Monday, August 20, 2007

And the Winner Is. . .

As we move closer to the launch date for Barbour's new mystery book club, my days are filled with a variety of fun marketing and promotional tasks. On Friday, the online marketing coordinator asked me to select a page header for our very own soon-to-debut Heartsong Presents--MYSTERIES! blog page. Rather than making the decision all by my little lonesome, I thought it would be fun to put the selection up for a vote among our contracted mystery authors. They could choose between the header that looked like a yellowed notebook page torn from a sleuth's pad or a village street scene. Of the 32 contracted authors and freelance editors in our cozy group, 24 cast their votes.

And the voting results? A fifty/fifty split.

Several took the time to explain their rationale behind their preferred selection, compelling reasons all. With each new post and vote, the tally swayed back and forth like the pendulum on a grandfather clock. When the polls closed, we were no closer to choosing a blog header than when we started.

I met with the marketing coordinator again this morning and requested some fresh options that incorporate some of the suggestions made by our group.

When an author submits a manuscript for critique to a group of their peers or to an editor/agent for acquisitions consideration, they are in essence asking for an up or down vote on their precious work of creative genius. So, what do you do when the final results leave you with a mixed bag of opinions. We often hear the admonition that writers, like politicians, need to develop a thick skin. But do we really have to accept as law every NAY vote cast concerning our work?

Each and every reader--on both sides of the publishing fence--has his or her own biases as to what constitutes a good, or well-written, story. Is it possible to sift personal opinion from professional evaluation? How do you know what suggestions to keep and which to discard?

First, pick your battles. Decide what's most important to you. If you are trying to reach the mass market, you need to aim for the widest target. But, if you've written the story of your heart about a squirrel and a donkey and don't really care if anyone else is interested in your plot, you have the right to ignore any intimations that animal stories don't sell.

Second, realize you can't please everybody all the time. If you sent your work to ten different critiquers, I guarantee you, you'll get ten different opinions. Look for a general consensus as to what works in your project and what doesn't, and pay careful attention to those areas that are repeatedly flagged for revision.

Third, be gracious. When you disagree with someone's judgment, be gracious. At the very least, thank them for taking precious time out of their busy schedule to spend on your work. When you receive rave reviews and perfect-ten evaluations, be gracious. Don't let the praise go to your head. The longer you stick with this writing business, the more you realize how much you have yet to learn, even when the present election declares you a winner by a landslide.

And remember, no matter how hard the race gets, you'll never win if you withdraw from the campaign. Perserverance is the author's greatest skill.

Next week, I hope to provide the latest polling results of our mystery blog header--and maybe even a link to take you to the blogpage. Stay tuned!


Jess said...

I'm find it odd that 8 contracted authors didn't vote. I wonder why... yep, I'm the curious type. :)

Can't wait to read the new blog... and see those first published cozies. Guess I'd better get my subscription card in the mail, huh? Don't want to miss out on anything. ;-)

Mary Connealy said...

I only want to clear up one point.
Is the story of your heart a LOVE STORY about a squirrel and a donkey??? 'cuz if it is...well, Susan,
Anyway, more to the point, we really barraged you with our opinions didn't we, poor baby.
I think the real reason it was hard to pick was because both were great ideas. Way better than the squirrel Donkey romance novel.
Good luck. :)

Susan Downs said...

MARY! Did I say ANYTHING about ROMANCE in the squirrel/donkey scenario? Heavens, what do you take me for, girl?! LOL I'm no pervert. And that is NOT the story of MY heart. You're the one fixated on rodents, not me. sd

Ed J. Horton said...

It's exciting to hear the long-anticipated mystery book club is moving ahead. Kudos on your perseverance, Susan! I look forward to adding the new blog page to my list of must-reads.

Mary Connealy said...

I believe fixated on rodents is fair.
Please, btw, do NOT plan on putting a rodent on the cover of my book.
I think I've mentioned this before...eighty-five times.
I suspect it won't be a great draw.
Mary 'Imagining People Running Shrieking EEEEK from the bookstores' Connealy

Jennifer Johnson said...

Wonderful advice, Susan. In the past I had a disagreement over something in one of my Heartsongs. I stewed and stewed, prayed and prayed over how to handle it. I simply didn't want to take out a part that was requested of me. Finally, I talked with JoAnne (professionally and humbly) and everything was fine. You're right...we won't always agree...and some battles are big enough to wage...our response and requests will determine if the battle is won or lost in the right way.

Gina Conroy said...

Great advice! I can't wait to see the new blog page!