Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Why publish?

The Muse is wondering why people want to publish books? My author – impatient as ever – says I’d better help her write something publishable soon or she’ll starve and her house will be repossessed. But Muses don’t need to buy food. We don’t have mortgages. Debt collectors don’t chase us if we can’t pay the bills. Muses only have to worry about story, and stories come in many shapes and sizes, not all of them suitable for publishing...

1. Stories that are very personal. These are written only for the author and friends/family and would interest nobody else, so there’s not much point in publishing them. Best to create a few hand-bound copies.
2. Stories that come out flawed or damaged in some way. These should not be published. They should be thrown into an enchanted pool so they can dissolve back into the mists and maybe one day inspire more stories.
3. Stories that are very similar to something their author (or, worse, other authors) have written before. These are probably publishable, but where's the challenge?
4. Stories that are fashionable or follow a tried-and-tested formula without being too risky. These seem to be favourites with publishers at present, along with type 3.
5. Stories that are different from what has gone before, have real meaning, change lives and/or inspire people. These are, in the Muse's opinion, the stories most worth publishing. They seldom sell in large numbers, however, unless they win an award, in which case publishers love them almost as much as types 3 and 4.

Katherine says 3 and 4 nourish the body but type 5 stories nourish the soul. This can be a problem when dreaming up new books. The Muse (obviously) would go for type 5 every time, but Katherine says I'd better help her write a few type 3 and 4 first. Is she right?

Authors… which type of story would you work on if you knew it was the last book you would ever write?
Readers… which type of story would you choose if you knew it was the last book you would ever read?

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