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Should I trust professional feedback, even if they are not my public?

(13 Posts)
ishallconquerthat Thu 02-Feb-17 22:40:17

I don't have anyone to talk about this in RL, and think you guys might enlighten me a bit.

I have written my first book, and have sent it to some agents and publishers (the book is not in English, and the market is much smaller, hence sending it straight to publishers). I've been a journalist for 20 years and have always written fiction, so I'm not a total newbie writer, and I know the book is ok (I don't know if it's good or mediocre, but it's not very bad).

It's romance fantasy (girl meets hacker werewolf, they live happily ever after). Editors say market for this sort of story is saturated, so I guess I'll self publish. Fine.

Some people have read the book and enjoyed it (that's my goal: make people have a few hours of fun. No literary prize ambitions.)

I've got some feedback from editors and agents, and they make comments and assessments, but it seems like they are missing the point, commenting on things that are decisions I've made (like for example the fact I don't describe the characters' appearance too much. That was a choice). I have a feeling they are talking about the market and about what they think the readers want, and not about the book itself.

I'm very grateful for all the feedback, and always thank people for that. However, have any of you ever felt the editors didn't "get" the book?

The point is: should I trust an assessment by someone who didn't like the book very much? Because if they didn't love it, then they are not the reader for my book. (I know some people will like it and some people won't, and I'm ok with that. But I want to focus in pleasing the people who like it, not the "professionals").

Does it make any sense? Could you please help me make sense of that?

I think I have to trust my gut, but my gut is a bit confused. Should I rewrite the book or publish it as it is?

(Some people have previously made comments that I agreed with, like questions about the motivation of a character, or a scene with too many coincidences. I immediately made the changes, because I felt they were pointing out weaknesses, and the story got stronger after I rewrote those bits. But when someone says "there is not much POV of this character, so it's hard to get involved with them" or "Too little description of places" I'm not sure if I agree or not.)

PS: I believe strongly that what the public likes is not always the same the market wants to sell. No one was writing about vampires when Twilight came out, and the same applies to Hunger Games (no one was writing distopian fiction at the time), 50 shades, etc. I doubt anyone would want to publish The Martian, for example - the book deal came after the huge success online.

GetAHaircutCarl Fri 03-Feb-17 11:40:55

Whilst I believe that books should not be written by committee, and the author should always have the last say, I do think it wise to listen to professionals.

Particularly if their comments are made with a view to making a piece of work better.

That doesn't mean that you have to act on their suggestions of course.

My long experience in this industry has taught me that when my agent or editor make a suggestion, I listen.
However, I see it more as then flagging up a potential problem. Their suggestion on how to fix it, I often ignore and fix it in an alternative way.

So when a comment comes that there are insufficient POV scenes for character X, I would see this in terms of character X not being adequately drawn. That might need fixing in an entirely different way to including more POV scenes.
Or perhaps it might mean the balance between the various POV characters isn't working.
Or that we're not understanding motivation of character X properly ( which might need fixing, but not necessarily by just adding word count).

What it comes down to is digging down into problems highlighted. Then fixing them.

As for the market, well obviously there are genre expectations. Of course books will sometimes circumvent them, and publishers are perfectly open to that when the book is fabulous and the circumvention works.

However, when expectations are not fulfilled for no obvious good reason, then publishers will ask why.

As for no one writing vampire and dystopian fiction before Twilight and THG, well that's not really true.

ishallconquerthat Fri 03-Feb-17 15:30:46

Hi Carl that's excellent advice! And it makes much more sense. I'm going to look for the problems they are flagging and go from there.

Re the market, maybe I'm being a bit naive here. It's just that sometimes it feels like editors are only concerned about "what the market wants," and not "what is a good story". But I'm aware that they have to make money and books are a product like any other.

Anyway, thanks a lot for your comment, it did enlighten me smile

kungfupannda Mon 13-Feb-17 15:48:01

You won't really get feedback from agents/editors that deal with a book entirely on its own merit as a piece of creative writing. They are always going to be thinking about whether it is something that could sell, and if you send them your work, they'll assume that you want that sort of feedback - most people who get to the point of submitting to agents/editors are doing so because they want to get published.

