Friday, September 10, 2010

The year of living bifurcatedly

Bifurcation = a split. Your word nerd moment of the day. Notice how the yin/yang is split? More on this later.

I have now been a published YA author for just over one year. Craziness. Complete awesomeness. The time went FAST. Of course, I’ve learned things. A*lot* of things:

1) my YA writing colleagues are kind, giving, smart, and tons of fun. I am honored to be part of such a crowd that's so generous. I knew this before I was published, actually.

2) I love my publishing house. Flux and its peeps are the absolute bomb.

3) I am a shy person online, but not in person. It's a mystery. I’m working on it.

4) When you are a debut novelist, don’t teach extra classes.

5) My jealousy can be intense, which both shames me and motivates me. It also doesn’t last long, which helps, because it’s overcome by #s 1 and 2, hearing from readers, and working with book peeps everywhere.

6) People don’t want to read my book.

7) People want to read my book.

8) “Success” is relative, depending on where you’re standing.

#s 1, 2, 3, and 4 are self-explanatory. #s 5 & 6: if I want to sell a million copies and be on the New York Times bestseller list, I need different material. Contemporary YA (and/or edgy YA) is a perennial category—like the sun, we just exist—and we are not generally a hot topic. That’s all right. We persist in our wonderfulness. Some days I think I should aim for trendy, but the hot would be cold by the time the book got to market.

#7 & 8 (still related to #s 5 & 6): Man oh man. Was I "successful"? Depends on who you ask. My publisher: “well, um, sales, yeah, some, well, she almost won an award, so, um . . . maybe?” (I honestly don’t know what they’d say. They might refer you back to #3). My family: “We have no idea. When is supper?” Me: “my book got read on 4 continents, and some people really understood Morgan and Tessa. I met cool people and got to do cool stuff, including seeing/listening to Neil Gaiman, and I got to talk about what I love. Hell yeah I’m a success!” New York Times bestseller list . . . well, you know.

There's a give and take between writing your passion and being marketable--this is the bifurcated part. I haven't mastered it yet. Do I write that crazy-ass storyline about those boys in the Laundromat or should I try a zombie romance (I do like that idea)? Even my husband said, when I was pitching an idea, “You need to write more marketable books.” Ouch. He doesn't know the biz, but he's a reader, so he knows what he likes. And readers vote with $.

And that's the bottom line--publishing is a business (duh) and runs on money. My literature teacher side says WOW THAT SUCKS IT SHOULD BE STORIES. And stories still matter. But marketing possibilities trump stories—-it just happened to me, and it hurt for a bit. But I can’t begrudge folks the opportunity to run a profitable business. No profitable publishers = no books at all.

So. Was it a good year? The best. Will there be more like it? I really, really hope so. Which to write next—-laundromats or zombies? I don’t know. I just want more years to find out.

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