Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Commercial Is As Commercial Does

What is meant by a "commercial" middle grade novel? My guess is something that might have the potential to become a movie or series (ala Harry Potter or Traveling Pants).
I take "commercial" to mean that a book will likely appeal to a wide variety of kids in its age group. This usually increases a book's likelihood of becoming a series, and because kids like series (and adults, too, of course), the publisher will happily expand on any work that is popular.

Let's not take the easy route and hypothesize that more popular books are less worthwhile. Certainly they tend to be less literary, but they're just as hard to write as less commercial books, and when it comes to getting kids to read, I don't care which type lights their fire.

6 comments:

Brigid said...

I've loved your blog for some time now, but I think this is my first comment.

Thank you so much for pointing out that commercial works require no less talent or effort than more literary pieces. I write what I consider to be highly commercial fiction, and I envy those with a more "literary" voice. But at the same time, I agonize over every word, every phrase of dialogue, every movement a character makes. Writing is a struggle, no matter which direction your talent takes you.

So thanks for the words. I needed to hear them today.

Anonymous said...

Might be a dumb question.

Does the first novel dictate the kind of books an author will publish in the future?

Example: I have one literary manuscript under consideration with a house and one commercial manuscript in revisions with an agent.

What if the literary one sells first? (or vice versa)

Does it mean I need to stay with more literary works? or can I just write the book I write and let others (agents, editors, etc.) worry about it?

Thank you!

Kristi Holl said...

Another question--is it the voice that distinguishes the two (commercial vs. literary)? Or is it everything together--voice, subject matter, amount of description, etc.? (And actually, I find the commercial stuff harder to write, like the series that need to be short, tight, and often with short deadlines. It's a joy to write more literary stuff where it can be as long as it needs to be to tell the story.)

Deirdre Mundy said...

Commercial that's hard stuff:
The Magic Treehouse books....

My kids just got into them, and Osborne has them pitch perfect---

To get the reading level, action level and pacing done at JUST the right level for the series, and to do it over and over again has GOT to be pretty hard!

Carly said...

To anon... I'm not sure it matters too much if you publish a wide variety of books. In fact, it's probably better that way (your literary audience might like you so much that they'll cross over with your commercial audience, etc.). Just look at M.T. Anderson. Each one of his books is so distinct in style and voice that you'd think they were written by completely different authors, yet they all have one thing in common: the most brilliant writing ever.

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