Thursday, January 21, 2021

It all comes down to the market!

I have been following this one social media group and they have been on a tear lately upset that one particular genre was not being picked up in the U.S. "Why!" they screamed. They all love the genre so why is it that the US editors and agents are not buying up this author's book. It all comes down to the market. 

I don't think they understood the situation. 

I tried to explain that, as an agent (and editors do this too), we look at who our market is and what they are interested in. Yes, a book can be amazing and the premise is awesome, but if no one is looking to buy that book, because the readers are just not into that genre, then the book will come to a complete stand-still and never sell. 

Let me explain what I told them. I used this analogy, but I will give you a second as well. 

Let's say I have this really elite, high quality restaurant I want to open. I am really thinking 5 Michelin Star Level. You know the type - it requires getting reservations months in advance and easily a credit card with a large credit line. I am now looking for a place to open the restaurant. I could go to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or Paris but I am thinking, there will be too much competition there. Instead I find some place like Bodfish, California (no, I am not putting down Bodfish! I love the place! I spent 3 years working just up the road for their each summer). I look around and there is clearly a space for the restaurant. No one in Bodfish has a store for this! I can fill that niche. Ahhhh, but wait. This is where the market research comes in. Is this a location where people would ever want to go to a restaurant like this? Probably not. 

Now try this one. I have just designed the best swim suit ever. This thing is comfortable, stylish and everything you want. So now I go to all of the clothing stores in my town to have them pick up the swim suit to sell in their store. But it is November and we are in some place really cold. Why won't the store buy my swimsuit! It's perfect? It might be, but guess what, it won't sell. It is too fricking cold! 

It might sell later though, when the market is ready. 

Too often, I find authors who have just sat down at their computer and wrote their novel, but never thinking of the market. Is the market really ready for that story now? Will it ever be ready? Along the same lines, is the market, where you want to sell it, receptive to the idea. 

Think of it this way. My published authors all have their books in foreign markets. But they are not all in the same markets. One author is completely adored in Scandinavia but the books are never really picked up big time in France. Why? The voice, genre or style is more suited for one country and not another. 

Authors, you have to understand that your novels ARE NOT going to be universally liked. You have a niche. Work with it 

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Find The Energy To Push On

 Here comes the Captain Obvious statement - "Writing a novel is not easy." 

When you tell someone you are a writer, 9 times out of 10, the person you are telling this to will follow up with something like, "I don't know how you do it? How do you come up with those ideas for your stories?" For non-writers, they seem to think the thing that makes writing difficult is the idea development or the number of words you type. The reality though is that writing is difficult because you have to have the stamina to keep going. You have to have a drive!

I love all of the authors I represent here at Greyhaus. One of the things I am most proud of is their ability to REALLY write. When they have deadlines, they don't just meet the deadline, they get that writing in early. When their editors need something done, they are there with 110% of their energy, even if they are in the middle of another project. 

But it is not easy, even for them. They have to find that drive to push on.

Is there a magic trick they have up their sleeves to find that energy? Nope. It isn't caffeine or a specific writing app, or a special chair this write their stories in. It is a mindset that says they are not going to stop. 

There will be days when life gets in the way but nearly every time, they find a way to say that the story will go on. The writing will happen that day.

One of my authors just finished up a project for a new line she is writing for. She reached the 2/3 mark in the book and reached deep inside to make that story happen. When I checked in with her during this process, she told me she was writing 2 chapters a day. That's right, two! That is roughly 25-30 pages a day. How did she do it? She just hunkered in, thought about the story, removed the distractions around her and "went for it." She would go walking in the morning with her dog, come home and write. After the first chapter, she would go for a second walk, or do some house keeping, and then dive back in.

It is really this drive that separates those who will be successful and those who will not. You have to find a way to just say I am going to do it! It is very similar to extreme athletes who can say, just at that moment when the pain is too much, look to the end. Look to the finish line and know what they will feel when they are done!

