Tail Wagging the Dog?

Watch Out. We Do Bite Back. (By Sharla Perrin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Watch Out. We Do Bite Back. (By Sharla Perrin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

It’s really bugged me, this thing that goes: “write what readers want to read.”

It’s also really bugged me this thing agents and editors say: “can you make this into a series?

You see, as an artist, I take a certain umbrage at being told I have to write what others want to read. To me—to the artist inside me—I want to write what I want to write. What begs to be written by me, the stories that percolate and surface beneath and onto the surface of my mind. For me to have to write what others want to read is rather mercenary, at best. It’s looking at the whole thing from the wrong point of view (in my not-so-humble opinion), at worst.

Do painters and sculptors paint and sculpt what people want them to paint or sculpt?

Oh, and try telling that to a poet!

What happened to writers doing what they wanted to do, creating and expressing their own inner muses and creativity?

What happened to the single-book novel, nay I ask, what is so wrong with the single-book novel?

Anything can be sold. Abso-fricking-lutley anything.

I don’t want to write about vampires (without the “-yres”), I don’t want to write fantasy. I don’t want to write romance. I don’t want to be easily pigeonholed. I want my work to bridge genres. In and of themselves, there’s nothing wrong with any of these genres…except that there are too many of “the same” IMNSHO. I’m all for writers being successful, and feel there is room for all of us, but I am not for crappy writing being thrown around and slapped between two covers just because it will sell. I’m not for tritely cloned stories. And I feel for the writers who partake in this, because they feel they have to, to make it in this biz. If they want to do it, then that’s all them, more power to them, but, please, don’t do it just to cow to the Powers of Publishing. I have tied to read a lot of mid-list books a couple years ago, and found I just couldn’t do it. To me, and for the most part, the stories were tired and flat. Uninteresting. Trite. Poorly written.

Yet they sell.

Now, one or two were well-written, but the stories just didn’t interest me. Okay, that’s fair. I’m not everybody, and everybody’s not me, and my work isn’t for everybody. Different tastes keep life interesting. But, please, don’t coerce, intimidate, nor cajole me into writing like some other story out there just because some people are buying that particular “thing.” Fine, compare me, if it’s complimentary, but don’t force me into something I’m not.

Please, allow me (and others like me) to write what we want to write. If you don’t like it, fine, don’t read it, don’t take me on—but do not not take me on just because I’m not like what’s already out there, because it’d take just a little more Brain Power on your part to market and promote me. For chrissakes, people have told me my work has given them nightmares! You don’t get nightmares from stuff that doesn’t interest you, doesn’t bother you, doesn’t affect you in some, moving, profound, way! So, I’m betting that someone out there will like it. I don’t say this out of ego…I say this out of understanding humanity. If I like something, chances are someone out there will also like it. We’re really all quite similar in how we operate as Humans. If someone likes something, chances are so will others of our kind. I’ve written and published three novels. With one exception I can think of, the reviews are all favorable. So, I know I can write something–stand-alone books,  no less!—others would find interesting enough to read and review (and I thank all who took the time to review my books!)…have nightmares over!

It’s not that I’m so much against the Publishing World…as I am against the mindsets that drive it. I love most of the editors I’ve met, and some of the agents. I’d love to be able to work with a traditional publisher, regain agenting. I’m just asking for the mindsets to change…just a little. Become more open, more humane.

So, please, allow us to express our own unique creativity. Don’t force us into boxes that don’t exist. It is not a case of getting us to be more salable. You may think it is, but it’s not. You may have created a business out of distribution, but that doesn’t make it right that you impose your ways on us. You should work with us, as we are [trying to] work with you. You may feel like you have (or have had) the power to make or break us, but whether or not that may be the commercial case, that should not be the Human Way. You should not try to screw us over with your greedy, author unfriendly contracts. If you had no authors, you’d have no business. No power. If it wasn’t for us, you’d be nothing, and you’re power-purse-strings approach seems to squelch that for most, who succumb to your whims, but it doesn’t make what you’re doing right. This should be about distributing the work that we love and create—yes, with whatever needed improvements and polish that comes from professional editing—but, letting us do our job of writing what we love to write, and you do your job of distributing our work.

Money will be made.

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About fpdorchak

Gritty speculative fiction author. Please check out my website: https://www.fpdorchak.com/! Thank you for stopping by!
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12 Responses to Tail Wagging the Dog?

  1. pjsandchocolate says:

    On the other end, I’m working on a fantasy series, one that I’m putting a great deal of effort into world building and what-not, but if a traditional publisher thinks it isn’t selling quite enough after the first or second or third book, I could still get dropped and my world left hanging at loose ends.

    Or, as several others have pointed out – the series is nice, and publishers like that, but they want all the loose ends tied up nice and neat at the end of each book so that they CAN cancel the series without pissing the fans off too much.

