What makes a work commercial?

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Wiglaf, Oct 15, 2007.

  1.  
    Wiglaf

    Wiglaf New Member

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    How do publishers determine if a submission is commercially viable?
    I know they are compared with recent releases in the genre. But trying to match what is selling when you send in a manuscript is unfeasible. Is there anything you can do to improve commerciality, or at least to avoid diminishing the commercial viability of your work?
  2.  
    Curt Chiarelli

    Curt Chiarelli Yog-Sothothery on the Fly

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    Lots of sex and violence never fails to help part the the masses from their cash. Outside of cheapening your work to the level of a potboiler, adding plenty of superfluous characters/subplots, etc. so that the piece becomes surface-tensioned to Tolkienesque doorstop dimensions and following submission guidelines to a "T" are amongst the wiser strategies. Understand that all the rest is reliant upon the arbitrary whim of the editor reviewing your work.
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    Giovanna Clairval

    Giovanna Clairval New Member

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    Oh, Curt, how cynical of you :D!

    You are right about a certain kind of literature, but what you say can't be extended to all bestsellers.

    I think that commercial success has also something to do with the ability of making people dream, transporting them in a believable word, making them care for the characters.

    But, talking about something I don't like, let's take Dan Brown. Horrible writer, isn't he? But he is a great novelist, after a fashion. I mean that his story is grabbing and intriguing, even though it is poorly written. And the novel is neither gory nor hot.

    Having people flock to the bookshops and buy one's book is a sign of some talent. Not the talent I cherish, in Brown's case, but talent.

    A book, to be successful, has to be an unputdownable read. It's as simple as that. Writing an unputdownable novel, and writing it well, that is the question.
  4.  
    Coolhand

    Coolhand Spiff's Stunt Double

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    If someone could come up with an exact answer to that question I suspect they’d own half the planet.
    Generally, commercial fictions tends to be more about the plot, more about telling a good story whereas literary fiction is less plot focused and more about character or ideas or the prose itself. But there are of course exceptions

    Basically, you’re trying to write something you think a lot of people would enjoy reading, rather than something that’s inaccessible or purely for your own indulgence. Commercial fiction has to keep its audience in mind to a large degree and be a bit more crowd pleasing, but that doesn’t mean it has to pander to “focus group” plots. Reading what’s selling well at the moment might give a few good pointers, but by and large a lot of it comes down to your own writing, whether or not the Editor/Agents likes it, and what the book buying public thinks.

    Lightning in a bottle, dude. I don’t think there is any writer who can look at their manuscript and be a100% sure what they’ve written is what the industry will think is commercially viable or liked by an Agent/Editor.

    Unless you’re Clancy or King or Rowling.
  5.  
    HardScienceFan

    HardScienceFan 'what to eat' fan

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    there are people who recognize talent.

    If you can write,you're basically ok
    so all hail Lucius Shepard,Clive Barker,Geoff Ryman.
    Enter Curt's point of view.
    we live in a lowest common denominator culture.Enter what the publisher thinks JOHN Q PUBLIC wants to read
    the Grishamization of culture.
    Let's put a dragon on the cover,boys.
    An seminude Vallejo babe,modelled after Miss june 2003,

    and hey presto


    plus FAMOUS AUTHOR quote

    Joyce Carol Oates: "I liked it"



    Ne York Times Lit Sup:

    'a tour de force'
    Ohio Times: 'unputdownable'

    Rolling Stone: 'say what?Cool novel,reminiscent of Gibson'
  6.  
    Ursa major

    Ursa major Bearly Believable Staff Member

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    Getting your book on "Richard and Judy" (UK) or "Oprah" (US) seems to help. (The former may explain the good sales figures of Mosse's Labyrinth; I can't think of any other reason it would sell well. :()

    There is, you see, a very small target market to win over: researchers on these programmes. Getting the book to them, through agents, editors, publishers' finance and marketing departments, though: that's a different matter. Best of luck. :)

    (Oh, and being born in the Kingdom of Fife helps to drum up readers here in the UK, but it's too late in your (and my) planning process for that.)
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2007
  7.  
    Simon Haynes

    Simon Haynes Yes, Mr Spacejock

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    When I look at my work I can't be 100% sure my readers will like it, let alone agents and editors!

    The only benchmark is whether I enjoy reading it, but after 15-20 drafts that goes out the window too.

    This photo of the printed drafts for my current WIP shows why my judgement might be impaired long before the final version is ready.
  8.  
    Coolhand

    Coolhand Spiff's Stunt Double

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    Ditto. I just write the stuff I think I'd love to read, and then try to finalise it before I over-edit, fall out of love with what I've written and start making changes for changes sake. It would be great if I could write something, edit it then wipe the memory of it from my brain and look at with fresh eyes. Ah well.

    Hmmm. I can see what HardScienceFan Curt are getting at, but I think there’s a danger of confusing bad writing with commercial fiction, or automatically equating the two. There’s nothing wrong with a good, entertaining potboiler full of plot twists, sex and violence. When they’re done well, they’re awesome fun and actually take quite a lot of skill to write properly.

