. Yes, Ken Follett might be able to get away with a book of this heft but it would be the kiss of death for a debut author. Books are priced based on what it costs to create the book. Why would someone buy an unknown author’s trade paper book for the same price they could get the newest Janet Evanovich hardcover? Book length is a simple matter of economics. A new author shoots herself in the foot with a book that is twice as long as other books in the genre.
Lament Four: Little House on the Prairie is a classic. It was written a long time ago and even though we still love to read the series, styles change even in children’s books. An editor does not want to see a clone of an age old classic, he wants to see a book written for a twenty-first century audience. Too often children’s books are written for some idealized child reader, more like the children the author remembers from childhood. These sentimental books rarely find a home.
Lament Five: Not another book of transcribed sermons! The written word is far different from the spoken word. Creating a nonfiction book requires planning, a story arc, stories to illustrate the concepts, features– not to mention a compelling idea that hasn’t already been tackled.
Your turn. Do you have your own laments? Are you frustrated by the market realities? What kinds of issues might be holding up your break into publishing? Let’s talk. Maybe we can figure why some excellent writers keep receiving a polite “No thanks” to their queries or proposals.
Ever wonder why good writers can’t get published? Click to Tweet
Could there be a reason that book just doesn’t sell? Click to Tweet
Too long? Too wrong? Too wordy? Why won’t the book sell? Click to Tweet