What you see….what they see….

mosiac chairOnce upon a time in a galaxy far, far away I was a kindergarten room mom.



And as the room mother, when the annual silent auction came around, I was in charge of gathering up donations. Oh, and making a class art project to sell at the auction. Yeah, making an art object with the children in the class. Making an art object with children in the class that was something mosaic. MOSIAC!

Feel free to feel horrified.

I was.

So as I pondered what in God’s creation I could actually do for the class mosaic project, my glance happened upon an iron chair beside the pool that had come with my house (the owner had left it). It had lovely form and if I spray painted it and ripped the ruined cowhide upholstery from the seat, I could paint it and made a new seat…a new mosaic seat. It was brilliant. Truly brilliant. So I took myself off to the local craft store, bought outdoor spray paint in a lovely ivory and a mosaic kit. After lots of cursing and breaking of stones and glass, I hauled it all down to the kiddo’s classroom and the class “helped” me glue on the stones and glass. The kids loved placing the little bright bits of color. It was a true class effort. Sorta. After the making of the mosaic was complete, I sprayed the chair, set the grout and VIOLA! Precious mosaic class art piece for the auction. And, y’all, it was so pretty. I seriously wanted it for myself, but as instructed, I hauled the now heavy chair down to the auction and proudly placed it in the spot for our class.

Two nights later, dressed in my best business casual, swilling from a goblet of wine, I prepared myself for the comments that would come my way. “Oh, my gosh, I LOVE the chair! How did you do it?” or maybe “You have the best auction item. It’s going to fetch a small fortune!” I mean how could it miss? It was adorable and the kids had made it and it was creative and out of the box and….

…no one bid on it.


My precious was a clunker.

I was slightly crushed and somewhat insulted. How could no one bid on my cute chair? Well, here’s the point of this whole post (I know you were wondering) – the chair had to fit a certain person. Not everyone goes to an auction looking for a garden chair for their sunroom, right? A cute handprint painting with little silver beads glued on can go on a desk or a wall.  A wind chime made with mosaic tile can clink outside on any porch (and grandmothers LOVE wind chimes). But a chair? Has to have a spot. And match. Not an easy sale. In my creative lala land, I thought I had something different and thus I assumed it would be well-received. And I was wrong.

And, so we can draw the same parallel with our writing. We often complain that editors and publishing houses (and readers) want something different but not too different. How many times have we heard this? A dozen? Ten dozen? I’m pretty sure all my rejections letters arriving in SASEs (remember those?) said something pretty much like that. And every editor on every panel I ever attended wanted something fresh, not overdone, original….but then said it was too hard to market, they didn’t know how to shelve it, and could I add a secret baby? The book of your heart may stay the book of your heart (fresh and original though it is) if you can’t market it. Which means you have to know the market, you have to know what’s selling, you have to know your buyer, er, reader, and you have to think like a business woman and not a creative genius stuck in lala land wrapped up in the false knowledge your precious is going to sell, sell, sell and break the record for best auction item in the history of class auction items.

That does not mean you won’t find your reader….after all, my cute little chair found a home with the school secretary. She was the only bidder and got a steal of a deal for $30. But she loved that chair. Told me several times over the years how cute it looked in her sunroom next to her houseplants. But I learned my lesson. I had to know my market if I wanted to have my art project go for $350.00 (what the other class made with their cheap wall hanger….seriously!). It doesn’t matter how cool your project is. If there isn’t a market, you’ll be left to wonder why someone didn’t recognize your genius.

Hey, you really do learn all you need to know in kindergarten!

By the way, I have a new precious out. Just released yesterday. It’s my first single title with a new publisher and I’m hoping like mad it’s not a mosaic chair of a book, but rather a pretty little sparkly gem that will look good on everyone’s bookshelf. Here’s the link so you can check it out on Amazon. You’re feeling pretty sorry for me and my chair right now. Hey, I know how to soften a buyer up. LOL.


11 responses to “What you see….what they see….”

  1. jbrayweber says:

    First off, I LOVE, LOVE the chair! Be sure, I would have bid on it.

    Second, I feel your room mom pain.

