Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Answer To The Questions: "So what are you looking to acquire?"

I would have to say, it would be a rare occasion for an editor or an agent to NOT Be asked the question of what we are looking for in a story, when we attend a conference. This is one of those guaranteed questions. And yet, authors are always frustrated with the lack of what they believe is a real response.

When we are asked this question, 99.999% of the time the answer will always be the same. "We are looking for a great story, with great characters and a new and unique voice." Or... "We want a story we will completely fall in love with." One of the best ones I heard came from Shauna Summers, Executive Editor at Ballantine Bantam Dell. She spoke of a book that makes her want to call her friends and talk about it.

Now, I know what many of you are saying. This doesn't help! Ahhhh, but it does. For you see, what we are looking for is exactly what you as readers are looking for in a story. Do you go out and look for a book that sounds like everyone else's story? Do you look for characters that are jerks, or writing that is a piece of crap? I seriously doubt it.

The quality of a book is not the topic of the book, but the way it is executed by the authors. It is the storytelling and the wordsmithing that makes the writing stand out.

But here is the thing that I seriously doubt many authors do with their own stories. Look at your writing, not as the author and creator of what you perceive to be "the Great American Novel," but to look at your writing as someone who is reading it for the first time. You are the book buyer. Now, tell me about that novel.

I do believe far too many authors are simply copying patterns from other authors, using tropes because someone said X-publisher really likes secret babies or cowboys with baggage. Sure, we know what type of stories do well with the market research, but again, it is not the topic that sells it, but the writing.

When authors complain that their stories are not selling (regardless of the type of publisher: traditional, indie, e-pub and so forth) they often blame it on all of these other external factors, but fail to go and look at their actual writing. Is the writing REALLY good?

And remember this. Learning to be a GREAT writer takes time. This is not an issue of simply sitting at your computer, writing a story and then selling it. It takes time to learn the craft. It takes time to write numerous stories, many of which are not great, just to learn what it takes to be a GREAT writer.

Look, we want GREAT writing. GREAT writing sells. Authors who know how to craft GREAT WRITING sell. Publishers who represent GREAT writing sell!

Agents and editors are not rejecting stories simply because they are being "gate keepers" to the coveted writing slots out there. They are not turning away stories because they are "afraid to take on a new project." They are, unfortunately, turning away many of those stories simply because the writing is not good. And writing that is not good, is not a good investment for future sales.

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