I recently heard from a friend who has written a number of critically acclaimed but only moderately successful standalones. Her agent is pushing for a switch to a series character. Another friend's publisher wants him to do the opposite, abandoning a series for standalones (the Harlan Coben model). A third is working on a YA novel, since apparently that's all that's selling these days.
As I hung up the phone, I thought about the tail wagging the dog. The advice that's always offered at conferences is, "Don't try to chase trends, just write the book you want to write, as well as you can write it," (or some variation therein).
But that's not always possible. Everyone from agents to editors has a say in your next book. Sure, you can give them the brush off, but then there's always the risk that they won't be excited to shop that manuscript, or market it if it is slated for publication.
For writers, this can serve as a real wake up call, especially since occasionally the advice you're receiving stands in direct contrast to what was offered by the same source months earlier. I might be mistaken, but at times it seems as though no one has any idea what will sell in this marketplace. I know a lot of writers who are racing around trying to figure out which project they have the best chance of selling, especially if they're writing it on spec. Which is perfectly understandable- devoting months or years to a manuscript that doesn't sell is incredibly disheartening (and I speak from experience). Moreover, for writers who rely entirely on their books for income, the prospect of not getting another contract is downright terrifying.
For the first time recently, I received some negative feedback on a synopsis I'd submitted for my next book. All legitimate concerns, I realized as I re-read what I'd written. However, the suggestions offered for the direction the book should take didn't sit well with me; that wasn't the book I wanted to write. In the end, after some brainstorming, we came up with a solution that (hopefully) makes everyone happy, but I'll confess that I did experience a moment of panic. In the past I've worked as a writer for hire; most of my freelance articles were written for money, not for love of the subject matter. The thought of doing the same for a novel, committing months to a project I just wasn't that excited to sit down and write, was nervewracking. But then again, to have that manuscript rejected would have been far worse.
Join us on Sunday, July 19, when Julie Kramer, thriller author of MISSING MARK and STALKING SUSAN will be our guest blogger.