Monday, April 9, 2012

There Is Unique and There Is Strange

I am frequently amazed at some of the stories that cross my desk as an agent. I know I am not alone in this thought either. There are a  lot of times that we as agents (and editors) get together and talk about some of the strange submissions we get each year. Yes, some of these are strange queries, but there are also a lot of stories that the premise alone is completely off the charts.

As editors and agents, we are always telling writers that we are desperately looking for that new and unique voice. That story that leaps off the page and really drags us into the story. This is sooooo, true. But, I do believe that there are writers out there, that in an attempt top find that new and uniqe voice, have crossed over into the "LA LA Land" and come up with something that honestly, Andrew Zimmern from Bizzare Foods on the Travel Channel would never digest. Where did you come up with this idea.

Now don't get me wrong. You can be quirky. You can have fun and be creative. But I do believe writers need to stop and think before they write too far into this new project and ask if the story has really gone off the deep end.

The problem with going too far into the "strange" is that the story simply cannot be believeable. When the story isn't something we as readers can accept in our reality, we lose a connection with the characters or any message you as an author are trying to get across to us.

We'll take this one step further. We have been talking a lot lately about the marketablity of your stories. This has to be something a person will really want to go out and buy. Again, I think that authors are missing the mark here. They go out to their book stores or scan on line and believe that "since there isn't a story out there like this" it means their is a need for this. Ummmm, no. If there isn't a story out there like your story, it might simply mean that no one in their right mind would pick up the book.

O.K. I will say that there may be people out there to get your book, but it will be for those "gag" gifts, or "White Elephant" parties when you try to screw your friends over with something so bizarre that you really stun them. Is this really what you want to be remembered for? Do you want to truly be the author that your readers laugh at (and not laugh with)? I would bet the answer to that one is no.

If you still doubt me on this one, go and scan the digital reader library of many books that are "free". I think this should say it all. And, I guess I would also add that if the author can't even give the book away for free, what does this tell you?

Come on people. Keep it on Earth for a while.



  1. Someone else who I linked to this post wants an example of what's "strange".

    For example, was there any particular story that landed on your desk that sparked this blog post?

  2. I think it's to do with the fact that people somehow get the idea that they need to be unique in order to be a success.

    It's a bit like advice I've heard about starting a business: don't obsess about finding a niche nobody else is in, because that (nine times out of ten) is because that niche doesn't pay. Rather, the existence of other businesses in the same field as your proposal is confirmation of the fact there's a market there.

    Originality is doing it better, not doing it only differently.