Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. Musings from someone who sees stories everywhere.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

What writers want

Mountain ranges and canyons seem to divide what writers want from the priorities of an editor or publisher. Some years ago, one of the senior editors at Deccan Herald gave me an intro to a Penguin editor. I emailed her and sent a sample of my childrens writing as requested. And then she suggested we meet.

She was very polite and businesslike, particulalrly liked one of my ideas, and I went ahead and wrote a novel. She saw it, said nice things, and I felt on top of the world, dreaming BIG dreams.

but...It wasn't good enough fo them to buy the book. She explained privately that promoting new writers was extremely tricky. I got the distinct hint that especially if a writer wasn't into the arty party circuits and knew everyone who matters, people will wonder who the heck is this and not take interest in a nobody. If a writer is already well-known, it is that much easier to proftably sell his books. Bottom line: marketing and profits count. Unless a new writer can make a particular editor fall in love with his work, it won't get published. A very iffy business on the whole. Unknown writers like me are poor business propositions.

To me it seemed like the chicken or egg conundrum.

She did like my work enough to try to put me on to translating childrens stories, and I worked on some of her sugestions. But nothing came of it. Basically, all publishers look at the business side and after much writing and discussing, no deal may come through.
At this stage, I decided to stop writing things to 'fit in' to the needs of publishers. Now, I write about what I feel like, where my heart leads me. Not expecting to make megabucks or waiting for the biggies to come flying with gilt edged contracts to my doorstep. Not because I don't need money. We're simple middle class folks. But I feel I've slogged in the rat race long enough, so I deserve a bit of personal freedom. So if an editor/publisher likes it, fine. If he doesn't, I never expected anyone to.

I know many talented but unknown writers who are nothing of consequence. As yet.

I feel everyone starts at that point. Luck and hard work determine where they go from there

This is where I am right now, refining my writing to make it the best it can be and searching for an audience. The story continues.


Zafar Anjum said...

Have to agree with you. New writers need to start somewhere but who will give them a chance?

Even when the big publishers agree to look at your work, mostly probably it will end up into nothing, while one keeps dreaming big. That is the sad reality):

So the only way is to struggle on kyonki writer hamesha jeet-ta hai, as Javed Saheb has said in the Reynolds pen commercial. Cheers!

Atyllah said...

Very well put. I've recently been reading some US agents' blogs. It strikes me that part of the problem in the publishing industry is also that people don't tell you the truth. One agent writes on her blog: "If we say it's not right for our list" or "better luck placing it elsewhere" it really means "your writing sux" and "perhaps I can pass this on to my most bitter rival". The trouble is, writers look for hope amongst the lines of a rejection letter. I can't help but wonder that if publishers and agents weren't a little more direct "we don't like this work" or "we don't believe you can write" (perhaps not so baldly phrased) that more would be writers would know where they stand - and either stick to their day jobs or go on writing courses.
The new wannabe writer it seems, faces multiple obstacles and at the end of the day, one can only write for oneself and hope for the best.

Read@Peace said...

Came to your blog via Zafar's Dream Ink. Enjoyed the post. To add to what's already been said... some of the publicists and editors who reject promising stuff are the ones who gave Kaavya Vishwanathan the million dollar break.

As they say, they are as human as the critics. If your writing is from the heart, it will get noticed, it's only a matter of time.