Good vs. Sell-able

You’ve written a book. Congrats!

You’ve let other people read it. Good work!

You’ve listened to their critiques, changed what needed changing, kept what made your book yours. Super!

You’ve sent it out to agents/publishers. Well done!

You’ve waited…and waited…and waited. (This is really REALLY hard.) Hang in there!

You have someone interested! SUPER CONGRATS!

They want to make changes….

This can now make or break a connection. It is the agents/publisher’s job to create the best SELL-ABLE book. It is your job, as the writer, to make the best WRITTEN book. Sometimes these don’t match up. Of course the best thing is if you can find a way to do both, but what if you can’t?

What do you do?

Well, I ask what do YOU suggest? I’m stumped. 🙂


  1. Conrad

    I’ve never thought the art vs commercial aspect was an either/or proposition. It may not be easy, but I believe one can always “meet the audience halfway” and tell them what you want to say in a way they’ll be willing to listen. I.e., in a way that’s commercial.
    This is a compromise, certainly, but if you pull it off, those can work out better. I recall a comics page where the artist wanted it noon and the writer wanted it dusk, and they compromised on a moonlit midnight and it worked out way better than either initial idea… 🙂
    If a publisher asked me for a specific change, I’d ask what they were trying to accomplish with the change. It’s possible you could achieve what they were after in a way that satisfies both of you.
    Remember, your artistic medium is a path between you and your audience. The less *they* connect with your ideas, the harder it becomes to call it a successful work, no?

  2. Anonymous

    i think that in the world of creativity, this may be one of the most difficult questions to answer. McDonald’s has made a ton of money presenting sell-able product to the community. However, if you want that veggie burger, or angus beef steak burger, or buffalo burger, which you know are better for you and really satisfy you down to your soul, you need to make the effort to go to where it is when McD’s is right around the corner. Tough choice on all sides. I really believe that in the creative world, the best work will come from those who stay true to themselves. The waiting may be longer, the frustration may be more, well, frustrating, but the satisfaction will be wildfire. i read of the man who wrote the short story ‘million dollar baby’ in a book of short stories. He said he waited 40 years for his book to be published. He never gave up. As it turned out, 2 of his stories from that book were melded into one, made into a movie, and won an oscar. Now, how satisfying can we get!

  3. I have faced this exact dilemma. For me, the answer was time. I said thank you for the feedback and have been taking an extraordinary amount of time to give it all some necessary space and let my thoughts percolate.

    I recently read a blog from a publisher. She had read a manuscript that didn’t work, but thought it had lots of potential, so she suggested a re-write. 7 months later the author came back to her with a revised manuscript. The author and the publisher love the changes, and it is going to get published.

    It took Chad Harbach ten years worth of revisions before getting his best-seller, The Art of Fielding, into print. It was worth the wait.

    1. I remember when you faced this same problem and remember you blogging about it. Looks like we are in the same boat. Regardless of the outcome (for both of us) it is really good to deconstruct the story and make sure it’s written the best way it can be. Good luck and I plan to follow you with whatever decision you make!

  4. Anonymous

    This is the age old dilemma of art vs function and what are both worth ? I have played guitar for over 50 years. In the 60’s we made some money doing gigs, but there were always limitations because of money exchanging hands. So now, most of the time, I do music for free, because I want to and it is in my control. If I offer and volunteer, it is my choice is to sing whatever the material is or not show up at all. I don’t expect to make a living off of that passion or desire to express whatever it is I’m trying to express. If you are intent on making money, I believe, you will have to learn to compromise. How much to compromise can be a mind bender !

    1. That’s wonderful that you play because you love it! I WOULD like to make a career out of writing, which includes getting paid, but it isn’t so much about making money as it is having people read my books. But without a good marketer, I don’t know how far my books will reach people. I knew compromise would be a part of it, but it’s always hard to know how much before it isn’t what I originally intended.

  5. I suppose it depends on what you can live with. Try to see things from their perspective as best you can and try to get them to see your perspective. At the end of all of that, if there’s still something they want to change that you think would compromise the work in an unacceptable way, it’s up to you to decide which takes priority: Getting published now or putting out the book as you envision.

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