Monday, September 21, 2009

Rules, Rules, I Hate Rules

Whether we like it or not, the publishing industry does have rules and we do have to follow the darn things. As frustrating as this may seem, it is something you have to learn to deal with if you want to be in the business professionally. Now I know many of you feel this "ruins your creative ability" or "hurts your individualism" but you will have to deal with it. I also know many of you leap into the "independent publishing" side of things because you want to keep things your way. For those of you, there really isn't much I can say. Today, we are going to focus on those that want to go the more traditional route.

Each publisher has a set of rules for what they look for and the style of their books based on what sells and what doesn't sell with their book buyers. Remember that, while the books may be available in a number of outlets, each publisher has a specific market they target. Sure, every now and then they expand and change that market, but they work with what is making them money at that time. It goes back to that old saying, "if it isn't broke, don't fix it."

Harlequin is a great example of this. While many might find the specific lines they have to be confining, these lines still work. In a recent TIME article, it was highlighted that revenues for Harlequin were up 8.7% and revenues at $225.5 million in the first half of the year. Not bad. But why does it work? Simply put, the rules they have established are set for the market they sell to.

As a writer, it is up to you to make sure you fully understand the rules to the game. Sure it can be tough, but demonstrating that you can follow the rules and still make an amazing story will show your strength as a writer.

Now with that said, I have to also highlight that agencies also have rules. We know what works and doesn't work for our agencies. We have rules for submission and what we look for. Following those rules is also crucial for success. I frequently have people submit stories that are far from the genre I am acquiring. What amazes me is the email response I get after I reject them. "I had assumed you would look outside of your comfort zone." Excuse me?

So, your homework this week? Get out there and research the rules for where you want to send your stories. It will be tough. Oh, and if you want to send it to places that say "read what we publish and you will know what we want" means you should do just that.


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