Monday, May 07, 2007

Market vs Art, Revisited

Among the many nuisances of having well-meaning but industry-ignorant friends is that they labor under the delusion that good writing alone will lead to publication. They think if you can string words together long enough to write a novel, you are a Good Writer, your Publishing Success is assured, and any doubts you may have about breaking into the business are merely evidence of Bad Attitude or Poor Self-Esteem.

Well, here it is straight from literary agent Jessica Faust at Bookends, LLC:
Publishing is not about selling a good book. Publishing is about selling a book that will sell, and rarely does that have to do entirely with how good the book is.

So there. It's a minefield out there, and being given a rah-rah pep talk isn't helpful. What a writer really needs is an honest critique and help seeing where their artistic vision fails to align with current market trends in style and content.

Mindless boosterism should be left to professionals. . . like the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders.


Crabby McSlacker said...

I really like what you said about this; nice post.

This is such a tough question, because there's such tension between two often conflicting goals most writers have: to express oneself in a way that feels "real," and to have that expression actually read by other people.

I'm with you--I want people to read what I've written. And they won't, if I don't make an effort to write the sort of thing readers want to buy.

But I also hate to censor my own interests and passions and viewpoint too much in order to be marketable. Or else it doesn't feel like "me," and I'm not sure what I've gotten from all that time and effort. Certainly not money, unless one gets incredibly lucky. Plus, figuring out what's marketable is so difficult because the market changes all the time.

I'm not a great one to even address this issue--I wrote a novel, got an agent, and she couldn't sell it anywhere. So I haven't even begun to figure this one out.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Yeah. *sigh*

Tell me about it.

Kate Thornton said...

I think the point of writing for publication is the selling factor.

But publication is not always the whole point of writing. Therein lies the conflict.

Nicely done post - thought-provoking.

Brian said...

I admire people like Scottoline and Patterson who seem to have solved this question many, many time over.

Anonymous said...

I saw that post of Jessica Faust's, too, and my exact words were, "A ha, an agent tells it like it is!" before I read it out loud to my hubby.

Alice Audrey said...

Ps I think Jessica is being awfully cynical here. Seems I've seen a number of best sellers that were quite good.