    There’s more than one direction that the industry tries to dictate how the final piece is presented and manipulated.

    • fpdorchak says:

      See, I understand their traditional mindset. Don’t agree with it, but get it. But, if you go in thinking something’s gonna fail, chances are, it probably will. You’ve begun to psyche yourself up to lose. One needs to have faith in the work they bring over, be totally behind it 110%. If not—then do not take it on!

      I wish you all the best, and thanks for stopping by!

  2. Wendy Brydge says:

    This is something that I think all artists — be they writers like yourself, painters like me, or any other type — should try to learn very early on in their career. If you do something JUST to make money? I really feel that all you’ll end up with is a very hollow and unsatisfying “victory”.

    I see this in my own art world too, the push to do what’s popular, what people want, what’s hot at the moment. “This has fallen out of fashion, that’s so 18th century”, and so on. And I’m like, please, I obviously want to make a living, but I’m not going to compromise what I happen to enjoy painting! Because the things I enjoy are what make me, ME.

    And when you start creating something that’s tailored strictly for other people and not something that YOU like? You’re not going to enjoy it, you may not even be proud of it deep down, and most importantly, the world is going to miss out on YOUR unique passion.

    I’ve also learned that people don’t know WHAT they want. You can try and please them, but it’s impossible. And people are also very fickle. What tickles their fancy today, can bore them to tears tomorrow. Especially in this electronic age where everything you ever dreamed of is literally at your fingertips. It’s like living in a society of ADD-suffering butterflies. Flitting from here to there, and wherever the trendy social wind blows them.

    The only thing that any artist can ever be certain of, the only constant, is what they’re driven to create. Now, there’s nothing wrong with tweaking or tailoring something to make it more marketable. But being an artist should be about doing what you love to do, creating what you love to create. If you lose that, you lose yourself. And then nobody wins.

    • fpdorchak says:

      Well put! And, yes, there is nothing wrong with tweaking. I hope that at least some publishers will change their outlook and become more author friendly. Or that the commercial world becomes more ARTIST friendly.

      When it comes to selling people something they’ll want, that is also true…people do not always know what they want. And just because publishers and editors THINK readers will want (and only want?) one thing, does not mean that is the “truth,” to borrow from your “Seeker of Truth” blog title, Wendy. After all, these editors and publishers are people just like you and me, and though they may make more informed decisions on certain things, it’s still an OPINION. AND…if all readers are getting is what is foisted on them, then that’s all they know. If given other choices, I’m sure those other choices would also be something that could be just as interesting…and read (or looked at, in the case of art).

      Let’s just work with each other, for a change!

      It’s okay to want to make money…just not at another’s expense, pardon the pun. Thanks for droppin’ by from waaay up north! :-]

  3. Karen Lin says:

    You said, ” I take a certain umbrage at being told I have to write what others want to read.” I wonder if it might be easier on you if you think of it as not being told you “have to” but that agent/editor/author believes having a product she/he believes readers want will make it more marketable. And that it is a guess based on what they see selling now or as an upcoming topic – like putting out another book about Hillary with a guess that she may run for pres. It usually is an educated guess if it is topic or genre; it is typical industry standards for craft, plot, characters etc…. There are always the exceptions like Twilight that was too long but the assistant who picked it out of the pile didn’t know any better and actually read it. And the terrific Pulitzer Prize winning Tinkers (which breaks almost every rule in the book. And nobody tells us what to write, they only tell us what, in their opinions, readers are willing to buy. In the end, if you have a well written book, the sale part is subjective and a victim of timing and today’s whims on style. I understand well where you are coming from, but I’ve chosen to simply wait, write the next book and also have some plans to put out some nonfiction self pubbed soon. We have power now since that is where much of the industry is going. And you were a pioneer of what is now practically the standard. Pat yourself on the back for being way way ahead of the game. Now the trick is to find the readers who will love it. That’s easier said than done, right?

    • fpdorchak says:

      I appreciate your words (and thanks for the compliment :-] ), Karen, but, why would they have to mention such a thing at all, if they like your work? Why not just say, “Hey, this is great! Let’s see what we can do with it,” versus “casually pointing out” that “something else is selling millions and it’s not *your* kind, buddy”? Why even point such a thing out? And I don’t believe the “what readers are willing to buy,” sorry, Karen! They’re choices are limited by what is being put out there. I’ve heard so much of it at conferences, how agents and publishers are looking for something different, but when it comes right down to it, they’re not. They only want different if it’s more of the same. Writing quality doesn’t seem to always factor in. “Not right for us” covers a whole lotta ground that allows the industry to gracefully back away from works that take more effort than the easier ones. There’s very little “growing” of authors anymore. Instant hits, that’s the name of the game. These are smart people and “casually mentioning” that “Oh, BTW, readers are buying X, now…” is their subtle way of seeing if you’ve got anything similar. If you’re game to write something “more marketable.” So, the end result IS that they ARE telling us what to write…whether they realize they are or not!

