As my previous post mentioned, I spent last weekend with over 80 other writers at Mahoney State Park in Nebraska. Speakers Mary Colgan of Chronicle Books, agent Terry Burns, and best-selling author Alex Kava all gave excellent presentations — I took pages of notes to mull over. And my first-ever workshop on critiques, Dishing it out & Taking It, seemed to go over well. As a bonus, I met my fellow Authors by Moonlight blogger, Sherry James, face to face after working with her online for like, four years.
The best thing I learned came from both Mary and Alex. Both of them still have to carve out time for editing and writing, respectively. I’m not sure which is more ironic: That editors have to make time to edit and a best-selling author has to make time to write, or that this is the best thing one can learn.
When you’re an aspiring writer, the focus is on writing a polished manuscript that gets you an agent and a sale. When you’re published, you still have to produce polished manuscripts, but your writing is now a product in the publishing business. Editors need to envision a manuscript’s market — its pool of potential readers — before they acquire it. They are not motivated by any more greed than the rest of us. They have bills to pay too. A product that doesn’t sell isn’t going to do the publisher or the author any good.
I had been feeling guilty because I’ve been trying to keep up with sales of Her Scottish Groom and wondering if my WIP’s concept is simply fresh and unique or if it’s gone too far from its basic trope and won’t sell to anyone. This weekend demonstrated that there is more to a successful book than a well-written story. Learning more about the workings of a successful publishing house from Mary, and about the demands the market can place on a writer from Alex, I feel empowered, not discouraged. It is a challenge to balance the needs of the marketplace against the needs of the writer-as-craftsman/artist, but people are doing it. So can I. So can you.