The Business of Writing
Every Sunday, you'll find me curled up on my IKEA chaise lounge, coffee in hand, perusing the Providence Journal.
Naturally, as I hail from the smallest state, there's a fair chance I'll spy someone I know. And for some reason lately, the familiar faces have been popping up in the Business section. This is where I discover fun facts like: a kid who rode my school bus is now running a nursing home.
No envy here.
In fact, I'm eternally grateful I've picked a career where headshots in sensible navy suits are not a requirement. I'm a writer. You know, a creative. Free of all stuffy constraints.
Or so I thought. Until I realized not only am I courting the business world, I am, gulp, at the mercy of it.
Blame Settling Down. My finished, unagented manuscript.
The background, in case you're joining the story already in progress. I wrote a book. A good book. A funny, smart, intelligent, accessible read that I KNOW would entertain a woman or two, as well as make a difference in their lives.
When I first shopped it around in 2006, it wasn't a good book. Sure, it was a great first attempt. An okay book. But oddly enough, not only did I have a fair amount of interest in this okay book. I was actually offered representation. (Until the agent changed her mind. Note: She's no longer in the business.)
Soul crushing? Yes. But also an amazing gift. Because the book needed work. And sending that out as my final product into the world would have reflected poorly on me. My literary career would have been one and done.
Round one of the agent search also left me with offers from multiple agents willing to take a second look at this okay book, if I opted for professional editing. So I did, eventually rewriting the book, then beginning round two of operation agent query.
You know, because it's such an amazing way to pass the time.
So far, I've got a full and a partial out in the world. Not bad for the percentage of query letters I sent out, but my much improved book has not garnered anywhere near the amount of attention as the unedited version.
In other words: Better product. Less interest.
Logically, it doesn't make a bit of sense. Today, I also have more writing clips. I've got a website. I tweet! So what gives?
I'm thinking it's just business, baby.
My latest epiphany came from this paragraph of a recently received rejection letter:
I'm sorry to say that the project just isn't a perfect fit with my current needs. This has less to do with your strengths as a writer and more to do with my goals as an agent and the trends of the current literary marketplace.
So, basically, if writing wasn't hard enough, now you've got to consider the market. Because while agents are certainly lovers of books and promoters of the written word, they're also fans of eating. And paying their bills.
Sure it may start with a book, but I believe their primary role lines up closer to sales, where they carefully try to balance their own passions with what the publishing houses think the public is going to buy next. My genre? Popularly thought to have peaked ten years ago, even though I respectfully, and vehemently, disagree.
Duh. And why did it take me so long to figure this out?
Also: IT IS NOT MY TALENT!! (Sorry. Little pep talk here that you walked into.)
I know this little ah-ha moment is going to power me through this marathon. I don't give up easily. Okay. At all.
And in the short run, I've ordered this, to aid with my focus.
What I'll be drinking from it? My secret. Just know that eventually, I WILL use it to toast my publishing contract.