Thursday, September 20, 2012

Imagining my book on the store shelf

Source: theenchantedcove.tumblr.com

Last week I didn't touch my book.  I didn't pick it up.  I didn't read it.  I didn't change a sentence.

It was weird.

I worked on my manuscript every day, non-stop, for 9 months.  Now I'm letting it sit.  "Let it marinate for a while," one of my friends suggested last week.  It was a reasonable suggestion, so I did.

Of course, I am the one that is marinating.  The longer the book sits, and the more I think about the feedback I've received thus far, the more questions I develop:  Is the book too political?  Is it too biting?  Is it mean?  Do I come across as an annoying whiner?  Am I going to piss people off?  Is the writing good?  Is the ending sufficient?  Do I resolve the different themes effectively?  Will I reach the millions of people who've suffered from this recession?  Can the book start a national conversation about the effects of the financial crisis?  

As difficult as it is, I am sitting still, simply collecting these questions.  I am not consulting my book just yet, because I believe I need some distance from it.  When the time is just right, I'll dig that book out and begin to work again, answering each question.

So what am I doing now?  I'm beginning my research on how to find an agent.  Last week I had great fun at Barnes & Noble, perusing the aisles of the bookstore, imagining where my book might be shelved.  I thought of this exercise as marketing research, an idea I got from reading Michael Larsen's book, How to Write a Book Proposal.  I wanted to see which books might be complementary, which competitors, how I could position my book as new and different.  Could it be shelved in Business?  Biography?  Social Sciences? Current Affairs?  Accounting and Economics?  Cultural Studies?  Religion?  I spent hours at the store, just imagining, positioning my finished book in my mind.  I left with a far better understanding of the market for my book.  I also see the competition more clearly, and how I can differentiate my work.

I've started to turn from focusing solely on the craft of writing, to the art of selling a finished product.  Yes.  This is scary because it is new.  But it's making me positively giddy.

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