Thursday, August 14, 2008

Pick it and stick it

My oldest is heading into 4th grade this year. One of the things he left 3rd grade with was a wonderful habit that frankly, more writers need to learn to do. His teacher suggested at the beginning of each week to find one book and work through it all week. As she said, it was your "pick it and stick it book." The idea was to see things through to the end and not just jump around.

O.K. so the goal was to encourage the kids to finish the book so they could take a test on it at the end of the week for their reading program, but this was not the point that he left with. He saw the deeper level of the power of sticking to one thing.

For writers, it is important that you pick it and stick it as well. Find the genre you do well and make it work. Find ways to improve and to make a name for yourself.

At some level, this is that element of branding we hear so many writers talk about. You want to be able to be known for that one great style of writing so when someone says, "Do you know of a great [insert name of genre here] author," your name pops up. Historical - Beverley and Hunter; Contemporary - MacComber; YA - Cabot; Paranormal - Kenyon; Sci-fi - Sinclair. Get the idea?

I have to say, I get frustrated when I see the published authors jumping around like this. When their genre is struggling, they feel it is the state of the readers getting bored. Hey, who is in control here? It's the writers. The writers are the ones coming up with the same old stuff over and over again. Find a way to improve on your craft and then produce a story that keeps your brand going.

At the recent RWA conference, I heard several established authors complaining about the sales of their recent books. The funny part was the fact that they shifted to a new genre and didn't understand why their readership didn't like the new stuff. It's simply, they liked the other genre but got bored because the writer wasn't coming up with something new. Isn't it interesting that the writers with longevity have followed that rule of pick it and stick it?

Now for unpublished authors, you need to do the same thing. If a story isn't working for you right now, don't jump genres and go for something else. In all likelyhood, the reason you are struggling with that story/genre is because you haven't learned it well enough. This does not mean to give up.

There is one caveat here. If you started in a genre that you knew nothing about because you were following a trend, then you simply screwed up from the beginning. Go back and read my earlier posts about knowing your niche.

So, quit jumping around. Find something to work on and finish it. Focus on it. Brand yourself. And for you established writers, please pick it and stick it. We liked your writing the first time. Just show us you know that genre well enough to find something new and unique in it.


On the schedule for the day?
Clean desk.
Answer submissions
Prep proposals to go out next week (over 15 requests for my author's writing).


  1. Oh man. If you really want to know how tough it wil be,check out the advice to writers on the Larsen-Pomada Agency website.
    Apart from the suggestion that new authors already have a national platform and large web of professional publicity contacts before contacting agents, is the suggestion that you pay for a professionally designed book cover to be included with the proposal, and publish the book yourself in order to "prove" to prospective agents that the book is already selling well privately.
    Let's see. The chains won't take such a book, and the small stores were crowded out long ago by the chains.
    We are surely having fun now! Better to know the truth. P actually do know someone who published a book privately with great reviews, but after the newspaper article and generous talk invited by Barnes and Noble, was dead in the water forever. Out of sight, out of mind.
    And then there is MedaLLion Press, which published Call of the Trumpet, a very well-reviwed and written (I thought) book. But look at the Amazon sales. So dismal. The book just fwll through the cracks. And the owner of that press surely has the resources to make SP work.
    Repeat to self. Always better to know the truth. Book sales are down and stores are closing. Best sellers already account for most of the sales. High returns. Why did I want to do this? Love pain? A challenge? Hope so.
    Truly, because I found this story in a few lines in a history book and it would not let go of me. Felt like falling in love again. Back to The Trail.

  2. P.S/
    And if you'd like to know what it feels like to be a snake in a wagon rut, go on to the LitMatch site, which lists the current submssions standings of different agencies. I've been checking it for several months, and no one has taken a single thing, and almost every sites lists multiple "withdrawals" which must mean they changed their minds after some initial vague interest.
    Um...this will result in less competition, I suppose.Just think of the pleasure in beating these odds.

  3. I agree with you 100%, Scott. I just had a post on this the other day, in fact. I was so busy trying to write in my assumed genre I completely ignored where I actually shone.

    Once I owned up to it things have taken off, but it was a hard lesson to learn.

    Once again, rocking post. :)