Friday, June 26, 2009

Make Your Own Luck

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

Sorry for the cheesy saying, but what can I say? I love cheesy sayings and this one may be one of my favorites.

Here's why. You know how you always hear don't write for the market? It's true. Even for the practical reason that by the time you've finished writing the market has usually changed.

But what you should do is be hyper-aware of the market so that you can fully take advantage of the market. Number one easiest way to do this is by reading the NYT list and seeing what kinds of books are working, but you should also check out Publishers Marketplace and Kristin Nelson's blog and Janet Reid's blog (I link to both of them) and really as much as you have time for. Publisher's Marketplace and the agent blogs will lead you to other great resources.

Here's a great example from the Times list. A new book just debuted a few weeks ago at number two on the hardcover fiction list. Without a big push from Oprah this really never happens so it's a notable example.

The book is called The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane and it's one of those novels where there's a mystery happening in contemporary times and the narrative takes you back into history to tell you a story that helps solve the present-day mystery. Another good example of this is a book called The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.

Publishers already are disposed to like this sort of novel, but right now you can guess that they are all dying to buy something similar. And in about a few months time, they will have been so deluged by similar books that they will have moved on to the next thing.

So there's a small window of opportunity here.

Obviously, you're not going to be able to sit down and write a novel like this in time to get it out there and take advantage of the buzz. But if you happen to have one just about ready to submit--get it out there. And make sure to tailor your pitch to refer to Deliverance Dane.

So the plan is two-fold.

First, write the book of your heart. Don't worry about the market.

At the same time, pay attention to the market in every way you can. Watch bestseller lists, read industry news. When you're done with the book, put your knowledge of the market to use and figure out how what's going on in the market matches your particular genre/style/characters/plot. Preparation will meet opportunity. You'll make your own luck. And the great thing is that the way the market shifts and changes, the windows are always opening up.

And of course, if you've written the next Deliverance Dane, hurry up and get it to my query in-box.

Signing off at midnight on Saturday, just having finished the latest Tana French. Tana, Dennis Lehane, Lee Child, you have caused me too many sleepless nights of late. And still I love you all...


  1. Great thoughts Jenny. Thanks for the post.

  2. I'm glad you said to write the book of your heart. I've just finished the book of mine and I know its going to be a tough road to sell it but hopefully a window will open again. Though honestly, I don't really think this window ever closes in the hearts of the readers.

  3. Timing is one of the most important element of all things.

  4. Oh, that's a lovely post because it gives me the green light to carry on with the book that's calling to me rather than trying to second-guess the market. Thank you!

  5. Wow. When I read your post my heart literally skipped a beat. The MS I am readying to submit falls into the Deliverance Dane category perfectly. The problem is I am about two months away from it being "submission worthy". I know better than to send queries on an MS that isn't ready to submit, but what happens when it is close to being finished and there is only a small window of opportunity?

  6. Alli, this is a hard one. I think you must take a deep breath and finish at your own pace and not worry about the market. Remember that the windows are always opening and you just have to look out for them. By the time you finish either people will still be looking for this type of book or you will discover a different way to pitch it that takes advantage of a different market trend.

  7. Jenny, thanks for your advice. I guess tailoring pitches for the market is a little like tailoring a resume for each job being applied for. :-)

  8. It's not obvious to many, that they can't sit down and write a book in time, to take advantage of the latest buzz. Too many people do, and too many get into print. This is what kills the buzz, stories that are copies, and barely good enough.
    Good stories, that are well written, can get lost in the suffle of the current buzz. Unless great agents and editors keep weeding through the piles of slush. Sometimes, I wish, I was an agent...

  9. Terri, I agree completely. And being an agent is great--I highly recommend it!

  10. Like Alli, I'm having heart issues this morning. After reading your post, I queried you on "the next Deliverance Dane," aka my literary suspense novel complete at 100K words on which I am just beginning to query this week; but I'm kicking myself, because in my excitement at the harmonic convergence of timing and theme I wrote "Dance" rather than "Dane" in the subject line. If you'd be willing to forgive this regrettable lapse and suspend your finger over the delete key for a small moment I hope you'll still read the query...
    Thank you! Bryce (Bruce)

  11. Bryce/Bruce, what's the name of the project so I can do a search?

  12. Bruce, have you sent the ms yet?

  13. I have been sitting on my MS which is some where between a novelette and a short story for several years. I use this story with my students and it has proven to be an effective and entertaining way to explore some of mankinds great ideas and philosophies. Your blog has inspired me to explore publishing my unique story. I was just wondering how to match my story with the right agent.

  14. *antenna perks up*

    "Latest Tana French" being the THIRD Tana French?

  15. Goddam! This is by far one of the best advice given on market and writing of the heart.

    You always hear write your truth, which I take to heart. Then you how you can't write for the market. But this strategy merges the two to an author's advantage.

    Man! I mean, Woman! Love this.