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January 2017

Marketing Your Sculpture

Your writing is a work of art. No one would tell an artist, “I think your art would sell better if his nose was bigger.” OK, maybe they would. I’m not an artist, so that’s just a guess, but I am a writer. And I know that some literature sells better than others. So do sculptures.

I recently beta-ed a friend’s work. The first chapter was from the X genre, but the rest was from the Y genre. Two opposite genres, btw. So, people into X will get mad come chapter 2 or 3, and people into Y won’t have the patience to get to their desired writing.

Now, my friend’s sculpture was beautiful. It was perfect. It was a glorious piece of art! But it won’t sell. So, he has to make his nose bigger. Is it fair? No, of course it isn’t fair! How dare his piece of art be treated as nothing more than a common piece of merchandise. Sadly though, that’s the way the market ball bounces.

So, how to do that? Listen to what others say. When an agent tells you to change it, consider that. When a beta says to change it, consider it. When your editor (providing you’re lucky enough to have one) tells you change something, consider it. Notice I said consider, not do. Every human being is different, period. So their opinions are going to be different. And you want to appease the masses. The bigger the mass, the more the sells, the bigger the income.

“But I don’t care about sells!”

Then this post is not for you. Don’t get me wrong. That’s great! The fact that you don’t care about sells means that you can produce high quality art without the pain of pleasing anyone but yourself. Wonderful! But for the rest of you, sculpt your beautiful art book, and then place it on a shelf in your house. Take a copy of this beautiful piece of art and change it. This copied sculpture is not yours; it belongs to the masses, and your job is to make them happy, not make great art. See the difference? I hope so. It’s probably the most painful lesson of authorship, but it’s necessary to rise in the market.

The Current “Trends” of Writing

I recently decided to get my books edited. It was mainly a factor of affordability. When I got my samples back, I noticed something. There were several “don’t use passive voice” (aka “was”), “don’t use helping verbs”, and “don’t use adverbs”. But only from the freelance editors that cost less. The editors that have been around for a good while and charged way more than I could afford. The ones with a looong resume or outstanding work, they didn’t mention these things at all. Not once.

They did mention important factors such as repetitious wording, arcs, etc. Active voice and adverbs are not rules are trends, they are a style. And no, they do not apply to all modern best-sellers. Using them is a style I personally like. Let’s look at some modern examples.

One of my favorite new series is the Ivy Pocket series. It is filled with adverbs and not empty of linking verbs. The Curiosity House contains both in great quantities. I could go on, but I shan’t bore you. If you’re ambitious enough to click on those links and read their samples, then you’re ambitious enough to find more on your own 😉 .

There are examples of middle-grade books without adverbs (but not without the passive voice that I could find). The Serafina series is one, but I don’t like it. I tried to like it. I have the first two books, both signed by the author who wished me well on my writing! And I really like the man! But I can’t finish his book. Heck, I can’t even get through the second chapter. Why? Voice. Style. It’s not my preferred style. Period.

And please, do not say, “Oh, well children’s books can get away with lower quality writing” because not only is it not so, it’s insulting, and not just to children. I’ve read plenty of recently published adult romance novels with adverbs (aka fun speech) galore, and they were best sellers! So please, if you like that style, use it, but don’t try to enforce it on others. Some of us find it lacking personality (aka boring). I’ve seen it done well, but that’s very rare from my experience. Hey, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m actually of a lower intelligence who simply cannot process sentences without embellishment. Maybe I have so little of an attention span that I can’t force my eyes to maintain a constant pace without it being broken by “bad writing”. But personally I think this whole trend started by one article that other indie authors were too afraid to speak up against. Yeah, not me.

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