The online diary of a dreamer creating Contemporary Romantic Fiction - because Every Woman needs Love and Laughter in her Life.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Writing the Commercial Bestseller

Crime and former Romance author Tess Gerritsen was interviewed recently by Sandra Rutton in SpineTingler Magazine about the very real and personal decisions writers take when framing their story.

For example;
Sandra Rutton : Recently, there was an exhaustive discussion about whether or not the mystery genre is stagnate. You stated:“If you write something different, REALLY different, you get punished for it in reader confusion and poor sales.

The vast majority of readers want the same thing, over and over again. If you give them something they’re not expecting, the chances are, only a minority will truly appreciate what you’ve done.“So your sales suffer. And that begins the downward spiral of your sales, a spiral that could well turn into a death spiral from which your sales may not recover. And then you can’t sell ANY books, and that’s where being truly creative got you.

“Some years ago, I wrote what I think of as my best book, GRAVITY. A thriller without any villains. A thriller set in orbit. It got the best reviews of my life and yet it sold the fewest copies. And it took me years for my career to recover from that disastrous experience.“Some of us long to write the truly creative, truly off-beat book. But we must do so with the full realization that for the most part, the reading public wants plain old-fashioned vanilla. “How hard do you find it to balance the scales between the idea calling to you, the thing you’d love to try, and the idea you know can sell?

Tess Gerritsen: Oh, it’s really hard! When you take on a risky and starkly different project, you’ll face resistance from just about everyone.
Publishers want you to repeat your past successes again and again. Booksellers may not know where to shelve your new book.

Cruelest of all are the readers, who may simply pass by your daring new book and reach for someone else, someone predictable.
I’d like to believe that my readers are open-minded enough to stay with me, to follow me in a new and different direction, but I know many of them won’t. T

hey certainly didn’t reach for GRAVITY. When a book I love does poorly, I’m most disappointed in my readers.
I think the only way one can survive as both an artist and a working writer is to limit the number of risks you take.

You have to give the readers what they crave, the books they’ve come to expect from you.

But every so often, just for yourself, write a book you need to write.Otherwise you’ll get to the end of your career and look back with regret on all the projects you didn’t write, but dearly wanted to.’

For me this interview frames the very real decision making dilemma writers face;
there are storylines and fiction scenarios which the author is passionate about and wants to communicate to the readers;

*she has to frame those stories into a format and tell them the best way she can
*she has studied the market and recognised the framework of crime fiction tropes which seem to be common to the bestselling work by popular authors - but they may not be in the style she writes in.
*she want to be a contracted, working, professional author. She also wants to express her personal voice.
*she knows that literary agents and publishers run a business to make money and to do that they need to sell consumers something they need and want/ or will want.

Time to bite the bullet and get down to create a product [ a single title book] which can appeal to a wide audience and will make itself irresistable to the market which is totally crowded - and STILL retain a unique and special voice.

Better get to work.

What's playing on my YouTube right now? Soundtrack music to inspire from Thomas Newman -


Debs said...

It's a shame that regardless of how individually you want to write, every novel has to have some sort of formula in order to fit in somewhere.

Ray-Anne said...

I agree. But she is quite correct - rather like screenplays, the publishers [ because of the readers of course] want to see 'the same but different' and it is our job to provide it. The real dilemma is how to create a brand for a stand alone novel which fits that niche.
... and some folk think this is an easy option. Sigh.