Monday, July 25, 2011

Is good, enough?

I participated in a Twitter chat for #askYAed Saturday morning with some great talents in the industry.  @Literaticat (Jennifer Laughran), @EgmontGal (Elizabeth Law), and @mmanlove (Melissa Manlove), to be precise.  One is a literary agent at Andrea Brown Lit, one is a publisher at Egmont USA, and one is an editor for Chronicle Books.  I know the east coast didn’t appreciate the hot weather but it made three great industry leaders stay inside and hold a Twitter chat, so I’m just going to say… YAY for me!
Every time there’s a chat going on, I try to go against my personality and stay quiet.  I’ve heard many writers describe themselves as introverts; however, I am definitely not one of them.  Even when I try!  I know I’ll learn a ton just by reading what others ask and get answered, but somehow I cannot stay silent.  Even if I end of embarrassing myself, which I do frequently.
So, there I was reading the chat tweets and the next thing you know…  BAM!  I’ve asked a question.

I groaned inwardly, knowing that once again, I’ve either become Mr. Obvious or Mrs. Self-Promotion.  I glanced quickly at my post, and then gasped.  It wasn’t some inane comment this time.  What a shock!  Unfortunately my reasonable question about ms formats kindled a confidence in me to ask more questions.  (By the way, the formatting question was answered with:  “just type, double spaced, with a 12 sized legible font.”  In addition, they added, have the ms show your name and the title at the top of each page. – In other words, don’t over think it and there is not one wonderful format out there.)

The next question was centered on my story’s genre, Children’s chapter books.  I’d heard they are a hard sell, and so I asked if that was true.  The story I’m getting ready to query is a standalone chapter book geared toward 1st/2nd graders and promotes integrity, responsibility, and basically, character.  The responses I received were honest and I admit a little disappointing.  Children’s chapter books are a hard sell, standalones are nearly impossible because they get lost on the shelves, and kids prefer series.  In some ways I knew this and yet, it was sad to hear it spoken from true experts in the field so specifically to my questions.  They didn’t say don’t write it (which is good, ‘cause it’s already written).  They just tried to prepare me for the fact that its future is not bright. 

And of course, that got me thinking.  “But what if it’s good?”  Now, I’m not saying my story is award winning (although you never know *fingers crossed*).  But the fact is that even if it is good, it might not be enough.  Good writing, a wonderful story, etc, may not be enough to get an agent or a publisher willing to take a risk.  I completely understand the experts’ viewpoint on the Twitter chat Saturday.  If standalone chapter books are risky from a sales perspective, it’s not in their best interest to take them on.  (It is a business, afterall.)  Even if they really think the book is good.  It might not matter enough to get past the obstacles in front of it.

Wow.  So what should I do?  Of course I’ll keep writing and coming up with new stories.  Maybe even in different genres.  At the chat, I responded with a “Thank you for answering my questions.  I am near the query stage but will have my hopes based in reality.”  I am researching agents that represent my genre.  I am working on a great query letter, and I am going to hope that someone thinks my story is good enough to take the risk.

What about you?  Have you had similar experiences?  Do you think good is enough?  Or is even great, enough?