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  1. JavaMan
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    JavaMan Senior Member

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    Being Marketable

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by JavaMan, Jun 28, 2009.

    There is a great amount of information here about actually writing, and, more or less trying to find an agent and/or publisher. However, it concerns me a bit that even though there are a few people around here that have been published, or more or less worked in the industry, there is almost nothing on actually writing for money. Dispite what your artistic inclinations may indicate, it is a business.

    It's an honest mistake, but many people beleive that good writing is mostly about coming up with a good idea of plot, character, etc. Sooner or later, a person must then realize that (who'dda thunk it!!??) the essence of writing, is in fact the ability and willingness to be adept in the expression of the continuum of language. If a person's ambition is to make a bit of money doing it then, it, by defintion, becomes part of the realm of business.

    Let me put it this way: I've worked in sales for many years. I'll be completely honest and say that it is mind-boggling easy to make a person buy an absolutly terrible product, that they may or may not genuinely need or otherwise want, by very simple, and sometimes very complex "tricks of the trade." People have often made millions simply through proper presention of a product. Beleive it or not, the name of a product, or perhaps the color or shape of the packaging, can be turned into a selling point. In the Western world, even churches would use a slogan of some sort to offer peace of mind.... etc....etc....etc...


    Being rambling even more, do any of you consider, or ask yourself, ":(Sure it's a good book; sure I'll get it published; but will it sell enough to be worth the time?"
     
  2. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Good point. There was a recent book called Need by Carrie Jones. It was a total Twilight ripoff--but actually, Twilight was much, much better.

    The point is, though, this book got picked up by a publisher. It got published! It was marketable! If I recall, the inside flap or back of the book talked about it being like Twilight, so the publisher knew that that aspect of the book would help it sell.
     
  3. Akraa
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    Akraa Member

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    Gotta give a hallelujah-amen to this. Writing is a business, writing is communication, writing is convincing someone else that they really want to climb into your mind. You aren't writing for yourself, but an audience. Know what your target audience enjoys and tailor your piece for a specific market. This is especially important when starting out with short stories and articles.

    However, I have to qualify that luck is the biggest factor. You'll find many 'publicity stunts' by publishers of late; just gimmicks to appeal to the crowd from an unskilled author with little skill and experience that editors have managed to clean up to saleable level. However these only go so far before falling to the wayside like Furbies or any other fad. If you want to be something other than a one trick pony that a publisher will ride until it's lame, perfect your art, but write with your planned audience in mind. Eventually luck will strike and it will be up to your skill and determination to decide your fate as a writer.

    As for capturing your market, it's just like working in sales. Your introduction, the hook, has to be spectacular, catching, and appealing to your audience. If you capture them with a great introduction they'll keep reading through the rest.
     
  4. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Depends on your attitude and if you care about making money. If you don't care about making money, writing it is worth your time no matter what. Even if you do care, the writing is always worth it. Besides, nobody knows what will sell well, so what's the point of thinking that way? It encourages giving up.

    And the idea of not doing it for yourself, just doing it for an audience, total crap. There is no love there if you are doing it just to please an audience. I can tell when a book is too targetted or tailored to a demographic. It's always crap because the writer isn't being true to him/herself. It's still true when writing for children. Robert Munsch puts stuff in his stories because he knows kids love it, but he loves it to. He does it because it pleases himself as much as it pleases the children, and every single Canadian child has read at least one of his books since he was first published.

    It is important to be aware of the market and where your work fits, and be able to use that knowledge when you have finished writing it, but don't treat your book like a product while you're working on it.
     
  5. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    I'm essentially two writers in one. I do write things that are specifically for a market, what Rei would probably call crap, that I consider my 'day job' -- the equivalent of waiting tables or managing a book store. I actually could have a better standard of living if I used the psychology degree I busted my skinny backside to earn, but I wanted to make my scribbling pay for itself. For a nice bonus, writing the bodice rippers and wank fodder gives me an agent and credentials of having people willing to pay for my fiction, which will be a big help when my general fiction WIP is ready to be shopped around, probably around October.

    I will keep writing general fiction, even if I never sell a word of it. If, at the end of my life, I have only published articles, romance novels and erotica, I will still make damn sure they carve Author under my name on my headstone.

    I find no shame in making money from what I would be doing anyway.
     
  6. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's only half my point. Are you writing it as much for yourself as the audience? Do you like it? How much effort do you put into tailoring it, or would you write it the way you do, anyway, and it happens to easily fall into that market? It's when you're only writing it because "That's what they want" and you're not being true to youself with how you write it that it becomes crap. From what I've read, and the way you talk about it, you do enjoy it.
     
  7. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    I don't particularly care for the romance novels or the erotica. They are a means to an end -- my day job, just as I said. If I didn't get paid, I'd never write another romance. Each romance novel line has its own specific format and the successful romance novelist follows those to the letter. There's a certain amount of creative freedom, but the selling points have to be there. Harlequin, at least, rejects a ton of manuscripts every month for not reading the format. Their first instruction in their submission guidelines is to "Respect the genre." I can name six or seven off the top of my head that don't necessarily like to read romance novels, but have at least one successful pen name.

