Thursday, August 17, 2006

Why Derivative Tops Original


A glimmer of good news: an editor is interested in my thriller, THE ARCHANGEL PROJECT.

This is obviously better than a rejection, but it’s only the first step. It’s far too early to get excited. There was a time, not so long ago, when editors had the power to buy the books they liked. No longer. Now book purchases must go through the dread Committee. Not only must all the editors at a house be excited by a book (and optimistic about its sales potential), but the marketing people are brought in, too. If the marketing people can’t “see” how they will market a book, they can kill its purchase. This obviously favors books that are imitative and can be pitched as the “new Da Vinci Code” or “Sex in the City meets Friends” over books that might be wonderful, but would require the marketing department to actually work hard and be original.

If you think I sound like I don’t like marketing departments, um.... A few years ago I wrote a book called Confessions of a Dead Romance Writer. It wasn’t a romance, it was sorta a suspense but not exactly, it wasn’t a mystery, it was…different. My agent loved it. Half a dozen editors loved it. So did their colleagues. But in one house after another, the book’s purchase was killed by the marketing department who said they wouldn’t know how to market it. That book is still in search of a buyer.

So I am only cautiously optimistic. My optimism is helped by the fact that two houses have already rejected THE ARCHANGEL PROJECT for being “too commercial.” Presumably that means it’s something the marketing people should find easy to sell. Yet I’ve heard it said that editors these days only manage to purchase one out of every five books they want to buy. Not the best odds.

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