I’ve been thinking about New York lately. Not only because we’ll be submitting Red soon (and yes I finally got The Pink Hammer’s approval on that final fight scene–BOOYAH!), but also because Susan‘s Talent Chronicles is on submission, and pal Jessica Corra recently got a book deal with Dial for her After You.
The book business looks very different depending on your vantage point.
As a reader, there’s an immediacy to things because readers are not generally part of the process of submission, rejection, acceptance, editing, revision, etc. They only come in when the book is FOR SALE (usually) and their only perception of the glacial pace of publishing is of a holy crap, I have to wait a whole YEAR for the sequel! nature.
It’s different still for authors who are or hope to be traditionally published. Because there IS the delay for the submission, rejection, etc. We are told Don’t write for the market. Why? Because the stuff that’s on the shelves today was bought 1-3 years ago. So the insanely popular vampire or fallen angel novels that are flying off the shelves today might inspire a lot of spinoff, derivative, or tangentially related books that hold little interest for editors.
Because editors, I have decided, are like stock brokers. In particular brokers who deal in futures. Because it’s not just about reacting to the market as it exists today–it’s about trying to predict what the public will want 1-3 years in the future. Sometimes they’re right. Like whichever editor took a chance on the Twilight series. Sometimes they’re horribly wrong. Like whoever it was who initially passed on Harry Potter.
Editors (and, by extension, publishers) are in the business of making money. Foregone conclusion, necessary evil and all that. They might love a book personally, but if they don’t believe that book is going to appeal to the public, that it might not earn out what they invest in publishing it, then there’s a really strong chance that they’ll pass (or that their boss who is in charge of acquisitions will pass). Doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the book. It might be a paragon of gorgeous prose and unique plot twists and turns. But if it is not perceived as marketable in this unknowable future of books, that’s the end of the line (often) for that book.
This is why I think indie publishing has come to fill a valuable place in the publishing paradigm. Because with indie publishing you don’t have that 1-3 year wait. If vampires or werewolves or fallen angels are hot right now, then you need only wait as long as it takes you to write the book and get it properly polished and edited and in the best shape it can be before you spend a weekend formatting it right, attach your professional cover art, and send it out into the world right now to take advantage of fickle public interest.
Not that I’m using this as justification for writing to the market. I think you should write the books your heart tells you that you must write. But if it’s between selling to New York and moldering in a drawer because New York thinks vampires will be over in two years (and how many years have they been predicting that one?), certainly I’d think most authors would find indie publishing to be a palatable alternative. And as more and more indie authors are picked up by big houses based, not on queries and submissions and the traditional system, but on established sales records, it could be a viable alternative to a frustrating and, at times, broken system.
Food for thought.