So, what is your drive? How do you find the energy?

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Who Is In Your Network?

 Even though writing is a solitary activity, it is always important to find a way to reach out and expand your network. The wider your network, the increased chance that your career in writing will be profitable and successful. It is really for this reason that some authors tend to go faster and further with their career than other authors. Let's look at some ways to expand that network.

One of the first things I recommend for authors is to join a national writing group. Yes, those small writing circles that meet at the local library are fun, but the larger organization is going to open you up to a lot of resources. Once a part of that group, you now have access to smaller writing groups of people who are writing the same things that you are writing. You will have access to lists of editors and agents who represent the things you write. You now can tap into educational materials, contests and the latest insight in the world of publishing. Yes, you can get a lot of this on your own, but that group now just made your life easier.

A second group of resources would be the social media outlets such at Twitter, Facebook and so forth. This is not so much about ways to market your books (even though this is a great outlet), it is more about a quick way to connect with what other authors are doing, and also, to get that connection to trends and happenings in the publishing world. 

I also recommend hooking up with editors and agents on their blogs. Here you will get more of that connection to what we are thinking and looking for. We tend to do things such as the infamous #MSWL that will give you that insight into the current trends. This is also where you can get hooked up with learning opportunities and webinars. 

Other authors is also a great resource. In all honesty, that word of mouth about your latest release goes a long way when your fellow authors retweet your message. You may have 500-1000 followers but that retweet just connected in to their followers. Cha Ching!

I think you get the idea here. Don't think you can do this entirely on your own. It really will take a village to get you to where you want to be as an author!

Monday, January 18, 2021

The Opening Chapter - Does it hook the reader?

 I was talking to one of my clients yesterday and it got me thinking. She is currently judging the new RWA contest, The Vivian. The format is a bit different from the RITA so it was interested to hear her thoughts. The first round, you are just to read the first chapter of the books you are sent. The idea is essentially to see if the book is going to hook you enough to want to read more.

And for many books, the first chapter simply does not do what it is supposed to do. 

When I pass on books like this, I often get replies from the author stating that if I just kept reading, the book really gets going. While that might be the case, readers simply do not have the patience to keep reading. 

We know that often, readers give up on books within the first 3-5 chapters. They quit because the plot is going now where, the characters just don't get together, or the author has felt the need to do a full backstory information dump.

Your story needs to start with forward movement. I know a lot of people have used the word "action" but this is often misunderstood. They hear the word action and immediately dump the reader in the middle of the conflict of the book without giving us any information. We simply are lost. So, they swing the pendulum the other way and then give us all of the information we need to understand the conflict. Again, big mistake. Forward movement is simply getting us going. Starting the plot, and more importantly, the characters on their adventure through the novel. 

I read the beginning of a historical romance just recently that really screwed this up. They had the characters showing up at a ball during the Regency season. This is fine. It is likely going to get the characters together and potentially get the conflict going. But the author went a different direction. She proceeded to give us the backstory on ALL of the players that would show up in the book. She spent more time talking about the "other" characters and did not give us enough of the main characters. 

Think of Edith Wharton's AGE OF INNOCENCE. There is a scene early on where she proceeds to talk about the characters in the story. It works here, but why? We have already gotten into the book and we know how these people are going to work with Newland, May and Ellen. 

The other thing that the opening chapters do is to give us the true sense of how this book fits in the genre. Again, I recently read the opening pages of a historical women's fiction piece. I was really excited about this one based on the initial summary of the book. But the book fell apart because it took nearly 2 chapters before we got to even seeing the main female protagonist. In fact, the entire opening chapter had only men in it and only a mention of a single woman in the room (interestingly enough, she was not the main character). Ugh.

I know there are a lot of you out there who openly admit that you will read through at least 1/3 - 1/2 of the book before giving up. Sorry to say this, but you are the exception to the rule. 

So, your task today is to look to those opening chapters. If you were an outside reader, would you really like where the book is going? If now, fix it!