f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: You May Be Wondering: Three Real Answers to Hypothetical Questions

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

You May Be Wondering: Three Real Answers to Hypothetical Questions

A few comments about yesterday’s post (the list of books that we would or would not have published had we the opportunity.) These are issues you’re probably wondering about though they come from no specific reader.

1. “Are you nuts? You wouldn’t publish Asher Lev or The Hobbit? Do you have any taste whatsoever?”

My saying we wouldn’t publish something shouldn’t in anyway be construed as a comment on a work’s quality or aesthetic merit, but rather it’s place in our business plan. No matter how much we love the book, My Name Is Asher Lev just doesn’t fit in a CBA publisher’s list. You may think that’s unfortunate or dumb or worse, but that’s the true nature of this business. Thank God that there are ABA publishers ready to snatch such works up.

2.“If you wouldn’t publish 80% of these books, why bother discussing them? Why not talk about books you would publish?”

Two reasons. First, I think these books have more to teach us about writing. I’d rather have us learn from them and use them as our inspiration. Second, I’m in a precarious position here in what I say about CBA novels. Will I go on record here trashing the books we publish? Not a good career move. Will I take a book from another CBA publisher and critique it? I can’t. It’s a conflict of interest.

3. “Cut to the chase. I want to be published. How can I get published?”

Easiest way with us: write a well-written CBA book. If your writing is exceptional and your story strong, I’ll take a look at it. If it’s something I like I’ll handle it myself. In the least, I’d pass it to my colleagues who handle the more traditional CBA fiction. Boom! You’re on your way.

But that’s not why you’re here. You’re here pretty much because you want to go outside the mainstream of CBA fiction. You want to push boundaries and/or do something that’s never been seen before. And that’s the stuff I’ve been charged with finding. (Literally, that’s my job.)

What makes it more than slightly frustrating (for you and I and itchy readers) is that envelopes expand slowly and boundaries are not expanded overnight. Whether you like it or not, you are in the unfortunate position of being a trailblazer. It’s hard work and may go unrewarded. Every time we can publish an A+ novel within the CBA industry, however, the work gets a little easier. And there are more people alongside of you now. But you’ve got to realize that the real successes may not be seen for another generation. This isn’t a game for instant gratification or expectations of fame. And I don’t think I really want to work with folks who are in it for that anyway.

The writers I want are men and women who have a story they believe in. And they write it. Don’t even think about CBA’s parameters during your first draft. Complete it; polish it, and show it to me. At that point, we’ll talk about its place in the publishing continuum. Are their sacrifices you’re willing to make if the content simply can’t be handled in the CBA market? Are you willing to take some heat for publishing something that may raise eyebrows? These are all questions for down the line.

Right now the book needs to be written. Focus on the story. Don’t get caught up in the arguments and the muckety-muck. Nothing gets published (ABA or CBA) without being finished. And, no offense, anyone can have an idea for a novel. You’re really showing us something when you finish that idea.

Writers write. That’s it. It’s a simple equation. So write.

Hey, I found my copy of Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. (It was buried in the basement under some software I haven’t used in months. Can you believe I didn’t look there sooner.) I hope you give some thought to checking the book out. I’m a comics geek, so there’s more in the book for me than someone who only cares about fiction, but I think any artist will appreciate its dissection of the medium. Libraries or a weekend trip to Barnes and Noble are great for taking a peek at such things.

Anyway, that means we can get on with our discussion of the craft of writing tomorrow. See you then!