|(c) Christopher S. Penn|
The reason I'm talking about this is because I had a meeting with my publishers last week about 'reaching the next level'. It was a lovely, supportive, cake-filled meeting, but the bottom line was the bottom line. What can we all do (me, editor, art director, sales and marketing, publicity etc) to go from solid to spectacular sales? We discussed various strategies and ate some delicious scones.
But, a week later, I was left wondering at the disconnect between the art and the business of books. You see, solid sales give me a nice lifestyle that I really enjoy. I write three days a week on projects I find entertaining. I work three days a week in a lovely place alongside good friends. I live in a house that's just big enough, with a nice park nearby for walking the dog.
What's to be gained by going from solid to stellar?
There's the relationship with the publisher, of course. A good long-term business proposition, that sees them making money, will give me security. There's ego. It would be nice to not have to explain who I am to school receptionists. There's money. I could add a conservatory, or really have a flat in the south of France. All of that would be lovely.
But these feel a bit like the pre-publication dreams. While dreaming is attractive, I actually enjoy living my life in a quotidian way, without pinning too many hopes on the future.
And even if I we do make changes, will it even work? I think there's just a kind of magic stardust that gets sprinkled on some projects and not others. If you work diligently and you write with a commercial audience in mind, that doesn't mean you're bound to become stellar. No-one knows what makes a book take off in that way. And I don't have a handy packet of stardust in my desk drawer. Furthermore, I don't believe that being mid-list means that you've failed.
I came away from the meeting full of excitement. I will do the sort of thing they want to reach 'the next level', I do want a good relationship and a boosted ego, after all. But it's also important for me to remember that life is about the way I live right now, today and I have to be proud of the daily choices I make.
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