Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"Watch the Market"

Excuse me as I go off on a little rant here. Actually, isn't that part of what a blog is commonly used for? And last I checked, this is my blog. Hmm. OK, ranting away.

A dear friend of mine sent me an agent's musings the other day on how publishing trends are moving, in this particular agent's POV. Of course, I saw the words that make my eyeballs pop out of my head every time I see them: Watch The Market. What? Yes, watch the market; be attuned to what's hot and selling right now, so that you too can jump on the bandwagon with your homage to the style of whatever hot author is doing the aforementioned selling. Since I'm entirely too opinionated for my own good, my reply to my dear friend went something like this:

"You know what ticks me off? The agents who say as this one did "watch the market". It seems such impractical advice for those currently writing something and a disservice to everyone else. So you watch the market and see Gothic romances will be hot in the coming month. You go off and you write one. If you know the genre you get a head start but God help you if you don't. Six months minimum to write if you want something more than fluff, then edit the first draft because you're an ass wasting an agent's time if you don't try to polish it. Maybe you get requests for partials or maybe not. By that time historical mysteries are the next big thing coming down the pike. So now you've written this darn thing that no one can sell because you "watched the market". Whatever happened to writing what you love, pouring your heart and soul into your passion?"

Now I have seen variations of the advice the agent offered about watching the market - my favorite is "write what you love but make sure it's what hot and happening now". But I still have to ask; what's wrong with just writing what you love? Maybe I've got it wrong but for me writing is my passion, my love. If I couldn't do it for some physical or mental reason, I don't know what I would do but I'm sure it would involve going insane. There are so many stories sometimes bursting from my overworked brain that it takes true discipline to sit down and write a schedule of projects so I'm not dashing from here to there, and writing gibberish along the way. And it's safe to say in the years I've been doing this that I've discovered where one agent may hate a story, another adores it. Something along the lines of "one man's trash, another's treasure."

So my mantra and advice is: write what you love and then go out and find the agent or editor who loves it too.


Sheila Lamb said...

It also seems that the market, like fashion, goes in cycles. A few years ago, historicals were "out." Now they are supposed to be back "in."

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. It seems silly to write in a genre that you are not interested in :-)

Anita Davison said...

I agree with you here,Lisa. This rule may be more applicable to screenwriters and people who compile situation comedies. They are certainly driven by fashion and what's 'in'. But writing is supposed to last longer. Books are read and put away to be taken off the shelf and enjoyed years later. Publishers might only be worried about what sells this year, but readers, I think, are less fickle. Writers can only write what they love - or what's the point?

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