Attention, bloggers, it’s our very first Third Thursday #SCBWIsocial! Be sure to link us up with your blog (I’ll read your post, promise!), and check out Laura Bowers’ post for the day on As The Eraser Burns! (It’s all about How to Find Your Blogging Mojo Again). Use one of our themes for inspiration or make your own, tweet, share, and link, my friends!
This month’s theme is “The Business of Books,” and there are few words more terrifying to writers and illustrators than these. Thinking of it as a “business” can feel like a violation of the creative process – a veritable selling of the soul! (But it’s not like we’re dramatic or anything.) Being asked to make changes in our work – especially the big ones – can feel like a compromise of our integrity. We can feel angry (or even snobby) when someone just doesn’t “get it.” And yet, if we’re writing and illustrating for publication, we have to work with critique groups, then professionals who will request edits and who will be trying to sell our work, thinking in terms of market and numbers. And honestly, the thought of a royalty check isn’t too frightening, is it?
So, I propose that there are two ways to look at the creation of a book:
Behold! I am creating a monument to my own genius!
Welcome! Come on in! I am creating a space to share with you!
If you think of your work as the creation of a shared space instead of a monument to your own genius, the word “business” isn’t so horrifying. Marketable is kind of the same as “widely shareable.” So, are you creating a space that comes with a broad invitation? Will lots of readers be able to make themselves at home in it? Will they come away with a memorable experience – and will they recommend it to a friend?
Shared spaces and shared experiences are the stuff of human connection. Think about the different kinds of experiences that you’ve had – the different spaces you’ve shared with others.A great movie sparks a conversation, as does being at the same concert or play. A common vacation spot leads to questions of – did you see this? Did you eat there? Next time, you have to see this, that, and the other thing! Experiencing a tragedy, natural disaster, or other crisis – even something so simple as caring about the same person can bring very different people together.
So, to create to create stories and illustrations that are inviting and shareable (MARKETABLE!), think about who will be entering this space. Think about their needs, their vocabulary, their pre-conceived notions, and their background knowledge. Think about what they’ll expect, what they’ll feel, where they might get uncomfortable or lost, and how they might exit differently than they entered.
**cue calming music**
Feng Shui (pinyin: fēng shuǐ, pronounced [fɤ́ŋ ʂwèi] is a Chinese philosophical system of harmonizing everyone with the surrounding environment.
I first learned this term in relation to interior design and decorating. You design and arrange a space for the optimal experience and mood of those who will be occupying it. I’d encourage you to think of your work this way, and to do that you need to….
GET FEEDBACK! (And listen to it!)
Don’t be afraid to change your favorite monumental sentence because it doesn’t communicate the right energy, nuance, or mood. Don’t be afraid to rearrange the furniture drastically. Keep a shed (ahem…folder) for extra stuff you like that just doesn’t belong in this space – because sometimes you realize that a scene or character or word reads like a toilet in the dining room. (Even though you thought it was a really great idea at the time – like a cool modern-artsy statement piece.) Commit yourself to removing anything that doesn’t work, to clarifying anything that derails your reader, even if you like it or think it’s brilliant. It has to work as a harmonious whole if it’s going to work at all, and if you get too stubborn, you’re going to be sitting in that room all alone. What fun is that?
(A little caveat, here. You don’t have to take every bit of feedback/advice you receive. You just need to consider it!)
So, make some changes and GET FEEDBACK AGAIN! (And listen to it!) Repeat, until you have harmonized your story environment with your readers’ experience.
And guess what? You’l be ready to run your book business because you have something you know will be inviting, memorable, meaningful, and clear….aka marketable.
Pssst….now hook us up to your blog!! Here are the rules in case you forgot.
I love the idea that MARKETABLE really means SHAREABLE!!
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