"The result is that those who have unique voices switch to writing best-selling formula or quit. And editors ask for fresh voices!" IJ Parker

I lifted that quote off of the Kool-Aid thread, because it got me thinking about something that came up on a discussion list that's been bugging me for a few days.

The comment on the list was that if writers are in the business mainly to make money they're in the wrong business.

Anyone who follows it will know what I'm talking about. They will also know about the ongoing discussions of what you can - and cannot - include in your books. No dead puppies. Not too much sex. Not too much violence or showing blood. A fictional disease might be better than giving a character cancer, etc. etc. etc.

What I really want to say is that if I'm required to follow a checklist of what is and is not acceptable to include in my book, shouldn't I expect to be well paid? I mean, it's hardly writing for love anymore, is it? It's writing to meet the preferences of certain outspoken readers.

And here's the sad truth, that brings me back to IJ's comment: Probably few authors on here could honestly say that they haven't made some compromise with their work in order to get it published. Now, for the majority of people it was probably something minor - changing a character name, toning up or down the violence in a scene accordingly, etc - but in some cases it becomes something major. I had to put my first book in the US. And here's the thing: We applaud authors who do a wonderful job utilizing the setting and making it a character in books and then we tell other writers "Great stuff, move it to a US city." Move it somewhere we've never been, no offer to pay to send us there for setting research, pretty well guarantee we can't capture the essence of the place.

That's been my little bugbear. I thought it would be easier if I went with a Canadian agent, and found he also wanted me to move my new manuscript south of the border. The biggest problem was that the premise for the whole book was such that even in some cities in Canada it couldn't work: it needed a fire department that operated on a certain system. I'd done my homework. As much as we all take some fictional liberties from time to time, moving the book would have compromised it's authenticity to the point of making it a joke.

And what nobody seems to understand (maybe because I'm odd?) is that I'd rather make less money than sell out.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying anything against the learning curve involved in improving your writing so that it's sellable. But I see so many stories being touted as a 'highly original' when they're the same old recycled themes from B movies last decade.

And don't misunderstand - I'm happy to work with an editor. I pray more for a great editor than anything else - the friends I know who have them can't say enough about how fortunate they are. I'd consider all revisions suggested for valid reasons. For example, naming characters is a tough thing for me but I'd rename without question if an editor wanted me to - stuff like that doesn't bug me, but just relocating a story for the hell of it does.

Consider this: This was my attempt at a big conspiracy-theory novel, set partly in the USA (a country I'd never visited) and with a lot of humour. It involves space shuttles and spy satellites and all that sort of thing. Unfortunately, my editor of the time didn't like it, and had me make masses of changes - taking out the humour and the US settings, for example - by the end of which I felt the book had ceased to be mine; it wasn't the story I'd wanted to tell in the first place. I don't think I could bear to read it now... and it's out of print anyway. Ian Rankin, speaking about Westwind.

Have you ever thought about what price is too high for being published? Any of you who've had to make a difficult decision? Any chance that stifling some of the originality of talented authors is contributing to a decline in reading - people turned off by the same old, same old? (I certainly know that when I get something that's predictable and boring me to tears I start playing Mahjong.)

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I wouldn't make the changes if they were compromising something I thought was important to the work, if they were compromises just to be published. If I wanted to take dictation, I'd have become a court clerk. I would make the changes to improve the work, and I'm incredibly lucky to have a fantastic editor who actually told me to, "Never let anyone tell you how to do this, not even me. You listen to your own gut instinc and do it your way."
Oh Toni, I think you should collect all the complaints you receive over Ms. Fuckity-Fuck-Fuck and her foul mouth. You might be able to set a world record, and that could generate some publicity.

You know, a marketing angle born straight out of creative integrity. ;)
LOL... yeah, you know, I should probably do that. Or I could do some sort of widget to count all of the prayer lists I've been told I've been placed on.
Yeah, set up a counter on your blog or something! Some people chart the progress of writing the next novel but this would be far more interesting!
i was once asked to severely soften a main character an editor called despicable, with no redeeming qualities. if i didn't change him, i was told the book would still be published, but wouldn't get any in-house backing from my editor. i simply couldn't bring myself to turn him into a character i would never write. that kind of decision is almost always a nail in the coffin as far as the publishing world goes, because sadly that kind of choice earns the writer the reputation of being difficult to work with and not worth the hassle. either way the writer loses. write it their way and you may get a much larger print run and more backing, but you run a serious risk of losing readers. write it your way and you get a small print run for a book readers might not even know has been published.
"sadly that kind of choice earns the writer the reputation of being difficult to work with and not worth the hassle"

Exactly. I can see this being a real issue for new writers, getting their first taste of a deal, and then once signed finding themselves facing tough choices. It may also not come up on book 1 or 2, but if you're signed to a 3 or 4 book deal if your sales haven't been great or as good as hoped for the first book or two you might be under serious pressure to keep from being dropped.

Of course, then it isn't even just you you're thinking about, but fans of your work, whether or not your agent will stand by you, etc. It's far more complex than just moving to another publisher.
I say, why choose when you can have both?

I didn't write SNAKES ON A PLANE for love. I didn't write MONEY SHOT for money. I let the money gigs pay for the time I need to do the love projects.

Plus I genuinely enjoy novelization and tie in work. I find it fun and challenging, like that game we all played as kids when one person starts a story and the next person continues it. It sure beats dunking fries.
Ideal if you can do this, although most of us aren't tie in writers and wouldn't have a clue about getting started with that. I suspect it's a kind of cross-training, like journalism. It helps you sharpen your writing skills. I think I'd find it fun to try.
Speaking as someone who hasn't been published and therefore hasn't had to make that choice, I have no legitimate opinion to offer here, so I'll offer a naive one instead. Whenever I've helped someone edit their writing, I keep reminding myself that my job is simply to make their story as good as it can be and bite my tongue whenever I think another, slightly different story would be better (better simply meaning this other story would be one I'd prefer to read or write). Same goes for marketing - a good marketeer should sell whatever product they're given to the best of their ability. They shouldn't try and change the product to fit their favourite sales pitch.
I completely agree with you. Great editors polish the diamond instead of trying to turn it into an emerald.

And marketing... yeah. In a nutshell.
Definitely. I still think my writing's shite, but after Al has worked it's magic on it, it's polished shite :o) Still my book though, my ideas, my utter shite.
And that's a case where the marketeer's job is easy. I can see the posters on the train station platforms now:

Donna Moore

Shiny Shite

And a picture of a big sparkly turd.

Honestly, I bet people would buy that book regardless of what the story was about.


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