Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Tale of Two Cancer Books

In February 2012 two novels were published. Both had teenaged heroines who were cancer patients. That's the ONLY thing the books had in common, however.

One book was John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, which has been on the New York Times best-seller list for 119 consecutive weeks (49 weeks as #1) and is being made into a much-anticipated movie.

The other is a modest fantasy allegory combining music and magic and talking birds. I had high hopes for Leandra's Enchanted Flute when it was accepted for publication by a new, enthusiastic fantasy publisher with the stated mission of providing great books for kids. They were professional with wonderful attention to detail. Unfortunately, they over-estimated how much readers were willing to pay for ebooks. After publishing several excellent titles they went out of business in March 2013, one month after the sequel to my book was published.

(I hadn't planned for this book to have a sequel, but my editor asked if I would write one so they could publish the two stories in one paperback, since the first story was not long enough to be cost effective in printed form.)
My book's life was so short it didn't have a book signing
True, TFiOS had the marketing savvy of a large New York publisher (as well as Green's clever and well-publicized promise to autograph every single copy of the first printing—all 150,000 books) but more than that, his book is what today's readers want: raw, gritty drama, romance, sex, and snark.

I certainly don't begrudge John Green's success! I'm very glad he's made many readers more aware of how cancer affects people, especially teens, and how desperately those of us who live with it want to find some kind of normalcy. Hopefully some will take the story to heart and not take their own lives for granted. We should all learn to live with more thankful hearts and count our blessings rather than focus on our losses.

I guess I was born 50 (or maybe 100) years too late to be a successful author, but I'll keep writing anyway because I love doing it, not because I expect to make any money at it. The hard-to-accept truth of the matter is that there are WAY more writers than readers these days, and because it's so easy to self-publish an ebook, there's a glut of poorly crafted (or just unedited) novels on the market. The many worthy books (i.e., carefully crafted and tightly edited) become lost in the jungle, and this may explain the recent statistic that over 85% of authors sell fewer than 250 copies of their books.

When I was a kid, I used to write stories for my friends to read. Now my new "targeted" audience is my granddaughters, so I'll make sure all my stories are worth reading.

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