A post at Helen Ginger’s blog has got my brain going. Author and professional speaker Diane Wolfe seems to approach book writing in a manner that is so opposite to what I do she could be describing how to build pianos. She says marketing your book starts when you put the first word on the page.
“We must consider the marketability of our work before pouring heart and soul into a project. Why work long hours on a project that will be impossible to sell?”
Why indeed? I am a fairly practical person and try to accept the realities of various situations, but it is crushingly disappointing to spend months on a novel and have it sell enough in a year for you to buy three bags of groceries. This is why I find it difficult to put time into a novel. It seems so wasteful. I am truly not in this to make money, but I also want to make a living so that I can remain in this. I want to make a living by writing. I would love to write novels full time. I love being in the middle of a novel. I love living vicariously through my characters’ lives. I love deciding their fate. I love to see where they lead me. But I can’t do it full time and survive, at least the way I’ve been doing it.
The problem, if I take Ms Wolfe’s advice to heart, is that I’ve been approaching the whole business wrong. I’ve been writing what inspires me without any thought to the marketability. Somehow I felt that considering market first would taint my work.
According to Ms Wolfe, “Before putting pen to paper, we need to be sure our book will fill a real need…..If writing fiction, will our story’s hook be powerful enough to make our work stand out from all the other authors in the genre?.... If our work fills a real need, do we know how to reach that audience?”
Need is such a difficult thing. What need does fiction fill? But she is right. A walk into any book store shows a writer what they’re up against. Can I write a book that will get a reader to choose mine instead of Alexander McCall Smith or John Grisham? It is very practical advice. If you want to make any money in this game, you must write a marketable book- it’s as simple as that.
Ms Wolfe ends with, “The promotion process begins with the writing phase. If we fail to prepare during this time, we’ll find it difficult (if not impossible) to properly market our book.”
I don’t know what I think. I suppose the artist in me is bulking. Being guided by market forces seems evil somehow. This week I’ve done a lot of thinking about the battle between staying true and fighting the establishment to bend your way, and compromising to be successful. I find it difficult to follow rules in general, but at the same time I am a pragmatist at heart.
Is it as simple as art or money? Or is there a place in the middle? What is wrong with getting an idea for a book and then considering how it might be marketed BEFORE you begin writing? Is it so wrong?
I would love to hear your perspective on this. I’m obviously lost.