Obviously if you are simply writing for pleasure, you can ignore the market entirely, and just concentrate on what makes you happy as a writer. But if you want to publish - whether by traditional means or self-publishing - and you want people to read and enjoy your book, it would be wise to take on board what the professionals are saying about marketability.

Ultimately it is your book, and if the advice is entirely against what you want for your book, then you have the option to ignore it. But do bear in mind that 'the market' is made up entirely of readers, and market forces are shaped by what readers have decided that they want, and most publishing professionals will have a finely-honed instinct for how these things work.

I've always been told that if you get one piece of advice that you disagree with, you can ignore it. If you get the same piece of advice twice, it's probably worth some serious consideration. More than that, and the readers are almost certainly right.

But as I say, it really depends what is most important to you. If the book makes you happy as it is, stick to your guns. But if you want to try and get it out to a wide readership, you probably need to at least give some serious consideration to the issues that are being flagged up.

ishallconquerthat Tue 14-Feb-17 11:46:26

kungfu thanks a lot, I think you're completely right.

I believe that as a writer, there is a balance between "sticking to my guns" and "listening to people who know better".

But this is my first book, and I still don't know when to do each one! smile I'll get there, and your and carl's comments are helping me do it!

Unfortunately I'm struggling to get advice from good professionals! As you say, if two or three people say something that I disagree with, probably I'm the wrong one, not them! But it's hard to get advice from 2 or 3 people who are reliable. I've had people from publishing houses making comments on the book that transpire that they haven't read the synopsis!

One guy (owner of a publishing house) said they were not interested in historical romance, when it says in the first line of the synopsis that the main character is a hacker!

ishallconquerthat Tue 14-Feb-17 11:50:30

As I mentioned before, the book is not in English, so I'm talking about a much smaller market, much fewer people working on it, and different levels of professionalism.

scootinFun Tue 14-Feb-17 11:52:55

I'd ask people interested in the genre to few the first 6 chapters and give you feedback. I read a lot of urban fantasy and werewolf type stuff and am happy to give you feedback if you'd like.

ishallconquerthat Tue 14-Feb-17 12:21:56

Scootin I'd LOVE to have your feedback, but the book is written in Portuguese. I don't think you read in Portuguese, do you? [hopeful emoticon]

But would you help me anyway? I'm not sure about the classification of the book. One editor (one of the reliable ones) called it "supernatural romance."

It seems that "fantasy" books have magic in them, hidden worlds, chosen ones, this kind of things. So perhaps I should not be calling my story "urban fantasy."

My story is - kind of - realistic. No magic, no wolf packs, no vampires, no mysteries. There is this guy, who is a werewolf because of some genetic experiments, and that's all. There are lots of scientists and references to science in the book.

So, should I still call it "supernatural romance"? "Paranormal romance"? "Sci-fi romance"? What is your opinion on that?

Thanks a lot!

scootinFun Tue 14-Feb-17 12:45:43

Hmmm no Portugese sorry. So, normal everyday world with someone who's been genetically modified yeah? Sounds like science fiction to me. What are his abilities and how do they conform to science. Are we talking a blend of wolf/human dna etc so he can smell better (sci fi) or a full on shift (fantasy)

scootinFun Tue 14-Feb-17 12:46:25

Also is the main focus the romance or are they solving a mystery and the romance is secondary to that?

ishallconquerthat Tue 14-Feb-17 13:16:50

Someone used frozen DNA from a real werewolf from the middle ages. They used to be real 700 years ago (which is not scientific at all, I know). He is strong, agile, developed sense of smell - he doesn't shape shift.

The romance is the most important thing in the story.

scootinFun Wed 15-Feb-17 14:38:41

Hmmm paranormal romance would be where I would look for it then smile

ishallconquerthat Thu 16-Feb-17 12:26:56

Thanks, scootin! I think that's where I'll place it after all. There is no point saying it's sci-fi, and then have readers disappointed smile

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