    And whilst there is indeed quite a bit of tacky rubbish out there floating around under the heading of “commercial fiction”, there’s also a mountain of dull, self-important crap with delusions of grandeur bobbing around under the guise of literary fiction as well.

    Ultimately, “commercially viable” runs to anything that makes money. And that spreads over all forms of literature, pretty much.
  9.  
    HardScienceFan

    HardScienceFan 'what to eat' fan

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    a commercial success certainly can't be equated with an artistic success
  10.  
    Coolhand

    Coolhand Spiff's Stunt Double

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    Perhaps, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that one must exclude the other.
  11.  
    HardScienceFan

    HardScienceFan 'what to eat' fan

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    No
    on the other hand

    John Q public
    doesn't exist

    he is a figment of the Marketeer's imagination.

    Publishers want ROI
    except perhaps the ideologically based ones

    *hey let's just publish HIGH ART*
  12.  
    Coolhand

    Coolhand Spiff's Stunt Double

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    You know what? I agree with you 100% on that.:D
  13.  
    Curt Chiarelli

    Curt Chiarelli Yog-Sothothery on the Fly

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    It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it! :D :rolleyes:
  14.  
    Curt Chiarelli

    Curt Chiarelli Yog-Sothothery on the Fly

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    Bingo! There it is in a nutshell, the best advice of all: Write for yourself, never to please others . . . . let alone some yahoo in marketing.

    Quite frankly, life, like art, is a crap shoot with no guarantees. But, then again, the life of an artist is always a precarious affair. Sometimes security - financial and otherwise - is an impediment to artistic excellence.
  15.  
    Simon Haynes

    Simon Haynes Yes, Mr Spacejock

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    I've always written the sort of thing I loved to read, without any regard for the likelihood of getting published.

    I still remember a conversation I once had with a senior editor at an SF convention. She asked a bookseller contact of mine to introduce us, and we spent some time chatting about my published short fic, the spec fic magazine I was involved with and my works in progress. Then she asked my future plans. I could have said 'what are you after?', but instead I told her I was going to keep writing my series novels until they were picked up.

    No doubt she filed me away as a stubborn nut with no commercial sense, but my decision was vindicated in 2004 when a publisher came knocking. That felt great - and all I did was keep playing my own tune until someone noticed.

    People ask me whether I've thought about writing anything else, and my response is always the same: Why? Let someone else write in different universes. I'm happy doing MY thing.
  16.  
    Giovanna Clairval

    Giovanna Clairval New Member

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    The fact is, Simon, that you have talent. Your talent and the readers' taste (call it market) walk hand in hand.

    It's always about talent. Someone's talent doesn't correspond to another's, but it is always a tale of talent.

  17.  
    HardScienceFan

    HardScienceFan 'what to eat' fan

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    well said Simon

    always do you r own thing,not someone else's
    It's ALWAYS about talent Gio
    sometimes people benfd their talents to the public taste

    sometimes "the market" moves in a certain way,and the temptation is to move with it

    if you're a hack,that is

    i dislike hypes
    intensely
  18.  
    Havlen

    Havlen Unregistered User

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    I tend to write the stories that want me to write them and not worry too much about the commercial aspect. I figure, if the one I'm doing isn't commercial, perhaps the next that comes to me will be.

    I do have a feeling that the book I am shopping now sometimes falls into that "I don't think there is a market for this" category. Funny thing is I think it would make a good YA book (even though it doesn't have a YA character and I didn't write it thinking of it as a YA book).

    It's a comedy about goofy superheroes, and I do think some agents might think of a book about superheros that isn't based on a comic book doesn't have a market. (Personally, I think of it as a comedy first and everything else second.)
  19.  
    Simon Haynes

    Simon Haynes Yes, Mr Spacejock

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    Don't know about that - I certainly started from a low base. When I look back at my earliest short fiction attempts they were all pretty dire. The early version of my novel was awful too, and I had no idea about the mechanics of dialogue.

    But I've always read a lot of fiction, which helps, and I have a large collection of how-to books on everything from plotting to character to ... yes, the mechanics of dialogue. Over the years I've read them all cover to cover, underlining and highlighting as I attempted to fill large gaps in my education. (I went to school in Spain, after moving there with my family. So, although English is my first language, I did most of my education in Spanish. Fun, but not ideal. Fortunately, schools don't teach you a whole lot about plotting or dialogue either, so I guess it didn't make much difference. In fact, a school education usually isn't enough if you want to get published, which is one reason I still hit the learning books.)

    By the way, on the subject of how to write I seriously recommend Stephen King's "On Writing"

    You don't have to buy all these books, either - public libraries often have a good selection.
  20.  
    The_Warrior

    The_Warrior New Member

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    But, talking about something I don't like, let's take Dan Brown. Horrible writer, isn't he? But he is a great novelist, after a fashion. I mean that his story is grabbing and intriguing, even though it is poorly written. And the novel is neither gory nor hot.

    ]Heay! The film addaption of The Da Vinci Coad had Gandalf in it!


    ok.....back to the topic.

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