There’s a lot of talk in the publishing/writing community about what to write. Ask anyone, and the unanimous answer will be, “Write what you love and worry about the rest later.” And that’s okay; definitely write what you love because if you’re not, it will show in your writing. If you don’t love it, no one else will, either.
But after you’ve written your book, what then? If you want to query, what you’ve written will decide almost 100% if you’ll get picked up. Agents sign books they know will sell, and they know what books will sell because they are in close contact with editors in publishing houses and know what books the editors will buy. But what are those books?
There are books that will never go out of style because they encompass the bigger genres: romance, mystery/suspense (combine the two and you’re golden), a little science fiction, some fantasy, maybe. When you choose one of those, you’re choosing a subject or topic that will never stop selling.
But indie authors rarely go generic, and that’s a lot of the problem. Say I’ve written this wonderful story about a fairy princess set in modern times who is a pediatrician and she’s in love with the warlock neuro surgeon down the hall. Her father demands she go home to the fairy world to claim the throne and she’s torn away from her warlock lover. After she’s home and takes up her duties as royalty, she finds out she’s pregnant with her warlock lover’s baby. Now what?
This story is near and dear to my heart, maybe. It’s all written out, all 99,000 words of magical goodness. I have plans to turn this into a trilogy.
Excitedly, I shop it around.
Agents pass, editors at publishing houses pass. A kind agent takes the time to email me and says, “This is great, the writing is solid. But fairies in adult fiction aren’t selling right now, and I don’t know when they will. I can sell it if you turn the fairy and warlock into humans.”
What she did was make my story generic. She turned it into a simple romance she’d probably sell to Avon.
But that’s not what I want, so she offers me, “I’ll sign you and keep it in my drawer. When fairies come around again, I’ll try to sell it.” This isn’t exactly what I want, either, and I wonder if I want to take her offer because how long do I want to wait, exactly? Selling my book could take years, or she could never do it. It doesn’t mean my book or writing is bad, it just means the publishing industry isn’t selling that kind of book right now.
We can all think of books that have had their day: vampires/werewolves (Twilight), dystopian societies (The Hunger Games), mommy porn (Fifty Shades of Grey).
But look on the NYT Bestseller list and we can see what’s hot right now: mysteries, The Woman in Cabin 10 (Ruth Ware), The Couple Next Door (Shari Lapena), Seeing Red (Sandra Brown), The Store (James Patterson). Simple romance, Two by Two (Nicholas Sparks). General Fiction, Before We Were Yours (Lisa Wingate), Exposed (Lisa Scottoline).
There isn’t a fairy, vampire, or elf on the whole list. Even Young Adult has is having a grown up moment: The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas), One of Us is Lying (Karen M. McManus). Third on the list is about faeries, but it’s part of a series by Cassandra Clare. She has her name and history behind that book, something you wouldn’t have. (Just sayin’.)
The reason I’m writing this blog post isn’t to tell you to write boring—write what you want to write. But I am saying that there may not be room for your book when you’re done with it depending on the climate of the industry.
#PitchWars just ended on Twitter. It’s a program (for lack of a better term) created by agent Brenda Drake. A writer submits their manuscript and hopes a “mentor” will take them on and help make their manuscript queryable.
The problem is, these mentors know what is selling and will choose manuscripts that have the best chance at being picked up. If that happens, everyone looks good; that’s the goal.
There have been a lot of hurt feelings because manuscripts haven’t been picked up by mentors, and I’m willing to bet it’s not the writing but the genre and plot that made a mentor decline a book. Vampires, out. A teen learning what her true gifts are just in time to save the world, out. Clumsy girls who fall in love with billionaires, out.
The stars have to align for a book to be published these days. Your book has to be on target with the plot, the characters, and the trends at the time. It has to resonate with an agent, who has to find the perfect editor who wants to take it on.
I would never feel bad if my book didn’t get picked up. There are so many things that have to go right for that to happen; I would never take it personally.
But lots of people do.
Let me know what you’re writing. Do you think your book would get picked up after seeing what’s being published right now?