by Tamela Hancock Murray
What is the best way to find out what is successful in the current market?
This is a good question because while as an author, you don’t want to chase the market, you also don’t want to write books that are so far off from the current market that they have no chance of selling. First and foremost, marketing advice from any source assumes that authors submit their best, most polished, highest quality work. Just because vampire novels enjoy popularity now, doesn’t mean publishers will acquire just any novel with a vampire. The novel must sparkle to sell to a publisher and then to readers. I don’t recommend chasing nonfiction trends either, because one or two popular authors can quickly saturate the market on any given topic. Or as Steve Laube says, “If you are asking what’s hot…you are too late.” Although some topics are evergreen, as a rule the market can only absorb so many books on a topic. Writing about a tangent of a popular topic won’t help because then the book is in danger of being too narrow to sell to a large audience. It’s then a niche of a niche.
How to Choose
I recommend choosing a topic, setting, and story that stirs your passion. If you don’t feel passion for your work, readers will know. A friend once told me of an aspiring writer who tried to imitate Anne Rice because he went into a book store and noted the popularity of vampires. He went home and wrote a vampire book and hoped to hit the big time. I’ve yet to see the writer in print. My guess? He wrote only for money so his story was bloodless.
The Time Factor
Unless you’ve been in publishing awhile, you may not realize the amount of time that transpires from an author typing The End on a computer screen to a book appearing in print can be a year or more. (See our previous blog “How Long Does It Take to Be Published”) Multi-book contracts keep authors writing certain types of books several years. Consider that by the time you see a particular genre in the store, it’s possible that the publisher acquired it years ago. That means that as far as acquisitions, the publisher may have moved on to a different interest. Another possibility is that the house now has its author in that genre and is not looking to acquire more.
Striking the Balance
In my view, the best way to strike the balance is to read. A lot. If you are hoping to break into a market with set rules, such as genre romance, learn what those rules are and don’t break them. Yes, a select few authors may be able to bend the rules but a new author must write within the genre confines. Period. Once you have read in your selected genre, you will see joy in the challenge of remaining within the genre’s rules while still being fresh and creative. Trade books might offer a bit more flexibility and certainly length, but you still need to read many of the type of trade books you want to write. When you are buying and reading current books, you are naturally studying the market and seeing firsthand the type of book that is successful in the current market. Then write the type of books you enjoy reading. Don’t imitate a famous author. Stick with your own voice, but polish every word so your book’s awesomeness cannot be denied.
What to Do with Your Awesome Book
Once you feel you’ve struck the right balance of market potential and awesome writing, let your agent be your guide. The best agents talk to editors all the time and keep their level of knowledge high by reading industry news and attending business meetings and events. Your agent is able to direct your work to the editors who will give your work serious consideration. We always appreciate writers who work with us to perfect marketable manuscripts.
What other tips can you offer writers hoping to break into the market? What are you doing to break into the market?
This post is in response to an excellent question posed on last week’s blog.