1. mistalus
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    mistalus New Member

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    Hypothetical concerning the type of book for a first attempt at publication

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by mistalus, Jan 14, 2013.

    For this thread to work, you have to suspend disbelief regarding one thing, and it's a very difficult thing: you have to assume the hypothetical author is talented--even a refined talent. Assume he or she is a skilled prose stylist with a masterful command of detail who has read most of the works of the master stylists of the 20th century.

    (No, this is not me as one who would make such a claim most likely wouldn't possess the talent to back it up.)

    Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's say hypothetical talented would-be author has a lot of ideas for a first novel, but none of them concern popular genres of fiction, and they don't target younger readers. Fantasy, science fiction, thriller, mystery, romance are all off the table. A character study with tragicomedic elements is a fair description (or something similar that reeks of pretense.)

    Now tell me, is it folly to attempt to get published for the first time with a style of novel that is not popular today? Does the unpublished writer need to play the market and write what is most likely to get them published, personal tastes or even self-respect aside, or could a book of sufficient merit stand on its own despite its less trendy subject matter and less accessible style? Said book only has to be published (and not self-published or exclusively e-published,) not become a best-seller. It doesn't need to allow them to quit his/her day job.

    I want to understand if such an author could hope to break through today without writing something he or she may consider fluff in order to first establish their place.
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I should start by mentioning that general fiction, the genre you seem to be talking about, doesn't really have trends. But in case you're still wondering, there's a market for everyone, so there's no need for this hypothetical author to follow a trend. Trends are constantly changing, and what's popular today might not be popular a year or two from now.

    So what you say is certainly possible. If the book is really good (well written and marketable) and the author is a "skilled prose stylist", I'm sure he/she will have little problem getting an agent and publisher.
     
  3. cicerotamar
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    cicerotamar Member

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    "writing for the market" is the only way to be sure you will not hit your target. By the time you see what the market is, you have missed it.

    If your novel falls outside any category, yeah, you're going to have a problem. Why? Bookstores need to know where to shelve it.

    Is it literary fiction? Is it genre fiction? Afraid, those are your options, sir. Don't over complicate things by assuming this make-believe, talented author is so unique that they're just a misunderstood genius. They're not.

    Good thing this is a make believe author, otherwise I'd want to slap them.
     
  4. spartan928
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    spartan928 Member

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    Innovation will fuel the hunger of readers for the next hot thing. Excellent, compelling writing will always stand on it's own regardless of trends.
     
  5. mistalus
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    mistalus New Member

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    Thanks for the feedback--interesting responses so far.

    What? Where is that coming from? Point to the part of my post that offended you so.
     
  6. cicerotamar
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    cicerotamar Member

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    sorry, english is my second langauge and sometimes I lack subtlety and tact. you have my apologies. I am writing from an iphone right now, but I will explain my comments later, if you like.
     
  7. mistalus
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    mistalus New Member

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    You're free to do that if they're pertinent. Really, you're free to do that even if they're not pertinent--I just don't see what part of my post inspired violent urges, unless you think I'm being coy and consider myself a genius with a masterpiece manuscript that will change the world if only someone would read it. None of that is the case, so we may as well move on.

    I'd love to get some more opinions.
     
  8. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    It's not folly. Some books entertain, other books change our culture. Commercial success and cultural success are both worthy reasons to get published. Publishers are looking for literary fiction, because a lot of publishers love good books. Also, quality books, even if they lose money, establish credibility and the other books make the money. This happens in film too. Some films are made knowing they will lose money, but will gain the studio respect. That's why they have tentpole films, to make the money to make the money-losing films.

    Books with sufficient merit will always find their market, even if it is small.

    Melville sold fifty copies of Moby Dick while he was alive (I think!).
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    anything is possible!... if even poorly written gluck like dan brown's and meyer's and paolini's and others of their ilk can get published, then of course your hypothetical genius' work could be...

    that said, luck plays a major part in it, which is why i'm sure much 'great' writing has never made it to bookstore shelves... so your hypothetical book has as much chance of making it as any lesser/better quality work does...
     
