I am writing this from the cafe area of a Barnes & Noble that is receiving a shipment of The Great Lenore this next week. And I feel a little bit like that minor league baseball player.
I thought about that while I wandered the shelves of books, checking to see if The Great Lenore had come in and been stocked early, and realizing how funny it would be if anyone realized I was browsing the shelves to see if I could find a book that I had written myself.
Interjection question: Jordan, how have the first few days of being a "published author" been?
Honestly, it's been fun. It's been more fun than I expected it to be. I expected this week to really just feel like a normal week, but it has felt special. Maybe I'll release another book someday so I can get this feeling again.
Now, a real post:
I have said over and over again on this site that I will never tell anyone they will love my book, as each reader has different tastes. I also realize that there is no book in existence that will be "just right" for every reader.
And now, I am beginning to realize that - as has been said by many writers before me - it is difficult to judge just how wide a swath of the reading public will react positively to a book.
When I was writing The Great Lenore, I (of course) tried to kick the story off from a specific launching point...and then allow the story to write itself. But in setting up the launching point, one of the goals for this story (one of the goals for my writing in general, in fact) was (and is) for the story to be something that would please those who - like me - glory in literature, while still being accessible enough for those who prefer commercial fiction or do not read often at all. And upon completing the book, I felt I had accomplished this goal.
As my former agent began submitting The Great Lenore to the major publishing houses, however, the general reaction seemed to be: The story is good, the writing is good, but we're just not sure it has enough commercial appeal. This was frustrating at the time - especially since the editors who returned to my agent with this reaction were editors with whom she had a close relationship, were in fact editors she felt certain would jump all over my manuscript. But no. Too literary. Too difficult to sell.
After my agent and I parted ways and I was fortunate enough to stumble upon Atticus Books before signing an "I do" with another agent, the very first concern my (at the time prospective) new publisher voiced was that he felt the book might be too commercial for a literary audience. This was not a knock against the book in his mind - it was simply him thinking aloud to me, working through what he saw as the potential positives and negatives of us deciding to take the plunge together.
Of course, we ended up taking the plunge together. But this seed of doubt had certainly been planted in my mind...
Not literary enough.
Not by a long shot has every eventual review for The Great Lenore rolled in, but so far, everything has been positive. Those who love literature have found that they love the book. Those who prefer commercial fiction or do not read often at all have found that they love the book.
Am I laying some serious weight on my own horn? Not at all (after all - as I said - I know there will certainly be readers who do not care for The Great Lenore...and the more you help me spread the word, the more likely we are to find these readers!). I am simply wanting to paint a picture for all of you who label yourselves: Aspiring Author.
You will run up against many detractors. You will run up against many who sow seeds of doubt. These people are not being mean - they are simply doing their job. Publishers are not supposed to see everything about a story that "works"; they are supposed to see everything that might potentially make a story not work. Agents are supposed to do the same thing. But just because an agent or publisher tells you something won't work does not mean they are right.
Look at all the tales of immensely famous and popular writers who were told their story would not work.
Or, look at writers who have been pumped up by publishing houses and even by big-time reviewers, but who have failed to connect with any semblance of an audience.
Because no one truly knows.
Until your book is released at last, there is no telling how readers will react. And until that time, your job is to keep writing. Keep working hard. Keep having faith.
When potential negatives in your manuscript are pointed out by an agent or publisher, listen. But take it with a grain of salt.
And remember: No one truly knows!
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