I should have a clever title for this post, but I don’t

(Found this in my things-to-post-one-day file. I don’t remember when exactly I wrote it anymore, but I still think it holds true, so I’m posting it. :-))

Every so often, I hear this notion–among published and unpublished writers alike–that a project someone’s working on won’t sell, to publishers or readers, because it’s too different from whatever else is out there.

Ignoring the fact that often the books that seem daring or risky to their writers often don’t really seem that way to readers … I’ve been thinking about this, and, you know–it’s not like the books that look just like everything out there automatically sell, either.

The reader in me wishes writers could get rid of this fear that if you dare to follow your voice and let your book be what it wants to be, you’re somehow damaging your career. Because those are the books I want to read, and I don’t think I’m alone in that.

At one point in my career, I remember trying to figure out what sort of books would sell, and writing lots of proposals in hopes of producing one of those books. It didn’t work–writing the predictable book that everyone wants is not as easy as folks seem to think it is–but along the way I realized something: one of the most commercial things I could possibly do is write the books I want to be writing.

Because if I write just like everyone else, well, my book might sell today (or it might not), but tomorrow … well, tomorrow I can be swapped out for any other writer writing the same stuff. And if the market becomes oversaturated with books like the book I’m writing, there’s no reason to keep me around at all. Being predictable is as shaky a way to build a career as any other.

But if I write like myself … well, it may be that not every book sells. But if someone actually does want the sort of books I write? They’re not going to be able to get them from anyone but me.

And, well, I think there’s commercial (not to mention literary) value in that, too.

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