      Really, why mention something like AT ALL, if they’re looking at your work?

      Again…just because something is not in the #TrendduJour, does not mean it cannot be made marketable. And always forcing the damned “series” train, is quite annoying. Personally, I don’t really like reading series’s. I’ve read some, might read more, should I ever find one I like, but I’m a stand-alone book reader, myself. And maybe there’s some Freudian in there, because I know exactly what publishers are doing with series work, dunno. And if I ever write my own series might eat my own words, but….

      Traditional outlets are traditional for a reason. Because they are made up of traditional mindsets. There’s nothing inanimate about this. It’s not pens and pencils that drive the actions. Not the book print presses that drive the output. No. It’s the people behind it all. Their mindsets. A traditional publisher is not going to go nontraditional. Nontraditional mindsets are simple not hired, and if they exist within the organization, will most like be let go. So, it’s the traditional mindsets that try to forecast what will or will not be sent out into the world, and therefore, be bought. Be read.

      As I always come back, is the Zen aspect. There are reasons why things happen or don’t. Behind-the-scenes energy aspects. Why your work or my work doesn’t get picked up by “official” outlets, we can conjecture forever, but there are reasons. I’m learning to live with them. Have found a way to publish. I’m not saying I’m a literary or genre master…I’m just saying that I’m a guy, a writer, and have found a way to write and release books. I’m not looking to be famous…don’t really want that (though it would be great to make a living off this)…but it’s fun to be READ. Subtle distinction. :-] And I do enjoy what I’m doing!

      Thanks, again, Karen, for stopping by and commenting! I could be wrong about everything, and it’s just my runnin’ off at the mouth again!

      • Karen Lin says:

        There is a track record of what has sold. Being out there doesn’t determine who will read it. And now that self pubbing is possible being out there isn’t the problem, it’s promotion. If an agent has treated you like that, that is one individual’s poor communication style – not that there aren’t others like them. Saying that a book is not “their kind” is actually very helpful. Either one hasn’t done his research to see what he/she is already repping or he’s being a bit tangential and may really mean, it’s not the kind of book I can get behind because I’m not passionate about it or the subject matter. Why they don’t just come out and say it like that (and some do) is beyond me. One of my agents did suggest I write something in another genre on my same topic – not because she was trying to tell me what to write but because she thought I had it in me (and said so) and she was certain that would sell. They are all about success and money-it’s their job. We aren’t in the age of “growing authors” and taking much risk anymore. Although I have to give kudos to my last cookbook agent, Deborah Ritchken. Even once she knew there was a small offer on the table (which really wouldn’t have netted her much) she stayed enthusiastic and confident about the project. They aren’t all only about money…sometimes passion plays in. I’m quite sure they are all looking for the mix of both, their passion for the book and the money. I truly don’t want an agent who isn’t passionate about my book – nor an editor. As to series: that is the money. It is a compliment that they’d like to see a series. It means they think it could succeed and the readers will want more.
        I’ve worked with quite a few agents and I’ve found most of them are well intentioned and know a route to take and may be less creative than we’d hope. Editors are not into growing writers in terms of craft, but in terms of popularity – again it’s a business and they are looking for the money….and the passion, that is a must before they can champion the book.

        • fpdorchak says:

          Well, this is exactly what I’m talking about, though, Karen. :-] It’s not really *about* track records or helpful and complimentary suggestions about one should or couldn’t write. My whole point was that I am creating something that comes from within me and am coming to one who, if they like my work, would help distribute it. But it turns into being “all about them and THEM making money.” For good or ill, yes, I know about “it’s all just business.” What I am saying is that the whole point of view has become skewed BECAUSE of big business. It shifts from the authors to the agents and publishers. What THEY can make money off of, not how can an author get their work out there, not how can we help authors, how can we work together. It’s a subtle difference. They will only work with us if WE can fit into their Venn Diagrams. It’s like we are there for them…not the other way around. If we accept their terms, then they’ll be our champions. “Well intentioned” is great, but only if we decide to go into their world. Play by their rules. It’s all about the MONEY, not the work. It’s only about the passion…if that passion can be sold. I have been told “I like your work, but don’t know what to do with it…so passing.” Your points are exactly what I’m talking about….

          • Karen Lin says:

            Yep… if you don’t want to play their game… self publishing is a great and inexpensive alternative now. The only way they can make money is to think about the business first (it is their bread and butter), and the talent second. It is simply reality for them. And then they are wrong sometimes — like those who passed on Harry Potter and kick their own butts for the rest of their lives. Writing isn’t for wimps and neither is their end of it.

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