    Third, EXCELLENT post. I brilliant, fresh, original (see what I did there?) reminder that our books don’t fit every taste or trend. Though, writing pirate books I’ve learned that over and over. 😉

    And lastly, CONGRATULATIONS on your newest precious! I know it will shine!


  2. Tracy Brody says:

    I love the chair but admit I’d be the person who’d ohh and ahh, then sadly walk away when I didn’t have a place for it. I get you and agree with finding the right editor and audience. Takes patience. Good luck with your new book!

  3. I would have found a spot for that chair. Seriously — people need a little imagination and I’m glad the school secretary enjoyed it so much. Still, I get your point, and it is one I really need to learn. Thanks for a great post!

  4. Hope Ramsay says:

    You should get an award for being a kindergarten room mom, seriously.

    And I loved this post, but I do feel like sometimes you just have to write the book of your heart.

    I know. This is why I wandered in the valley of the unpublished for 25 years. . . so stubborn. But then, hey, eventually the market came around, and I found that one editor. 🙂

    And, BTW, I’m a quarter of the way through your new precious and I’m loving it. As always. . . big fan girl here.

  5. elise hayes says:

    Hey Liz,

    Congrats on the new book! I’m really looking forward to it.

    I do think knowing the market is important, especially if you’re going for a traditional publisher. One of the things that I love about indie publishing, though, is that it seems to offer a space for those brilliant books that contest judges love…but that publishing houses can’t categorize in a way that would allow them to sell it.

    Fingers crossed for your new sparkly gem!

  6. Congratulations on the new release!

    And I, too, love the chair. Not sure I’d know what to do with it, but I’d at least get the bidding started. 😉 In fact, after a school fundraiser auction a few years ago, we ended up with three huge panels (about 7′ by 3′ each) that were made by art students. When put together, they made a mountain scene with a castle and dragon. Someone had bid 10 cents on it. 10 cents! I was appalled and bid $20, thinking it might get people moving on it. We ended up winning the item. LOL And ended up putting those things on my daughter’s wall, where they lasted for years. 🙂

    I love how you tied this to books and the marketplace there. It does help if what we write somehow fits what the market demands. But it depends on your reason for writing, too. Interesting take!

  7. Liz Talley says:

    Trying a new browser to see if I can comment. EI is not liking me or something.

  8. Liz Talley says:

    Okay, good. Working. Whew!

    In saying this, I do acknowledge there are niche markets were an author can do amazingly well. And I do love books of the heart. I have one that I’m intent upon publishing one day no matter whether one person buys it or 10. But I do acknowledge that in order to be successful (in this sense, sell books) an author has to think about the audience. What might they buy? If I were going to a mosaic craft show, my chair would totally rock it. But if I had kept my audience in mind, I probably would have chosen something different to make. So, yeah, it depends on why your writing. I want to write stories that sell. I want to build my career, so, therefore, I must think about the broadest audience for my book.

    This might be the classic case of the chicken or the egg? Money or art?

  9. Oh my gosh, that chair… beautiful! That school secretary got a steal!!

    Smart analogy, Liz. It’s so hard when we have the wonderful story that we think the world will love, but no one does. Or only a few.

    I guess it’s also about knowing your reader expectations and your own expectations. If you just HAVE to write that story, okay, get that sucker on paper. If the goal is to sell widely, study the market and do your best to know your readers. Even then, it might be a crapshoot. But you’ve done your best and that’s all we can ask of ourselves.

    Money or art? Darn, that’s a tough question sometimes.

  10. That chair is absolutely gorgeous! I love things like that. Now I want to make one for myself!
    And I love your parallel. It is so hard to write for the masses. They change their minds about what they like the best – YA sci-fi one day, historical the next. And I’m not a marketer; I’m a writer, so there is little hope for me. I would have made the chair. $350 for the wall hanging?! What were they thinking?!

  11. Elisa Beatty says:

    That chair sounds like something I would love….

    And I know this new Montlake venture is going to be a big positive for you!! I can feel it! Your books are so terrific, and WILL find a wide audience. (Look at those awesome reviews already!!)

    I actually just ordered the paperback since I seem to have a block around charging my Kindle lately….though I bought the Kindle edition, too. I’m really looking forward to it!


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