Thursday, September 29, 2011

Back in the Box

Home from the ACFW conference this week, free to process what I heard and what I learned.

I don't usually share sorrows. But I'm in a heavy mood over this one. It's nothing serious -- my loved ones are in health and I've really nothing to complain over. But my dear-to-the-heart 973 Wales book is not going forward in its present form. The story I wanted to tell is not the story the publishers want.

I heard similar things from two editors. The summary I presented on the one sheet caused pursed lips and raised brows. I explained that my plot points were true to their time, but heard, "Yes, I'm sure they are, but our readers will not accept them."

Point: though young women often were given in marriage in their mid-teens, my heroine cannot be in her mid-teens. She has to be older. Readers will not accept a main character who's considered a grown woman and ready for marriage at 15.

Point: my girl's true love and her husband have to be the same person. The readers will not accept that she loves one man and must marry another for political reasons. This, too, was true to the age, but the readers will not accept it.

Get the drift? The story I wanted to tell, how a woman can triumph over stiff odds, can come to love the quest for peace, can come to terms with an unwanted husband...all that must be taken out.

The more outspoken of us Christian fic writers talk about "the box." This far and no further. Write this and not that. Show these characters and delete these others. Deal with these themes and not those. Some of us would love to kick the sides out of the box, and some, including people I'm proud to call friends, have kicked the sides with some success. I honor them for it.

But not this story, and not at this time. Back in the box, PEACEWEAVER. The readers don't want you. Or so I'm told. To pitch this project (hopefully with some success), I'm selling out to The Box. I'm gutting my story.

I feel sad about doing this. What will be left (and I'm 40 pages in to the rewrites) will not be the story I wanted to tell. It may be something more banal, something perhaps less interesting, something I might not want to read were it for sale in a store. I hope as I overtype my original manuscript that it will be a better book than its predecessor, but hoping is all I can do until I see what it becomes.

Many factors in this writing/publishing life are beyond my control. My story and how I tell it are the only things I can control. Heaven knows I'm trying for quality.

I'm not complaining that the market is as it is. My wail is over the fact that it cannot be allowed to spread to cover a little wider span.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Readers with Short Attention Spans, Beware

...'cause this will be a longer post than usual.

I'm reading everywhere that the publishing industry is changing. This is no great surprise -- it's been in the process of changing since Urgh the Neanderthal first chiseled his name on a rock (don't worry, it's okay, he didn't get an advance either). What interests me is the speed at which change is happening; the anguish some folks seem to feel that their crystal ball won't tell them exactly where it's going; the all-of-a-sudden respect e-publishing has gained in some quarters; and the apparent desire of the print industry to either ignore it all or figure out how to keep the print market exactly as it is today.

Speed of change: it's mind-numbing. When I sold my first e-book in 2002, people asked me when it was going to be a "real" (i.e., print-and-paper) book. They also intimated that I should come back and talk about my writing when I'd made a real sale, that meaning a sale to a real, live publishing house with a New York City address. What could one do but grit the teeth and say something on the order of: "It's a real book because I have a real contract and they send me real royalty checks."

Fast forward 9 years. Now according to their own blogs, many established authors who've sold to the same real, live NYC publishing houses are embracing e-books: so much so that they're going direct-to-reader and e-publishing on their own. From one level of ignominy to another! What are they thinking?

Easy. Why let a publisher keep between 92% and 65% of the monies earned when you can keep a higher percentage yourself? Granted, these direct authors have costs: they must buy editing, cover design, and perhaps set-up. But once these costs are cleared, all the proceeds are the author's. Given the right kind of name out there with readers, why wouldn't they go this route?

Speed of change, yes.

Anguish? You betcha. It's out there. People who used to sniff at e-books are now having their stuff released that way. Sometimes the e-version releases simultaneously with the print version, sometimes not. I have resolved to be gracious and not ask any of these folks whether their e-version is a real book....

Scrambling: One author who recently signed a contract with an advance I wouldn't turn up my nose at, is now being told that since she went direct to readers and self-pubbed short stories that house had already rejected, she's in breach of her contract and must give the money back. I wouldn't want this kerfuffle for the biggest advance on the planet. I sense some frantic thinking on the part of this (unnamed) house: "Oh, no! We can't put a stranglehold on our authors' work anymore. What then must we do?" And some beancounter decides, "We won't let her get away with this! We'll yank her contract."

The truth is that nobody really knows how this is going to shake out. People who are taking their work direct to their readers are likely braver than I am.

But I find myself thinking about it.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Conflicting Projects, Conflicting Emotions

Writer's angst. Which of us hasn't experienced it?

My conundrum: I'm told my medievals aren't wanted. They won't sell. To make matters worse, instead of working on something that may sell, I've got a first century story niggling at my brain, trying to get out.

So what am I doing on these writing-Wednesdays? Working on the third medieval time-travel story, which I'm told will never see the light of day.

It's going very, very well -- probably because nobody but me will ever glimpse it.

Discouraged? You bet.