  10. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    This hypothetical question concerns an imaginary individual who clearly thinks too highly of him or herself. They appear arrogant and precious. Now, is it possible for such a person to write a bestseller in genre that isn't necessarily popular today? Who knows. Neither the characters nor the plot of this question grabbed me and I have to say that rather than caring for the protagonist, I find them annoying and don't have any interest in what happens to them.
    I hope that answers your question! :)
     
  11. mistalus
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    mistalus New Member

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    What makes you think the imaginary individual thinks anything of him or herself at all? I'm describing the hypothetical individual and I said nothing about his or her view of him or herself.

    I see you're offended and fail to accept that this is indeed a fictitious hypothetical and not about me. All I wanted to do with this thread was gauge if people think a truly great writer of literary fiction has as much of a chance of discovery today, in 2013, as in a previous era. The answers from others, who were actually willing to suspend disbelief and answer the hypothetical in good faith, have been mostly positive. Your "precious" display of contempt, on the other hand, is a negative, and certainly didn't come across as cute as you had hoped, at least to this very real reader. Better luck with your creative writing.
     
  12. cicerotamar
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    cicerotamar Member

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    I see I wasn’t the only one who picked up on it, Mistalus. So let me explain my previous comment.

    See, the number of wannabe writers who think they can’t get a publishing deal because they’re not writing what’s popular, or what’s “hollywood” is incredible. Really. So many of them think there’s nothing wrong with their writing, it’s just the market isn’t there for their particular brand of literature. It’s utter nonsense and reflects a huge amount of ignorance about the industry. First of all, what the imaginary person wants to write, has been written and has been picked up by major publishers. Second, no one knows what the market is for books at the publishing level, because by the time you spot what’s hot in the market, publishers have already started buying the next thing. You can’t “write for the market” unless you can churn out a book in a couple weeks, and you have a publisher standing by. Even then you’re going to hit the tail-end of it.

    Look at the last 10 years for YA literature. You had wizards, vampires, angels, dystopian, zombies and right now, high-concept action/adventure. In that order. That’s just the last 10 years. 6 trends in 10 years. When publishers buy a book there is a 2+ year lead time before it’s published, so either you have to have a crystal ball to know what will be popular, or you have to just write and hope you hit the market when the market hits.

    It’s just so pretentious when someone says, oh I don’t know if I should even bother trying to get a publishing contract because I don’t write what’s popular. Argh, it just makes me want to puke.

    Again, I totally know you’re talking hypothetical, so that’s cool, but you’ve asked for opinions and that’s mine.
     
  13. mistalus
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    mistalus New Member

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    I appreciate your opinion, cicerotamar, and am glad you came back to explain. I really do mean that and I find your commentary in this thread insightful (and in the end I came around to your way of thinking in the "best-selling author" thread, as well.) However, your suggestion that you and jazzabel have both "picked up on something" and that that "something" (if I may synthesize both of your implications for the sake of simplicity) is the idea that I may be a pretentious, bitter wanna-be who thinks himself a misunderstood genius who views the market as one that only accepts trendy fluff due to rejection of my own manuscripts I consider "literary fiction" (talk about pretentious,) is at least a little bit offensive.

    This thread was never about me to begin, but as I've now come under fire by two rather cynical posters (the first a worthwhile poster with some legitimate input on the matter at hand, the second quite obviously a venomous, embittered failure at life who just might spend a little too much time here,) I'll bring myself into it. I have no history of success or failure in anything related to writing outside of boring technical writing contracts and positions I've held writing similar things for the state and the insurance industry. I've honestly not even attempted creative writing since high school, and only then because I was forced to in English class.

    My point here was to present an ideal: a masterful writer who is yet unpublished who takes it upon him or herself to write what they truly want to write, regardless of what sort of manuscript they feel may be the most likely to find publication. That's all. I don't follow the publishing industry. I don't follow trends in the book market. What I do know is what I see my friends, family, co-workers reading. I registered here just to ask this question (though I intend to lurk here from time to time in the future, at the very least) because I thought I might get more thoughtful replies here than on Yahoo! Answers. Aside from one reply, I was right.

    If an ideal specimen, this genius prose stylist who [we've now made such a joke of by discussing to death] wants to attempt something grand for his or her first novel, has as good a chance as someone writing for a more general audience with their eye on the prize, then this inspires, or at least fails to deter, a lesser writer like me to perhaps one day make my own attempt at writing something I could be truly proud of, even if my chances are but a fraction of our paragon's. If it isn't folly for him or her, where folly is an absolute, then it isn't likely to be folly for me, (or any of us, for that matter.)

