Inevitably, when I return a finished project, the first question all clients ask is, “Do you think this book has a chance on the market? Is it worth pursuing publication?” This is a question I cannot answer.
Readers love to read. They love to read good stories that speak to their experience. Fundamentally, writing and reading are magical. Images in your mind become words, and those words make images in another’s head, interpreted and applied using that person’s life experience and emotions. Think about what a tremendous, abstract ability storytelling is that binds us together as humans.
Since enjoyment of story depends on individual perception, readers as a whole come across as fickle, and knowing ahead of time which books will “make it” and which will not is impossible. The megapublishers, the “Big 5,” have formulae within their marketing departments that determine what type of books are best for them to put their money behind, and yours may or may not fit into that formula today, next month, next year, in five years. The publishing market is constantly changing as the world changes.
Agents have their fingers on this pulse—they must, to stay in business, so the best publishing professional to ask if your story is marketable is an agent who works with your genre. When searching for an agent, if you choose to do so, you want to find one who “gets” your voice and shares your goals for your writing career.
When I’m asked “Did you like it?” when I know the client means “Can I sell it?” I’m sorry that all I can give is my humble opinion of whether I liked the characters, setting, and plot as an individual reader—one of the fickle millions who enjoys reading. If it helps, having read it at least twice and with much time spent editing/critiquing, I am now emotionally invested in seeing the story reach a wider audience. If the story touched me, surely it will touch others.
Small publishers, e-publishers, indie-publishers, and self-publishing are no less valid methods of reaching your audience than traditional publishing with the Big 5. If the story sells to even one person who doesn’t know you, you have triumphed as an author. You were brave and smart in pursuing professional editing for your book, so don’t lose faith and courage now. Research whom your reading audience is and where they go to find books then meet them halfway. Don’t put it back in the drawer!
Kelly Schaub edits multiple genres of both adult and YA fiction. Article first appeared on Book Editing Associates Facebook page March 8, 2013