I’m taking advantage of Google Reader to feed me an entire industry’s worth of advice from agents, booksellers and publishers. On any given day 400+ posts are waiting in my reader telling me the same thing: Give it up honey. You don’t stand a chance unless your protagonist has fangs or a past drug habit you want to include in your memoirs.
Boy, am I ever glad I waited until now to find out what publishers and agents really want. Imagine if I’d done this research years ago, before I started my novel. I can only assume I’d have chosen something else to write, or at the very least gone about it in a different manner. I’m not saying you shouldn’t familiarise yourself with the publishing world. To not do so would be silly. However, if you are attempting your first novel, it can be daunting to get through all that information. There is so much advice telling you what is right and wrong. It can be confusing, even harmful and stop you dead in the tracks of whatever experimental interesting form you were attempting.
I wish it were easier to keep writing what I love and to hell with everything else. Continue with my quirky book and forget what (insert popular author) did last year with (insert popular book title). But publishing is a business. A lucrative one for those fortunate few who happen to hit on the right combination of ingredients. I have to wonder what happens to writers who refuse to tow the line? This isn’t a rant against booksellers or publishers – after all, it is their job to sell books. But unorthodox works, like the weird imaginative kid in class, should also be acknowledged, even if those books never sell a million copies, even a few hundred, or get reviewed in the New Yorker. Some of my favourite writers never sold squat. Imagine a world without their novels and stories? A world full of nothing but commercial fiction, melodramatic memoirs and teenage vampire slayers. What a sad world indeed.