Sunday, August 21, 2011

Self Assessment for Crime Novel Writers

by Thelma Jacqueline Straw

Can we "invent, adapt and reinvent our jobs every day, in a market that changes faster than ever?"

Thomas Friedman wrote in an Op Ed piece (NYT, July 13, 2011) "The rising trend in Silicon Valley is to evaluate employees every quarter, not annually. Because the merger of globalization and the IT revolution means new products are being phased in and out so fast that companies cannot afford to wait until the end of the year to figure out whether a team leader is doing a good job."

He stated that an employer today asks . . . can this person help my company adapt . . . by reinventing the job for tomorrow . . . can he or she adapt with all the change . . . In today's hyperconnected world, more and more companies cannot and will not hire people who don't fulfill those criteria.

He continues . . . You have to "find a way to add value in a way no one else can (and) strengthen the muscles of resilience."

Translate his terms to Reader, Writer, Agent, Publisher.

Add the rapid changes in what sells, what readers are looking for - paper, e-book, cozy, thriller, series, standalone, occult, private eye, etc.

Silicon Valley becomes Harper Collins, Penguin, St. Martin's, Random House.

Employer morphs into reader and publisher.

I used to collect the books of J.S. Fletcher and mystery novelists of the 20s and 30s, published by Grosset & Dunlap. Today these books would probably not pass the Agent-Editor-Publisher test. Alas, not Reader.

Today's reader is shaped by forces that move faster than light or sound.

The book publisher must be in sync with what the reader wants, in order to stay in business.

Every writer has definite ideas about where the current state of publishing is headed:

  • Going to hell in a handbasket
  • Moving as fast as a cruise missile
  • Neither or both of the above

Do I as a crime novelist change to meet the wishes of my readers? Do I periodically self-assess to insure that my product meets a real need? Am I resilient? Do I change with the times?

Will a reader fork out $29.95 for my darling?

The employee has to fit the demands of the employer.

My employer is the buyer of my book (or part-time owner through his/her library.)

As a writer, I need to be nimble. I have to assess the market, know what kind of writing style, topic, story it is looking for.

The market changes as swiftly as the sun or the ubiquitous Internet!

Do I have the grace or the courage to ongoingly evaluate my direction?

Do I listen to my peers, keep an ear to the rumbling ground, absorb the ever-present nudges the business climate gives me through print, advertisements, the media?

Am I gutsy enough to flow with the tides of both local and global markets, the stone cold sales figures of publishing?

It's an individual choice.

Major Company – Small Press – Self-publish
Agent – Sans-Agent

There is no one answer that fits all of us.

We all march to a different drumbeat.

But we need to listen and assess.

N.B. I am aware there are many sides to this topic and welcome your comments. tjs


  1. Didn't see any mention of art in this. I think chasing trends may get you published, but I can't believe writing what the agent, publisher, reader wants will produce a great book. JMHO.

  2. T-
    Since I am incapable of assessing trends in publishing--and damn well wouldn't if I could--it's lucky I have other paying work. Truth is, I'll only write fiction that moves me to write it (so they'd better like it if they know what's good for them!)