    The submission guidelines are extremely specific. In the Silhouette Desire Line, for example, it states that the novel should be about 60% heroine POV and 40% hero POV (and the hero's POV should be interacting with the heroine or at least pondering her irritatingness/awesomeness --depending on the chronological place in the book).

    On another note, though, isn't most genre fiction somewhat targeted and tailored? The Star Trek and Star Wars franchises probably have guidelines that as strict or more so that romance.

    Genre fiction may be the peanut butter sandwich of the literary world, but it works just right until the filet mignon starts to sell.
     
  8. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Okay, so what you write just might be crap, but I can't judge what I haven't read. Just speaking from experience. The difference between you writing those books and the Star Wars/Star Trek novels is that the writers who do write those aren't just doing it because it sells. They're doing it because they like it. Following the rules of a universe is not simply "playing to the crowd." It's doing what every writer does when he makes sure what s/he writes is accurate. Every writer of fantasy I know, or have read about, writes it because they love it, it's what they want to read, and they know it will mean something to others. Knowing it will have meaning to others is not the same as marketing.

    Judy Blume is a perfect example. She went against what the marketing people believed was marketable to children, and these days she is one of the essential writer of girls' books.
     
  9. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    In your terms, then, I'm following the rules of the romance universe.
     
  10. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Writing about something just because it's popular now is not a good way to make money. Books often take 1 year or more to hit the shelves (this is assuming your manuscript gets accepted by the first agent/publisher). What is popular now might not be popular a year or more from now. Besides, you should write about what you like to write about rather than worry about what other people want you to right.
     
  11. JavaMan
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    JavaMan Senior Member

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    Rei, by any means I do not disagree with you. IMHO you are arguing for the point and purpose of art itself. Extremely and highly commedable, in a purist sense. I think , however ( not to disprove you, but to simply find a common ground) RomanticRose is saying that, simply, elements such as passion/love and or talent/skill in writing are not enought to actually get published. Don't get me wrong - they will go a long way. But the reason why that I started this topic is to discuss, amoung others things the difference of say, writing a good artical for the "Letters to the Editor" section of the newspaper and writing a book that would appeal to a much larger demographic. To put it simply, a blog about popular music won't always translate into a business oppurtunity.

    If you want to write simply for the love of doing it - I'd love you for that. If you want to write for money, you would have to have a 'business model' - as it's often called. The two need not be different!

    None of this means, in a absolute sense anyhow, that you are not being true to yourself or your art. I think of it as adding a bit of the scientific method to the art so that you can reach a larger audience. On a side note, if you have a good message, rather than just the ambition of writing commercial fiction, sooner or later a person must realize that.... well... I'll just say that some people would spend untold thousands of dollars to go to school, and study for years and years just to learn that there are other elements at work to selling something other than the quality of the product and the (often) persoanl beliefs, convictions, and/or talents of the person who made it.

    Please comment!:)
     
  12. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    The only thing I'd want to comment on in the above post, JavaMan, is that it does take skill and talent to write a romance novel. The romance novel has plot, characters and setting just like any other and they are blended into a seamless whole. I write better in my general fiction because of the practice. I can tuck my stories into 55k-60k words and tie up all my loose ends.

    I did go into bodice rippers as a business, and it involved a multi-step plan, but that in no way negates the skill and talent it took to make them successful.
     
  13. starseed
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    starseed Contributing Member

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    Is that what defines "romance novels" vs "general fiction which contains romance and sex"?

    The guidelines/rules of the genre?
     
  14. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    I don't usually use this as a source, but in this case it does a pretty good job.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romance_novel

    The other best place to go is directly to the horse's mouth so to speak.

    http://www.eharlequin.com/articlepage.html?articleId=538&chapter=0

    All the guidelines are there for every line currently in production.

    But the main characteristics are the book being primarily about the female and there must be a happy ending -- not an almost happy ending, not a bittersweet ending -- if not happily every after at least happy for now. Those two things are non-negotiable.
     
  15. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    I agree with Rei on this one.
    And I also have my own opinions.
    I don't like to write a book based on what is popular and will sell well.
    I don't like looking at my book as a big pocket of money.
    To me that is a selfish writing and a selfish greed.
    To me in my opinion, a book is a way to express something and you cannot truly express something if you do not enjoy it.
    Expression is priceless.
    And a book is expression and there should be no price to pay when writing it.
     
  16. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    I just like paying my rent and utilities. Call me selfish and greedy. But my selfishness and greed makes quite a few readers happy. Do they count?
     
  17. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    I think writing comes from the heart.
    I think words come from the heart too.
    In my opinion if your words and writing don't come from the heart, only for money then yes it's selfish.
    Maybe you should have chosen another job to give you necessities for rent and utility.
    Writing should be true faith to the heart.
    I'm going to get into journalism, that will put food on the table for me and pay for my rent, etc.
    And my fiction will stay true to me.
    And I will be marketable because I am the truth.
    I'm not saying you aren't the truth.
    Nor am I saying your greedy to want to provide for yourself.
    But to stare at your book with just money on mind, that is selfish to me.
    A book is your soul.
     
