Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Always Keep Your Options Open

You have heard me say here on numerous occasions that your writing is simply not going to fit at every publishing house out there. The voice, the style and so forth really do vary from one place to the next. It isn't simply about the word count but what goes into the story and the things you emphasize in your storytelling. Even though this does limit where you can send a particular story, there are ways that you can create a bit more flexibility with your projects.

If you really pay attention to your story, there are probably elements that can be added or tweaked to actually change where your story can go to, while at the same time, keeping the main storyline and your own unique voice. In fact, several of my authors have done this in the past to increase the marketability of their stories. Let me explain the process.

Together we sit down and discuss potential publishers the writer would be interested in working. It is this list that we start building how we want to approach their stories. As we look at the publishers, we assess what the voice is of the publisher as well as the specific characteristics that work and don't work at that house. Some of those things we consider are:
  • Obviously the word count
  • Level of sensuality
  • Depth of the storytelling including secondary characters and sub-plots.
  • Use of unique writing strategies such as 1st person, 3rd person, flashbacks, etc.
Now, with that list in mind, we work together to identify what things we can do to the story, without a serious over-haul. This is the key! We don't want to get to the point we have to start from the ground up on a new project. We want to work with that basic model and adapt it as we go.

I had one author that did the same thing with her story that allowed us to market it to both the single title houses and the category houses. Part of this had to do with the word count, but the bigger focus we worked with was the level of depth she put into her story. For the single title project, we kept in many of the sub-plots and spent a bit more time developing the secondary characters.

An author I am working with right now is doing much of the same thing, but finding ways to tweak stories based on the level of sensuality in the story. By backing off on the sensuality in one of the stories, it gives us the ability to focus on certain lines, and the other version which was much hotter, could go to other lines.

You can also do this with the endings and the starts of your stories. Again, I had an author that had a FABULOUS multicultural women's fiction piece. In her case, we actually had three different endings to the story. There was a happily ever after, there was a depressing ending and one that potentially kept it open for the reader.

I would also add that an option many authors miss is the word count issue. For many of my authors, we have found that keeping the stories on the lower end of the word count allowed the editors a chance for areas of growth. In other words, if the editor wanted to see another scene, or more character development, it is easier to add to the story than to take it out.

I do believe that if you have stories that have the ability to shift a bit, you will find a bit more success with marketing. But, (and you knew this was coming) the flexibility DOES NOT mean your story can still go everywhere. This is not an issue of just adding more words to a story or taking words out. The one thing I think you will notice in all of the examples I have given is that the basic structure of the story is still intact.


1 comment:

  1. This is a good thought. I think we always have to be open to the different paths our stories can take, and being flexible for multiple markets and publishers is only one reason (though it is a very good one).