Saturday, March 21, 2009

What next? Or, strategery [sic].

Whew! I survived the first week. Kind of. I have a lot of queries to sort though so if you're waiting, rest assured that I will get to them in the timeliest way possible.

And thank you so much to every one who commented or sent me e-mails or twittered me. It means a lot as I start out on my own.

This topic: what to do if you're not writing any of the kinds of books I mentioned in the last post. And by the way, I forgot one, which a prominent publisher mentioned at lunch Friday: humor.

But back to our topic, what to do? Please do not change course abruptly. I mean it. This sounds corny, but you must stay true to yourself and what you are writing. Just try to do it in a strategic way. In an economy like this one, I think we all need to stay flexible in whatever we do.

So, tweak. Try to mold whatever you are currently working on so it will be attractive in this market.

This isn't always going to work. If you are writing a biography of Martin van Buren, it is hard to tweak that so it is also about organic gardening. (Unless Martin van Buren was in fact an organic gardener. I don't know. ) But certain genres are evergreen, like biography, so in that case you don't have to worry about it as much.

But what if you are writing a memoir? You certainly might try to pitch it as uplifting. You might add a dog or a cat (only if there is one, of course). I'm kidding about the dog, mostly. If you are a person of faith, consider adding that element. Or don't be afraid to add humor as per my comment above.

What if you're writing a second novel and the sales on the first one really aren't all that great? Here's where you should really try to be creative and flexible. Consider a pseudonym although I know that's a tough decision. Try to think of a way that you can keep your unique voice and style but make the book feel a little more marketable to editors. Again, dogs are good (kidding. sort of.) I know this is vague advice, but I'll talk a little bit more about what makes a book seem "big" to editors in another blog. One thing to do is look at books that are working in your genre and think about topics or approaches that they have in common.

In terms of any book you're writing, think about what you'll want to be reading and what you think other people will want to be reading during some really tough times. To my mind, it means funny books, inspirational books, uplifting books, books that take the reader back to simpler, happier times.

Sometimes it's just going to be impossible to tailor your book for the market. In that case, be stubborn. Sometimes the books that work best in the market are the ones that are hardest to sell to editors; the ones no one thinks are going to succeed. That's been true for me many times in my career. Although, be stubborn and have a backup plan. As soon as you start trying to find an agent/get published, get to work on that next one. That's a good rule for anyone to follow.

This post seems kind of all over the place and nonspecific to me--bear with me, I'm still getting used to blogging. I'll try to do better on the next one. Someone asked the question why, if platform for nonfiction is so important, why isn't this the case for fiction? Good question so I may attack that next.

Comment away but be gentle.


  1. I think that in this economy, "responsible escapism" will be highly marketable. People are staying home more, spending more time with their families, reading more. They don't necessarily want to be reminded about the terrible trifecta of a collapsing economy, increasingly unsustainable environmental and energy policies, and war on terror - but I sincerely believe it's our job as authors to at least address these issues.

    There's a lot of fun to be had in them, too. The disconnect that exists between 'reality' and what we hear about in the media provides satirists a seemingly endless well from which to draw: tragicomic characters, ponzi schemes, greed and hubris aplenty.

    We don't have to look any farther than the evening news to find a ton of ideas for fun, funny and, yes, relevant stories that can sell well in this economy - while shining a light on the behaviors that got us into this mess in the first place.

  2. I need to go back to the first post and see what type of novel you represent. = )

  3. Actually I think you need to post a picture of yourself on your website and on your blog.

  4. Uplifting, inspiring - a few decapitations ought to sell really well, right?? I think good historical fiction is the best kind of escapism - not only are you not here, you're not now, either.

  5. Cool. I'm reworking a romantic comedy, and it's got two dogs!

  6. I am O-FFICIALLY obsessed with your blog and will be stalking it 24/7 until you give the green light for more queries!