Book of My What Now?

Book of My What Now?

Jess Michaels

This article is one I wrote for my very old Jess and Jenna blog, but I thought the topic applies.


heartbookWell, since no one commented on which spectacular topic you wanted me to cover today, I decided to go my own way. That’s right, I’m busting out, I’m breaking the mold. I’m writing about something that was likely covered at least two or three times in conference workshops last week. It is “THE BOOK OF YOUR HEART”.

I put that in all caps for a reason. When people talk about it, it’s like the angels are singing, it’s like choirs are rocking. This is the thing to reach for, to hope for. The thing to make you flout rules and guidelines and just write the most wonderful story ever. This is the story that makes you heart sing, etc. It’s the story you are most passionate about.

Hmm. Well, I have one thing to say about that. Poppycock.

Yes, poppycock, I say!

That’s right. Recoil in horror and prepare to take my romance writer badge away. Get ready to go post some nasty-ass reviews on Amazon to teach me my lesson. I don’t believe in the “BOOK OF YOUR HEART” concept as described by workshops around the world (or the romance world anyway), and here are my reasons why:

1. You are supposed to flout all rules and guidelines for “THE BOOK OF YOUR HEART”. — Okay, you know me by now if you’ve been coming here for more than a day or two. I am all for flouting the rules and guidelines. I really don’t think ‘should’ is a great word when it comes to something as subjective as writing. But I think this whole “BOOK OF YOUR HEART” concept is sometimes just used as an excuse to write something utterly unmarketable and then whine when it doesn’t get bought.

Let’s get serious here. There are certain things that sell better than other things. In historicals, there are settings and time periods that are very, very difficult to move. And that’s not just a publisher dictated thing. I know you don’t want to believe it, but readers don’t buy certain periods at a rate that can support a high enough print run. Oh, they say they don’t care and it’s all about the good story, but the numbers on some great stories set outside the norm don’t support that.

So a publisher and its editors are in a bind. They might really love your Western or your Restoration-era romance or your Roman Romance… but as a new author you’re going to have a hard enough time as it is without adding ‘unmarketable time period’ to your resume, so they won’t buy it. Okay, okay, they won’t buy it MOST of the time.

But there are people out there right now who are writing first books (or what they hope will be their first to get published) that are in these arenas that they know will be a tough sell. “But it’s the book of my hearrrrrrrt,” they cry. Okay, great. It’s a book you’re passionate about. Wonderful. But you’ve got to know right now that it’s going to be a hard, if not impossible sell to agents and editors. And even if it does sell, it could land you with some tough numbers to come back from.

You think I don’t have some incredibly unmarketable ideas? I have a Western set in the early days of Seattle. I have a World War I romance. I wouldn’t mind dabbling in some Ancient Egyptian settings. Or hey, let’s all go to Russia. But I also kinda want a career, so I write things that are both consistent with what I sold first and won’t handicap me with my readers, my editors and their marketing team.

2. “THE BOOK OF YOUR HEART” is the story you’re most passionate about!! — Here comes the hate mail where you call me a hack, right? And tell me I shouldn’t write stories to market and no wonder you hate me and my dog… I’m not writing stories I’m passionate about. Um, yeah.

Actually I AM writing books I’m passionate about. I have never, EVER turned in a book idea or a book that I didn’t feel a thrill when I thought about writing it! If I’m not passionate about an idea, I usually know that long before I write a synopsis. Long before I turn anything in to my editor. And then… I don’t write it. The Lady Spies (written under the Jenna Petersen pen name)? I was BOUNCING to write those! The next idea that I just talked to my lovely editor and agent about a couple days ago… Cannot. Wait. To. Write. It. Like, so excited about it that I could cry.

We’re writers. We are passionate by nature because, well, we’re artists. So I have a hard time believing that this “BOOK OF YOUR HEART” is really the only thing you will ever be this passionate about… ever.

3. “THE BOOK OF YOUR HEART” is the book you LOVE most. — Come on! Love while writing comes in varying degrees. You know there are points in every book where you wonder what the hell you were thinking. Where the story is daunting. No matter how thrilled and passionate and whatever else you are about any story, you’re not going to Looooooove it all the time.

Here are some things I do believe in:

1. The Book of the Moment — Whatever book I’m writing is the one I love most. Probably because it’s the one whispering in my ear. The one exciting me and thrilling me. But I am also well aware that the next book will do the same thing to me. Yes, my love is fickle when it comes to books.

2. The Book of the Future — I also believe that there are times when an author knows she’s writing a book that could really be the one that changes her life. The one that sells, the one that takes her to the next level. Sometimes we’re right, sometimes not.

3. The Book of Gold — Some books are totally gifts. They flow out with little fuss and drama. They are just easier to write. Yeah, it’s easy to love those.

I guess what I’m saying is that it’s probably a bad idea to tie everything you are and will be to one book. Or to somehow believe that only one book will ever be ‘the one’ for you. All my books are “BOOKS OF MY HEART”. All of them. And I wish the very same for you.

But hey, if it works for you… go with it.

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