Books that fit neatly into a bookstore category and appeal to a large enough piece of the market in a given physical location that it is worth the cost of printing, shipping, unpacking and shelving them. If a book isn’t selling in sufficient quantities within three months or less then it is pulled from the shelves and sent to the bargain basement to die a lingering death.
This fate does not mean the book was no good. It does not mean there are no readers out there who would love it and be eager for the next book by that author. It just means that those readers were not geographically located at the right place at the right time.
Just as there will always be room for an Independent Bakery that makes genuinely unique and delicious cakes, but cakes entirely unsuited for mass production, so there will always be room for Independent Authors who put out high-quality books suited to a unique taste.
Why my fiction isn’t marketable
Unmarketable, as in the opposite of marketable, does not mean books no one wants to read. It means books that large companies don’t see their way to making a quick return on. They may not know how to shelve it or how to market it. The traditional publishing model is extremely expensive and if they are going to stay in business they need to make money. And they need to make it reasonably quickly.
In plain and simple terms I don’t write “Marketable” Fiction.
You see, I don’t blow things up, unless it’s an accident. There are no demons lurking in the sewers of my New York city nor do cyborgs invade William Kerr’s Fine Printery.
Theodore is not a secret werewolf and Helen isn’t a Vampire.
My characters are ordinary middle-class people. Helen is not a queen or lady-in-waiting to a queen or 2nd mistress to a scandalous baron or even a servant in the house of a man plotting to overthrow the government.
Her story doesn’t unfold against the backdrop of the plague, or during the Irish famine or the civil war and she isn’t trying to be the first female anything.
She is a hard working young woman who wants to carry on the family printing business, look after her ageing parents and hopes to be at least as happy as her neighbours. But like in life circumstances change, things happen, sometimes she handles it with aplomb sometimes she flies off the handle.
Theodore is more complicated and decidedly upper-class but desperately unhappy about the path his family has marked out for him, as some young men are prone to be. He wants a more fulfilling life than trailing around the world after his older siblings until they manage to marry him off, at which point he can then trail around after his wealthy wife.
Is it such an odd thing for a man to want to do something meaningful with his life while at the same time getting as far away from his overbearing family as possible?
In a nutshell
what I don’t write
I’m a middle-class person whose ancestors were lower-middle class, so I write about middle-class people.
I don’t swear (no really I don’t) so my characters and narrators don’t swear.
I don’t want to read violence so I don’t write violence.
I find wars and politics in the main boring. If the writer is bored so will the reader be.
I don’t do supernatural, ghosts, vampires, witches or sorcerers.
And the only demons my characters wrestle with are the ones inside their minds.
I write love stories but not bodice rippers.
My books are clean but not religious. ( Religious fiction is hugely marketable)
You may begin to wonder with all those goosebump-raising, controversial things out of the picture what is there left to write about?
As it turns out, a whole lot.
what I do write
I write about:
- mental illness
- physical illness
- broken families
- racial tensions
- the consequences of bad decisions
But on the small middle-class domestic scale of the late 19th century.
Then there is the treasure trove of amazing women in the 19th century whose stories are untapped, their existence and the existence of hundreds of women like them whose lives remain buried in history just waiting to be told.
I write the stories I want to read.
If I want to read stories with heart that make me laugh and cry and sigh with pleasure, then it stands to reason there are other people out there who want to read them too.
I write stories for this audience.
My books are not like your average grocery store baked goods or even your chain-cafe-slightly-more specialised baked goods. They are like that Independent Cafe on the corner that sells gluten-free-sugar-free-raw and utterly delicious treats.
Check out what is happening at 1880s Press