  18. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Wow, angsty artists much?
    Yes, a book can be your soul, but at the end of the day, a job is a job. People need romance books, and someone needs to write them. If you're good at it, do it, and collect your paycheck and be happy. Its no different to going to work at an office job you hate and then working on your great novel in your free time.
     
  19. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    I'm not angsty.
    All my views on writing are culture and family based because that is all I know.
    Yes, but I want a job I want to enjoy.
    I don't want to look at my writing and say you better give me bucks.
     
  20. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    Unsolicited advice is dangerous to give. One runs the risk of discovering it's value to the one on the receiving end.

    But to shed another bit of light on the subject, I'm writing books that don't necessarily appeal to me, but that bring others great happiness. How on earth can that be selfish?

    Why is it selfish to write for a living, but not selfish to wait tables or teach or anything else? I make a living using my mind and my hands. For several reasons, I skipped the idealistic phase of my career planning.
     
  21. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think it's any different than, say, a journalist who writes for a local newspaper to eat and have shelter, but also on the side works on writing that she really enjoys and hopes to publish one day.

    Writing, in general, is not some kind of sacred thing. It is not a god. It is simply an action. She performs this action for 2 very different reasons: a job (romance novels) and a hobby (the writing she enjoys and hopes to publish one day).
     
  22. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    When did I claim those were enough? People who enjoy arguing have a habit of not reading entire posts. I observed that books that were written without care just because "That's what they want" tend to be crap in my experience, but I do know it's important to pay attention to the marketability of what you do write, and understand the business side of it. Never did I say that love and skill were enough. Just that if you don't like what you're doing, it's not as good.

    It simply doesn't create good work in my experience when artists treat their work like a product, especially if they aren't interested in the product. That's disrespecting the audience, too. If you have an interest in more than one genre, but know a certain one sells better and you choose to focus on that one, that's one thing. But chosing to write a type of book you don't even like just because you know it will sell, and you weren't even hired to do it?
     
  23. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    Writing what a certain group wants to read and writing "without care" are two different things. How am I disrespecting the readers? By doing the research to find out what sells? By giving them what they expect when they pick up a Harlequin Presents or a Silhouette Desire book?

    I'm not going out and making hits for organized crime, selling drugs, turning tricks, or pole dancing. My talent is something I was born with and I worked hard to acquire my skill. These things are mine, to do with a I see fit. If they can make me a living without having to get a non-writing job, good on me.

    Every so often I have to learn my lesson about posting on writing forums.
     
  24. ABStarns
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    ABStarns New Member

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    I actually thoroughly enjoyed your posts in this thread as it provided a realistic view to the industry that may get lost at times.

    I do not believe you are cheapening yourself or your bread and butter novels in any way.

    Please continue posting. :redface:
     
  25. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Leaka,

    From another thread...

    Why are you looking to share your work through a paying venue? Isn't that selfish and a bit greedy? Or is it that it's okay to seek a paying market because the horror poem(s) you're hoping to publish came from your heart and soul?

    There is nothing wrong with getting paid for your skills and talents, and hustling and writing what you can sell. It is a different story when one has to put food on the table and a roof over one's head, including not only for oneself but for his/her family as well.

    You hope to make money in journalism...won't you put your heart into those stories you report on? If you aren't, are you then not being selfish and cheating the readers for a buck (pound, yen or whatever)?

    People write for different reasons. If it's for money, to promote an agenda, to inform, to inspire, to entertain, just because it seems to be in their blood (or in any combination), none of those reasons are necessarily wrong.

    With the world of publishing there is a business aspect, unless one intends to write and give away their work for free--and even then there's the marketing aspect or very few if any would actually read it.

    Rei, if the reader enjoys the novel written by an author who wrote it because they needed to pay the rent, I am unclear how it is disrespecting the reader. The autoworker who doesn't care much for his job but it pays the bills so he does it anyway, is he disrespecting the buyer of that car when he does his job, putting the car together safely and correctly? The janitor who cleans the toilet for the customer but doesn't enjoy it but earns a living by doing it and making sure everything is clean and sanitary as it should be, are they disrespecting the user/customer? The landscape manager who designs and plants a landscape but really isn't enjoying his job and would rather do something else but it's what he's good at and can earn a living at, is he disrespecting the client who hired him, even though the client is happy with the results of the landscaper's knowledge and labor?

    If the author and publisher are satisfied with the product, and the reader purchases the product (the novel) and is satisfied, I don't see the disrespect.

    Maybe the author's work would be better/higher quality if his heart and soul was in it, but also consider that the writer whose heart and soul isn't poured into a novel may still be able to still produce a better novel than an author who does pour his heart and soul into it. Maybe it's not fair, but it is the way it is.

    It's not fair that one athlete put his heart and soul into practicing and striving to make a living as a baseball player since he was ten years old, and never gets out of the minor leagues and is finally cut to make room for a young prospect who simply has more talent, ability and developed skills and will make it to the major leagues, even though he didn't put in half the hours of sweat and tears to make it as the cut fellow. Fair? Who knows. But it is the way the world is.

    Terry
     
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