Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Don't Let Creativity Get In The Way - Marketing books that cross genres

I had this issue come up recently with an author. In reality, this is something agents see pretty much on a daily basis. An author sends us a proposal and we have a hard time figuring out what the genre is? This is not because the author has failed to tell us, but more likely because the author has tried really hard to come up with something so new that we can't define it.

Whenever I bring this up, I know there are a lot of you that scream and yell about not wanting to be "boxed in" or "labeled" as a writer. Just relax for a second, have a cup of herbal tea and listen.

When we talk about selling a book, whether it is to an agent or an editor, we are using the same skills you would use marketing any other product in the real world. It is all about product placement. It is about making sure the book/project lands in the hands of the right person so we end up with the best results. For this reason, you have to know exactly what your story really is. Making the story overly complicated and too hard to figure out where it goes is giving us too easy of a reason for rejecting the story.

As you look at your story, you have to determine what the central story really is. It might not be what you had planned and you may end up having to do some serious re-writing, but it needs to be done. In the present format, the book simply won't sell.

I was recently at a conference and an author was struggling with this same idea. She came to me telling me "I have this story that has strong Christian characters and strong Christian ideals but it isn't an inspirational story." Ahh, but it is young Jedi! She believed it wasn't because of the other plot elements that happened in the story. In this case, she had an inspirational that had huge plot flaws and therefore made it unmarketable.

Another author that frequently posts here on the blog emailed me and told me she was in the middle of huge re-writes. In her head, she really thought she had a historical mystery, but now she was shifting it over to a romance. Why? The agent she is working with saw it as a romance and she was probably right. The issue with this author, however, is that she began writing the story without that clear image. The story was historical, paranormal, mystery and romance. Ugh! Too much, time for a focus.

Think of it this way. There is a theory in communication that says "If you can't name it, then it doesn't exist." In this case, it is referring to your reality system, but I think we can extend the idea over to writing. If you can't name your genre, then there is a pretty good chance there is no place on the shelf for it, there is no editor that will want to buy it and no agent that can sell it.


1 comment:

  1. this comment isn't about this topic posted. but it regards a different issue for which had been hoping to acquire some insight. I want to write a fictional novel based on true events. It really becomes a real smoothie of real and fantasy, and seeing how the issue is of a personal problem of a close friend and how "he" is one of the main characters, it makes me feel wronged in exploiting something so personal. he's fine with it and excited about it, but I feel that by presenting the facts with my fantasy spin for my own purposes, I may be misrepresenting the real events that he experienced.