This has been a great week with a lovely writer who has really taken the time to share her publishing stories and her take on writing. I hope everyone has enjoyed the interview and will look for her books the next time you’re in the bookstore.
Today, I thought we’d talk about trends. Everyone knows there are trends in the publishing industry. Everyone knows you are told not to write to trends. Still, with the recent calls for more and more chick lit and the opening and closing of new lines, how much attention should writers pay to the market–and when should they give it major consideration? Do you see any trends developing? In sheer sales, romance books far outnumber the other contenders. In fact, you could almost put all the others into one slot and the romance genre would still tip the scales. Do you think this will continue?
Whether to write to the market or not. Tough question. I can’t help but think of Judith McNaught, one of the most successful romance writers ever. At the time she wrote her first historical, the trend was for big, heavy-on-history, books. She bucked the trend and wrote an emotional, wonderful romance set against a historical background, but historical events didn’t play an important part in the story. Since then, that book, WHITNEY, MY LOVE, which was a wildly successful bestseller, has been held up as an example of the kind of story readers want.
However, it’s foolish to spend hours/days/weeks/months/years writing what you want to write if it will never sell. Unless you’re one of those rare writers who don’t care if they sell, you want to try to find a niche for yourself that’s comfortable and something you feel good about doing but is still marketable. I have a friend I met online who struggled with disappointing sales during her early years of publication. She got terrific reviews but readers weren’t flocking to the stores to buy her books. She wrote offbeat stuff and wasn’t sure she could change. I asked her if it would be compromising to her vision of her story to add a popular hook. Romance readers adore marriages of convenience, secret babies, Cinderella rags to riches, prodigal sons, etc. She thought about this and although she continued to write offbeat stuff, she added popular hooks to the stories, and this made a big difference. She has gone on to become one of the most successful authors I know. It didn’t hurt that she’s a fantastic writer, but lots of fantastic writers never achieve commercial success. Lots of fantastic writers never even sell. I guess, in the end, you have to decide what kind of writer you want to be: one who rigidly does what he/she wants to do, regardless of trends or market appeal, or one who wants to sell his/her work and make some money doing so.
I would suggest that if you continually get rejections that say something like “we like your work but have no idea how we’d market this,” then it might be time to consider trying something different.
I believe women’s fiction and romance will continue to sell extremely well for the foreseeable future. Why? Because the majority of books today are purchased by women. To me, it’s as simple as that. The challenge for romance writers and women’s fiction writers will be to attract more young readers to take the place of the older readers we lose each year, but with the growing popularity of young adult books for girls and the whole chick lit craze, I think we’re on the right path.
Finally: What do your fans have to look forward to in the future? With the success of THE WRONG CHILD, do you plan to write more mainstream stories? And if you could give one bit of advice to a new or young writer, what would it be?
I have a lot of books scheduled for publication in the next year or two. My new series for Silhouette (the one I haven’t written yet) will be set against a small-town cafe. The women who will star in each book are members of a group who meet every Wednesday night for dinner. Originally, they belonged to the same exercise class, which is how they become friends. Because I’m not using a family as the common thread, I have more flexibility in the kinds of stories I can tell, so I’m looking forward to writing this series. As far as writing more mainstream stories, I’m working on one now that I have great hopes for. It’s about four sisters who come together after years apart because of the death of their mother. I’ll keep you posted!