This is the question all fiction authors are confronted with in their careers. There isn’t an easy answer. When a particular genre or type of novel is in the limelight, a lot of publishers and authors rush to try to get a piece of that public attention. An example, would be Twilight. When that novel became a hit, authors who had never written a vampire book were writing them. Vampire novels have been around since 1819 with The Vampyre by John William Polidori (predating Dracula), but suddenly readers who had never read one were reading them. A nice aspect of already writing what has suddenly become the vogue is the increase in readers.
But writing what is the current fashion in fiction is risky. Why? Because the huge popularity of that topic might be short lived.
This risk is less for those authors encouraged to do so by their publishers. The risk is more for authors from smaller publishers and indie authors who have invested a lot of time and money in a trend that could change over night.
Also what if an author doesn’t really have their heart in that trend? For those that manage it and do it well, it can pay off handsomely. For those that enjoy change, this may be the way to go. Being able to write, edit and get their book published very quickly is in their favor.
Now there is another view that basically says to write what you love, be true to yourself and your art. One of my favorite authors is Ursula K. Le Guin. Last year when she received the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, she made a lot of authors think. I cannot say it better than Ursula, so here is her speech. Please, note the copyright at the end.
Speech in Acceptance of the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters
To the givers of this beautiful reward, my thanks, from the heart. My family, my agents, my editors, know that my being here is their doing as well as my own, and that the beautiful reward is theirs as much as mine. And I rejoice in accepting it for, and sharing it with, all the writers who’ve been excluded from literature for so long — my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction, writers of the imagination, who for fifty years have watched the beautiful rewards go to the so-called realists.
Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom — poets, visionaries — realists of a larger reality.
Right now, we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximise corporate profit and advertising revenue is not the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship.
Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial. I see my own publishers, in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an e-book 6 or 7 times more than they charge customers. We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience, and writers threatened by corporate fatwa. And I see a lot of us, the producers, who write the books and make the books, accepting this — letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish, what to write.
Books aren’t just commodities; the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable — but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words.
I’ve had a long career as a writer, and a good one, in good company. Here at the end of it, I don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing want and should demand our fair share of the proceeds; but the name of our beautiful reward isn’t profit. Its name is freedom.
Ursula K. Le Guin
November 19, 2014
This text may be quoted without obtaining permission from the author, or copied in full so long as the copyright information is included:
Copyright © 2014 Ursula K. Le Guin
The above comes from author Ursula K Le Guin’s website. What do you think?
Susan Hanniford Crowley, Amazon Kindle Bestselling Author of Vampire Romance
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