Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Hardest Lesson in Publishing

Been suffering from a nasty cold these last few days, ugh.  On the up side, my virus-related misery has been mitigated by reading some awesome books: namely, the conclusion to Mark Lawrence's excellent Broken Empire trilogy, Emperor of Thorns (link to my brief goodreads review here) and Catherine Fisher's Obsidian Mirror (my favorite YA read of the year so far! Link to my brief yet gushing goodreads review is here).

I have to say, looking at other people's goodreads reviews of Obsidian Mirror brought home to me once again just how subjective reader taste is.  To me, Fisher's writing is everything I want in a YA novel.  Haunting, tense, dark, compelling, with characters I'm dying to figure out, plenty of adventure and action, and no angsty teen romance - I flat out loved the book, same as I did Fisher's earlier novel Incarceron.  Yet plenty of other readers apparently read the very same pages and go "meh."

Which just goes to illustrate the hardest lesson of all in publishing: you can write the story of your heart, and craft it to near perfection; other people (agents, editors, readers) can love it too - yet unless that story happens to be the story of a LOT of other people's hearts, it's not going to sell in big numbers (no matter how much those readers who adore it wish it would).  Whereas a story that has all kinds of craft flaws yet strikes the right chord with a large number of people will sell like crazy.

The real kicker is that you as an author can only write what's in your own heart; try to write a story that you're not passionate about yourself, and readers will notice the lack.  Plus, for all that publishers try to predict what will speak best to people's hearts, nobody really knows until the book gets into readers' hands.  Every author deals with this uncertainty in their own way.  Me, I like to keep my expectations low.  If my book reaches even one other person's heart, then writing the story was worth every moment at the keyboard.  (I'm well aware this is far easier to say when writing is a well-loved hobby, not a means of putting food on the table. Reason #1,001 why I have no dreams of giving up my day job.)

But really, doesn't matter what your coping strategy is, so long as it lets you a) keep writing and b) have fun along the way.  I'll admit, some of my fun comes from things like this:

But mostly I love the joy and challenge of writing a story unique to my own heart.  In honor of that, I'll finish off with a picture that'd go well with the chapter I'm currently working on for The Labyrinth of Flame:

Near the junction of Buckskin and Paria Canyons.  Picture doesn't do the grandeur and beauty of the slot justice.  Flash flood's a serious risk, but at least (unlike Dev and Kiran!) canyoneers don't have to worry about demons or blood magic.  


  1. About YA, yeah, such reviews flummoxed me until I read a negative review of a book I liked that asked, "Where's the love story?", and then saw tons of glowing reviews for a book I didn't like, which focused only on what a hunk the guy was. : p

    And OMG - Janny Wurts! Just last week, when I mentioned a book on writing to a friend, I said, "I discovered it when Janny Wurts said in an interview that it's the only one a writer needs, and she's right."

    What a great discussion!

  2. Yeah, sometimes my husband's all, "So when are you going to write YA and earn the big bucks?" And I have to tell him, "Don't get your hopes up. The sort of YA I'd write wouldn't have romance and therefore would sell all of 3 copies."

    Ha, and now I am curious: which book on writing did Janny recommend?

  3. Here you go. My review is the fifth one.

    And here’s a really good interview with her, and where I first heard of it.