Who Do I Write For?
Who do you write for? In the days before ebooks and self-publishing became a valid business enterprise, the answer to that question would be either "INSERT NAME OF PUBLISHING HOUSE HERE" or "I'm not published yet". Now the answer is not so clear-cut.
I just released Sass Meets Class, a sweet romance set in Arizona Territory. It is different from my other books in almost every respect and there is a reason which I will get to soon. First, however, I want to mention what got me thinking about this.
In trying to promote Sass Meets Class, I've been doing some interviews. This is a pretty thought-provoking activity. I had to think about when I wrote it (2001) and why I wrote it (coming up) and what inspired me (visiting Arizona). Where did the characters come from (hell if I know).
Obviously, since I am putting my work out there for purchase, I hope that readers will give my books a try, be happy with what they read, and come back for more. However, Sass Meets Class is so different from the others that I'm wondering whether readers will feel bamboozled if this is the first of my creations they've picked up and they then go on to one of my spicier, edgier medieval books, Unbidden or Redeemed.
OK, blah blah blah, why did you make Sass Meets Class so different?
Because I wrote it with a specific publisher in mind. I had a pitch meeting with an Avalon editor at the 2001 RWA Convention knowing full well they published only sweet, clean romance. She asked for a full manuscript and I wrote it. A very long time later it was rejected for having too much stuff about English nobility. Fair enough.
There is much discussion in the author world right now about traditional versus self-publishing. I won't even attempt to address the business aspects of it because I am a noob. I do remember, over a decade later, how challenging I found it to write within the confines of someone else's rules. Don't get me wrong, I am fond of Sass Meets Class or I would not have released it. I revisited the manuscript twice before letting it loose in the cyber-world and enjoyed the revision process both times. However, in this new publishing world of ours, we self-pubbed authors enjoy creative freedom. Since Avalon didn't buy it, I could easily have dropped in some stronger language and a wedding night scene to make it seam with the heat level in earlier books. Why didn't I? I think for these characters in this setting, two impassioned kisses is enough. I also like that romance lovers of any age, sex, and sensitivity will enjoy Sass Meets Class as it stands. In a way, it is a marketing experiment to see if clean American historical romance is more palatable to the market than my Carolingian noblemen.
See, there I go with the nobility again....
In the end, with no publisher to tell me different, I have to write for myself with my reader in mind. Nothing makes me happier as a writer than when other people enjoy my stories. Perhaps the best way to bring them alive for other people is to make my characters and their challenges ring true for me.
What do you think, readers and writers? How far from the expected creative road can an author go before you feel you've been led down a false path?