Thursday, January 3, 2013

What I remembered yesterday at the bookstore

So I went up to TKE for a few hours yesterday morning to help with inventory.

You know.  Inventory.  That activity where you count what's on the shelves, then pull what hasn't sold to ship back to the publisher.  Did you know bookstores can do that?  Return books for credit against a balance?  I think that was one of the biggest revelations of all to me when I first started working at TKE--that a book could be returned if it didn't sell.

Anyhoo.  As I watched Viv pull books by a fabulous author (and human being) who has won several Newbery honors because her titles don't sell well now, it (re)-occurred to me how fickle taste is.  This is a woman who was the toast of the children's literature world awhile ago, and now her books aren't moving.  And yet those books are still so good.

The takeaway for writers is this, I think.  You should pay attention to the market, yes.  But in the end you should write what interests you, because the world of publishing can (and will) shift beneath your feet.   And you should also remember that even worthy books don't always make it.

I meant that to be encouraging.  Was it?


Lisa B. said...

What is is real. I think almost every writer comes to a point where s/he realizes that if s/he's not in it for the writing itself, it's a very iffy proposition. (I had a similar realization once when standing in front of a very well-stocked poetry section in a San Francisco bookstore, and I realized that the books of my old teacher, who was revered and celebrated, etc., where nowhere to be found. What's that about immortality? (poets aren't in it for the market--their market is the immortals, apparently.) Anyway. I'm in it for the writing, at least mostly.)

(p.s., I meant this to sound realistic, but I think maybe it sounds bitter. Sorry about that!)

Louise Plummer said...

I wanted one of my books to be called AN UNLIKELY CHRISTMAS ROMANCE, but my editor said no, because all the Christmas books are sent back after Christmas.

I've always been a little sorry, because my idea was to become one of the Christmas classics that reappears every Christmas. Now no one knows it's a Christmas read until they've read it.

I agree completely that writing has to be its own reward.