Award-winning writer Ray Cristina asks:
I wrote a novel that won a prestigious national prize, the James Jones First Novel Scholarship in 2001 for a novel that would honor “the spirit of unblinking honesty, determination and insight into modern culture exemplified by James Jones.” It was about a Vietnam vet who came home from the war with a purple heart and a struggle to once again enter civilian life. Several agents contacted me to represent the book. I chose one, he submitted it to a number of publishers, and the answer that came back was almost word-for-word the same, “We liked the book but we can’t sell it in today’s market.” So my question is:
What should a prospective novel writer’s motive be? When I considered a second novel I had to ask myself, “Should I set out to write a novel that can sell? How about a murder mystery? How about a police procedural? Can I invent a plot about a vampire in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania?”
Well, as anybody who has ever attempted to write a novel knows, it’s a helluva lot of work. I just couldn’t bring myself to spend a year inventing criminals, or vampires. I’ve written two novels since then, and I don’t see any point in sending them out. Probably couldn’t find an agent anyhow.
So what’s the point?
Perhaps you can write a police procedural about vampires killing publishing professionals.
Seriously, we understand your frustration. It’s tough to get published, even if you are an award-winning writer. There is no simple answer to your question, because there is no guarantee for anyone, even writers of vampire novels. (Believe us, there are plenty of writers trying to capitalize on the latest fads and having no success.)
In the end, the only reason to write is because you love it and you have something to say. If you are serious about giving the publishing industry one more try, you should probably start fresh with new work and a new approach. You might consider attending a reputable writers conference.
Another option would be to focus on getting shorter works published in journals and literary magazines. Perhaps you should start your own literary magazine; it sounds to us like you have the passion and the skills.
Good luck, and whatever you do, remember that you already have a achievement of which you can be proud.
Kathi Kamen Goldmark and Sam Barry
The Author Enablers
Authors of Write That Book Already: The Tough Love You Need to Get Published Now
Visit us at www.kathiandsam.net
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