Wednesday, March 21, 2012

So What Do You Do When Your Genre (sub-genre) Is Not Selling

I have to say, as a writer (and as an editor or agent) this time totally sucks in publishing. You have a great voice for what you do, but for some reason, that genre isn't selling right now. No, this does not mean that publishing is out to get you. And no, this does not mean you dive into alternative forms of publishing. It simply means the market is saturated and the tone and style the public is looking for is not working right now.

Think of it this way. During the 80's TV really was grubbing on the "family" sit-com. Cosby, Family Ties and so forth ruled the airwaves, but then things changed. Suddenly the "perfect family" didn't quite work so we saw shows like Rosanne show up. Different spin on things but still, it was a family show.

And then these died out...

Does this mean new shows in these lines are bad? Absolutely not. It simply means the market is not interested in that style of story right now. Publishing is no different.

There was a block of time when romance was ruled by those snarky and VERY sexually active women of chick lit. But guess what? That died out too? Why? Simply because that "voice" wasn't working well in a world that had to get "real" about things (i.e the economy, the wars, and so forth).

So the question is, what should a writer do if that is what he or she writes?

You have two choices:

A - Change  your voice. Find something new that still utilizes your skills as a writer but moves toward the trends of the present day. No, this is not following the trends in stories, but tapping into what is important to a population of today. This is part of the reason why I do believe "old school" Contemporary Romances are going to be hot now. We need something to bring life back to our troublesome lives.


B - Wait. There is nothing wrong with a continued focus on what you do. We know this market swings back and forth all of the time. Time travel is in. Time Travel is out. Regency is in. Regency is out. Guess what? It will happen with your genre.

The key is to not panic, but you have to DO SOMETHING!!!! Don't just wait for everyone to rally around you. Don't just expect your agent to wave a magic wand and make things better. DO SOMETHING.

I am reminded of 4 magic questions that a friend of ours learned while working in the juvenile system. These are amazing.

  1. What do I want?
  2. What am I doing right now?
  3. Is that helping?
  4. What should I be doing?
I love question 4 because it is amazingly proactive. It is asking us to make a change. There is no blame on other people or situations. It brings it back to the self.

So... ask yourself those 4 questions. See where that leads you today.



  1. I've watched the science fiction romance market for over 20 years. It has come and gone on seven and eight year cycles, but it has remained a tiny market that is filled mainly with popular writers who also write sf romance, and the only real publisher was Dorchester which is now history.

    In cases like this, an author either needs to consider the alternative markets like small press, epublishers, and self-publishing, or get out of the market.

    I got out of the market.

  2. I agree that one shouldn't chase trends. Write the story that you want to tell, we're always told. Yet, I appreciate the tips you gave on how to accomodate a changing market while still being true to the story you're trying to tell.

    Could you elaborate on what you mean by "old school" contemporary romance?