Monday, June 28, 2010

What publishing and chocolate have in common

I was reading Rachelle Gardner’s blog today and something she said about what’s hot right now in the publishing world struck me so profoundly I decided to make it the source of my own blog entry this morning. She said “… you should realize that decisions to focus on hot genres aren’t based on what publishers think people want to read. It’s not a guess. It’s based on what’s actually selling.”

I thought about this long and hard and realized that perhaps there’s a reason why the “hot” genre stays hot for so long and why publishers get caught in the current trends in the first place. It’s not just that the economy is making publishers skiddish of new and upcoming authors, titles, and concepts, but that they’re caught in a vicious circle perpetuated by both themselves and the consumer.

Publishers are indeed interested in selling what’s hot but perhaps the reason that they stay so hot is because that’s all that’s being offered. I mean when you look around at the teen books, what choice do they have when the gluttony of books are all paranormal? And read they must! The book world itself is feeding an unending frenzy, because until the teenagers decide they’ve had enough of what’s “available” and stop buying any books…period… the current books being sold will continue to be popular. I’m not saying they aren’t and that I haven’t read a few myself, but it’s kind of like this:
Candy factories used to make delicious scrumptious candies and have salesmen take them from door to door and get orders for them. They were expensive, but oh what a treat. Then someone realized that they could make more money if they simply put them in stores.

From there, others found ways to make them even less expensive but taste just as good and call them candy bars. Now even kids could afford them and they could be packaged to last longer. The expensive candies became less in demand because the candy bars were taking away their business and forcing them to cut back on their availability. Over time the were only a few select stores carrying delicate treats (like See’s) making it harder for us to indulge. That’s all well and good, because I do like candy bars, but I still love See’s candy (as do my kids). I also know that I would buy more if there were more stores around. But there aren’t more stores because no one’s buying. But no one’s buying because there aren’t more stores around. Hmmmm….see what I mean?

All the talk about e-books makes me a little hopeful and yet still invariably wary. Yes, I can see how it would certainly broaden readership and help the overall book industry, but for me it’s kind of like ordering a box of chocolates through the mail. I can’t sample the chocolate before I buy it, so I’m taking a risk that the taste of the book—I mean chocolate—will be to my liking. And if it isn’t? Well, I can’t exactly turn around and offer it to someone else the same way I would a printed book.

So, what to do? Do I follow the trend so I can be published, hoping that I can then use my name and connections to bring the book out that I REALLY wanted to write? Or do I hunker down and wait for the small audience that will one day grace my store and enjoy the delicacy I have to offer.

I applaud the publishers that are taking risks on new authors, new titles, and working to expand the genre for readers of all ages. But I also look forward to the day when blood, gore, and magic aren’t the major sources our teens have in order to find something exciting to lose themselves in. I mean, personally if my child is looking for someone to emulate, I would rather not have it be a vampire or a werewolf, or even a wizard…which I guess is why I’m writing the story that I am. Yes, those things are fun, but then you’ve heard the saying, ‘too much of a good thing?’ Personally I’m there, and am now looking forward to finding that salesman (or woman) out there who will be willing to help me (and others like me) sell books of varying topics, and in a way that makes them available to everyone in the package that they want.

So what about you? What are your reasons for writing? What are your intentions? Do you love writing enough to have only a few select readers? And do you even care if you get paid? Or are you writing to please the current trend because it’s all about creativity and hey, you need to support your habit.



  • Debra Erfert says:
    I don’t like vampires, and I can’t stand werewolves, and I’m glad they weren’t the rage while I was growing up. Interesting questions you asked, Karen. They kind of knocked me aside my head; got me thinking about why I am writing. I guess, yes, I love to write, and yes, yes, I want to get paid for doing what I love. Someday I hope to see all my efforts come to fruition, and basically prove to my husband that I haven’t wasted all my time at the computer with my head in the clouds when he wants me to be at my drawing table producing art that has immediate monetary rewards.
  • Shelli says:
    I have a feeling that there is a revolution coming in the publishing world. Our technology explosion demands it. I can only think that expanding options will mean that there are more chances for us to get our book, the way we wrote it, into the hands of people who crave just that thing. I write what I write with a strange faith that it will all work out somehow in the end.
  • Karen says:
    Both of you are right. My own husband is SO supportive, but I can see him question my vigor at times (read: hours spent at the computer). And though I love taking my book wherever I go, I’ve read more than my fair share via my computer. Big changes ahead all around and my hope is that they work in my favor. ALL our favors. :)

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