Today, I’m joined by author Rebecca Lee Smith talking about writing for the market. Pleasing the puboishers is a subject I can get quite passionate about so it’s fabulous to have another author’s experience.
WRITING FOR THE MARKET
Making Your Manuscript Fit…or Not.
Write the book of your heart, stay true to your story, and sooner or later, your manuscript will sell.
I spent years slogging hopefully through slush piles, believing those words were true. But are they? And if they aren’t, what do you do then?
A Shadow on the Ground is the second book I’ve published, but it’s also the sixth manuscript I completed. I’m now working on number seven, so I’ve been around the query block a few times. One of my earlier manuscripts received sixty-six rejections from agents and publishers. It didn’t seem to fit in anywhere. But that didn’t stop me from trying to make it fit. Not romantic enough for the romance market? Fine, I’ll just add a few more love scenes. Too much romance for the mystery genre? Sure, I’ll cut back on the romance. Too verbally explicit for the straight-arrow library market? No problem. I’ll toss out all the hells, damns, and F-bombs. Eventually, I rewrote the life out of that book again and again, determined to please everyone. Or anyone.
Taking a manuscript you’ve nurtured, polished, and poured your soul into until it’s the best you can offer, then hacking it up to fit the submission requirements of various publishing houses can be a long, frustrating challenge. It can also leave you with the uneasy, desperate feeling that you’re capable of selling out, of doing anything to see your book in print. And if the finished product isn’t what you envisioned, you’ll have to decide if making changes you don’t fully believe in, and aren’t really “you” as a writer, is the price you’re willing to pay for a publishing contract.
The last rewritten version of that poor lifeless manuscript was almost unrecognizable to me, like an aging movie star whose face has been nipped and tucked so many times they look only vaguely familiar. I finally performed euthanasia on it, and put it to rest. Then I started writing something new. Something to please me. But this time I approached it differently. I couldn’t let this new manuscript, A Dance to Die For, (which ended up being the first book I sold) be all things to all people. I had to decide who I wanted to target, the style I felt most comfortable writing in, then give it my all. I had to figure out a way to balance the mystery and the romance that felt authentic to me. All my mysteries have romance in them; I can’t get away from it. When I get to know and like my heroine, I want to give her someone to love.
Deciding what I wanted to write didn’t feel like selling out, it felt like finding my niche and embracing it. I began following my gut in other ways as well. I abandoned the Great Agent Search, which had begun to feel demeaning, and stopped querying publishers who would expect me to mold my writing into something it could never be. This doesn’t mean I’ll be wed to one genre for the rest of my career, but it helped me focus on where I am now.
I know many writers who have modified their manuscripts to fit the market, and it has worked well for them. I read an article about a writer who took all the sex out of her book, added faith struggles for the hero and heroine, and sold it as an inspirational romance. I hope writing in her new genre is what this author truly loves, because if she’s successful, she may be stuck with it for a good long while.
I believe one of the reasons I finally snagged that elusive publishing contract is that I stopped trying to please everybody. Instead, I concentrated on writing what made me happy, what I wanted to read, what I was passionate about, and I think it showed in the writing. It also kept me sane. Because it is impossible to please everyone, you know. If you try, you’ll end up pleasing no one.
Fabulous post Rebecca! I love that you discovered writing the book you wanted to write rather than pleasing the industry. I started writing for my readers and have written five novels in 2 years.
Here’s more on Rebecca’s latest romantic mystery A Shadow on the Ground.
Morgan Maguire is afraid to believe in second chances. The family orchard is failing, her twin brother is being framed for murder, and the sharks are circling. The tough exterior she’s spent years hiding behind is beginning to crumble, just as the man who shattered her heart is back in her life. Gage Kirkland is as compelling and magnetic as ever, and he’s offering the kind of help she may not be able to refuse. But can she trust him?
To finance his troubled son’s therapy, Gage, a former investigator, takes one last job–recovering a stolen Civil War artifact. Unfortunately, it’s in the possession of the woman he left behind, the woman who’s haunted his dreams ever since. The electricity between them still crackles, but unless he helps exonerate her brother and finds a way to confess his true reason for returning, how will he ever recover Morgan’s heart.
Sneak peek inside the cover of A Shadow on the Ground.
Who is Rebecca Lee Smith?
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