The Clash of Art and Mark(et)

The Clash of Art and Mark(et)

You probably don’t know this, because why would you? But I’m trying to get a book sold to an agent.

Besides the two novellas and collection of short stories listed on the home page here, I’ve written two novels and am 90-plus percent done with a third.

One novel is a Serious Novel. It has sociological lessons. That means it won’t sell, so I’m holding it back.

Another novel is an Intriguing Suspense Ride, and it has a much higher possibility of selling. Not only that, but it’s tailor-made for franchise books, and boy would they would be fun to write. I’ve even got them mapped out mentally. But I’ve queried agents, and no one’s interested yet. Except….

I recently met an agent who said, “Query me. I’d like to see it. How long is the book?” I said 62,000 words (240-250 pages). The agent said, “Make it 75,000 and then send it. Work in a subplot or something.”

Okay, unhumbly I will say – the story is right as it is. Sure, I can fluff it. I don’t really have a subplot that fits in, because the timeline is already kinda tight. I can do some more character exposition and…

This is frustrating. Because in trolling the agents, I see where they say, “Capture my interest in the first page!” And now, “Make it at least 75,000 words. 90,000 is the sweet spot.”

And the reason this is frustrating is: How many of our great works of literature would be stopped at the door by those criteria?

No Adventures for you, Tom Sawyer. The Sun Also Rises never rises. The Catcher in the Rye never catches on. Sayonara, The Remains of the Day. Tortilla Flat is squashed, well, flat. The Great Gatsby goes minor. Of Mice and Men, Animal Farm, and Lord of the Flies never make it to their high school required reading. The Old Man and the Sea sinks. A Christmas Carol gets Scrooged.

I realize market concerns are real. Yes, publishers have to make money in order to keep printing. Yes, published works have to fall within parameters in order to sell and then enable the publication of more works. I acknowledge all of that.

But there must be some acknowledgment, too, that an artistic endeavor that maintains credibility on its own should not have to be prodded and formed into an overriding market mold.

“That model doesn’t look happy enough. Make her look happier and prettier, and we can sell more prints and up our margins. While you’re at it, expand the height and width by three inches each.” So da Vinci redoes his Mona Lisa.

Now, my books are no Mona Lisa equivalent, except in my fevered fantasies of literary success, but they are decent stories. And I might profess a little indignation that their own merits can’t even be evaluated until they hit a certain preordained market profile.

The great composers, authors, painters, poets didn’t achieve their prominence by following market rules. They made their own mold with their own rules, and a market built around them.

I will get a version of this book to the size that the agent wants, because I’m curious what might happen. But I’m keeping my current draft as it is. And in the meantime, the self-publishing world appears ever more attractive. Not for the money, although that’s possible (but not with my relaxed approach).

No, I’d do it just for the opportunity to get the damn things out there and, I hope, entertain a few people along the way.

— Grandpa

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