My father was a “jack of all trades and master of none.” He was really good at fixing things with his hands, but wasn’t really fantastic at anything.
I guess that’s where I inherit my short attention span. Once again, time to be transparent.
My latest book, Chosen, has tanked for all intents and purposes. It is the novelization of the Old Testament story of Jonathan and those around him. I thought it turned out pretty good, but apparently no one else thought so. I talked to a friend who used to be an acquisitions editor for one of the publishers I have worked with in the past. He looked at it and, among other things, pointed out two major flaws. First, I was writing in a sub-genre that didn’t really have much of a following. So in that I couldn’t anticipate many readers waiting for that title.
Second, he brought up the dreaded “P” word: platform. The idea is that authors should establish an identity within a particular genre. They develop a following in that genre, and they stick to it. In essence, authors need to be predictable in their book subjects while being unpredictable in how those books are written.
I understand where marketing is coming from. When I put myself in the position of the reader and see myself in some Half Price bookstore, if I like a particular author, I look for more titles by him. But if those titles go from westerns to romance to sci-fi, I’m going to be confused. I want to know that what I buy is what I am looking for.
And then I put on my author’s hat. It’s a lot more fun writing what inspires you, even if the subject matter wanders all over the landscape. In the past 30 years, I have written (1) how-to books (2) children’s books (3) Christian suspense (4) steampunk and (5) sci-fi. No wonder my readers are confused.
I guess it comes down to choosing whether to follow your heart in writing, or follow your head. Once again, I have to go back to what I teach my students. My breakthrough in writing came when I was able to give the editor what they wanted. The same, obviously, goes for the reader. Writing is a business, one that I need to learn to take seriously. If I want readers, then I need to be faithful to them and their interests, especially if I want them to be faithful to me.