“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...