    One last thing: it's hardly clever to "pick up on" and then suggest in a sarcastic manner that someone is presenting a hypothetical which they are actually the subject of. It's perhaps the easiest way anyone could possibly reply to this thread. I'm glad you followed it up with relevant input.
     
  14. cicerotamar
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    cicerotamar Member

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    Actually, what was "picked up on" was not that it was you in disguise, but rather the underlying tone of the hypothetical person. I really didn't think it was you. I thought you were asking a hypothetical question. Really I did. But I thought the hypothetical person was pretentious. It sounded like the writer had the attitude that literary fiction is high-brow, as opposed to genre fiction that, while popular, isn't necessarily noteworthy. Perhaps that's not what you meant. But when you say the writer has lots of ideas but none that would be "popular" or target young readers, it sounds eye-rolly. like you're rolling your eyes and saying, what the writer has written doesn't appeal to that Twilight crowd, or those happy to read wizard books.

    Literary fiction is not more high-brow than any other kind of literature. Sure there might be some high brow stuff in literary fiction, but there's also that stuff in genre fiction. And the saying, "there are no new ideas" applies to literary fiction too. In fact, I'd argue that it applies even more so.

    Good writing is half the equation. Good story telling is the second part. The latter is more important than the first. A well written crap story will not sell. A mediocre writing skill telling a great story will sell. That goes for literary fiction and genre fiction. Some of the most popular (and highest grossing) books of the last five years have been literary fiction.
     
  15. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Do the author's beliefs or personality really matter when it comes to publishing? I would say no. I'm sure there are, and have been, many pretentious authors out there, but I'm sure most publishers don't care.
     
  16. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mistalus, please don't be a troll. Besides, your writing style is extremely reminiscent of another troll we had recently (word whisperer))
     
  17. mistalus
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    mistalus New Member

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    If you have to pin those character traits on someone, you can pin them on me. While I don't consider myself a literary snob, I phrased the hypothetical and intended the subject to be a generic paragon whose personality was irrelevant. If someone's character must be judged, it may as well be mine so as not to sully what I consider to be the more important aspect of the thread: the hypothetical subject and his or her prospects of publication. I probably could have presented the subject in a more objective manner, but most of my respondents replied as if the personality of the hypothetical subject was no matter at all, as I had hoped.

    I certainly agree with you that "there are no new ideas" applies more readily to literary fiction than genre fiction. To address only a small part of genre fiction, allowing the fantastical at the very least more readily gives to the illusion of original creativity, even if these fresh ideas are ultimately just new amalgams of old ideas. But that's not to exclude books full of fantastical ideas from coming to be regarded as literary fiction of the highest order, transcending initial genre fiction classification (see Gene Wolfe for a living example of an author most critics think has accomplished this several times.)

    That's amusing considering your two replies addressed to me have done nothing but troll me and attack my character. Ad hominem tripe... You've "contributed" nothing to this thread and could give other new posters a negative impression of what it means to be a "Contributor" here, despite the valued input of two other Contributors to this thread. To me it seems you're only a bad apple.

    If cicerotamar didn't intend to peg me as the subject of my own hypothetical, and I do believe his sincerity, it would be difficult to argue that you did not. That apparently was not enough, and now you've associated me with the troll (or fool, I'm not sure which) from the "Best-Selling Author" thread. I doubt any other reader of both threads sees similarities in our writing styles as you claim you do. If they do, I invite them to analyze our respective posts from each thread and enlighten me. I'd invite you to try this yourself, but you would no doubt only continue to embarrass yourself and your peers here who actually mean well.
     
  18. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Like I said mistalus, please don't troll.
     
  19. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz
    The Art of Fielding - Chad Harbach
    The Tiger's Wife - Tea Obreht
    Swamplandia - Karen Russell
    The Help - Katheryn Stockette ( which was rejected for 3 years by over 60 agents )
    The Curious incident of the Dog in the Nighttime - Mark Haddon
    All first novels - all outside of popular trends and genres
     
  20. mistalus
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    mistalus New Member

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    Thanks, I appreciate the examples.
     

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