Wouldn’t it be great if we had a surefire formula for publishing success? In a recent discussion with writing friends, we debated whether traditional publishing success comes from following your heart, or by writing what the market demands. Should you conform to genre conventions and write about topical issues, or remain true to your instincts? Well look no further – to answer this question, I’ve developed the Publishing Success Flowchart.
First, allow me to define my terms (apologies, my roots as an engineer have to come out somewhere).
x: your stunning writing score. The range is 0-5, where
0 = ordinary or less
1 = competent, ie. clean of errors, reads well, is compelling and conforms to show, don’t tell
5 = stunning, i.e. the writing has everything listed in competent, plus it’s poetic, has beautiful imagery, symbolism and the voice is strong
y: your market compatibility score. The range is 0-5, where
0 = no match, i.e. an unpopular genre/topic, or no clear genre, so a publisher can’t see where it would fit in a bookstore
1 = some overlap between what you write and what the market wants
5 = complete match, i.e. it’s topical, has a clear genre and an obvious marketing strategy
z: your total writing score, z = x + y. The range is 0-10.
Publishing success comes when z > 5.
Now, see whether you agree with the flowchart.
- We could get bogged down for hours debating how to evaluate x and y for a given manuscript, but that isn’t the purpose of this blog. Let’s assume your book can be rated. In real life, figuring out where you fit on the scale is part of the challenge.
- This is a simplified view and I have ignored multiple other factors. For example, track record. A known author has earned the right to break the rules and get away with it. They can mix genres with impunity and carry their readers with them.
- If x=0 or y=0, you can get stuck in an infinite loop. i.e. If your story has no match to the market demands, or your writing isn’t better than average, you won’t get published.
- If your writing is stunning, you can get away with a lower match to the market.
- If you have a close match to the market, you can get away with slightly less stunning writing.
In summary, to find publishing success you need both great writing and a degree of marketability. My advice? Start by writing from your heart. If this coincides with a clear genre, you are well on your way. If not, revise your concept to better match the market. Either way, striving to make your craft as brilliant as possible is imperative.
I hope this makes you smile, and with any luck, gives you something to think about. If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy The Book Publishing Flowchart.
Next time: an update on the Australian bushfires, A Burnt Country