The Dreaded Question: What Is “The Trade” About?

I’m about to put a new book on Amazon. The great thing about publishing books yourself is that you don’t have to box your book into a genre or sell it to an agent with an elevator pitch. The terrible thing about publishing books yourself is that by not having to pitch an agent or publisher, you might find yourself with something that’s also hard to pitch to readers. Can you describe it in 140 characters? Can you sell it to a captive audience during a short elevator ride?

What will you say when you hear the dreaded question: WHAT IS YOUR BOOK ABOUT?

My new book is called The Trade. It will probably appeal most to 15-17 year old girls. It’s set in a world like our own, pre-industrial. The main character, Jeba, begins the book as a slave, beading shoes. The problem is that I don’t want to give away any more than that!

Two themes in The Trade are beauty and sacrifice. Is that enough or do I have to tell you more? There’s a little bit of romance, but it’s not the main storyline. Is that enough? I wrote the book because I wondered “What would someone do if they found out that _______,” but I can’t tell you what’s in that blank without giving something away. Is that enough?

Am I confident that it’s a good book? I’m confident that the first ten pages are good, because they won a writing contest. As for the rest, it can’t be as bad as a few novels out there that managed to find a big publisher! (I won’t name names.)

It’s the worst thing in the world (okay, ALMOST the worst thing in the world) to have to tell people what your book is about. If I had enough money, I’d buy one for each of you so that you could find out for yourself. But I don’t have enough money, so I have to convince you to buy it. The Trade is about a slave, and it is about you. It is simple to read but deep in meaning if you take the time to contemplate. I love it, and I hope you will too.

 

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On Giving Up

Writers have a social media community. We’re all friends with other writers, and we all encourage each other with daily mantras like “The world needs your novel,” and “You have a unique voice,” and “Harry Potter was rejected 37 times.”

I’ve been writing for eight years or so, and the last year I’ve also had a jazz group for girls. I’ve been posting about the lack of women in jazz, and while some people seem as concerned about the situation as I am, my class has not grown, and I’ve had few volunteers to help me teach. I have only sold a handful of novels despite regular social media posts (and social ones, too, not just sales pitches) and today my proposal for a grant for the jazz class was rejected.

It turns out the world does not need my novels. People keep saying “Write because you love it!” and the truth is that I don’t love it anymore. I’m tired of writing to myself. I don’t care what anyone says, we don’t write for ourselves. We write because we want to touch others or to be known as a great writer, or at least to make a damned dollar. I have spent thousands and thousands of hours writing and reading about writing, and for what?

I’m done. I’m done writing, and I’m done sharing people’s books who do not share mine, and I’m done thinking “This contest win will convince people to buy a book!” And while I’m keeping my jazz class until it dwindles to nothing, I’m not writing any more grants or passing out any more flyers. I’m not asking for any more volunteers, and I’m not making any more videos about how I hate the blues scale. The world does not need my novel, or it would shell out 99 cents. Apparently my contribution to this world is not the next great novel, and that’s okay.

And apparently the world does not need my jazz instruction either.

I’m done.

For now.