This is something I see a lot in submissions from authors. Their argument is pretty simple. They have done the research and found that no one has done that type of story yet, therefore, it is an easy sale and editors and agents would be fools not to buy it.
Well, we need to stop right there. While this might sound logical, the reality is, if there is nothing out there, the odds are this is a topic/genre/plot/style that simply is not going to sell.
Yes, we do want new and unique stories. We say this over and over again at conferences, on blogs and in articles. But there is an additional piece that I think many of you are missing. There has to be a market for that story. If readers out there would never buy the concept, then the project is not marketable.
I know what some of you are saying. How do we know they would not like it if we don't have it out there. Again, this might seem logical, but we can use additional pieces of data and market research to determine if the story would even sell. I would also argue that in many cases, simple common sense might also tell us the project would not sell.
I'm going to give you some extreme cases here, but I think you can get the feel of what I mean. These stories would simply not sell:
- A new adult novel about a high school senior having a relationship with her swim coach. - Nope!
- A fictional story about life inside a terrorist group showing that the character might have justifiable reasons for what he or she is doing.
- A story about a character who is in financial troubles, so the author shows her doctoring the companies records and stealing from the company because, in her case, it is a justifiable reason to steal.
I also noted that maybe the market is just not interested in that topic right now. In this case, agents and editors are looking at trends in areas such as movies, television, cultural situations and yes, what books are selling or not right now.
As you think about a project you want to start, take the time to really look around you. I would never advise a client to start something that simply will not sell.