f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: A Piece of Advice for All HtBPWs (Hopeful to Be Published Writers)

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Thursday, May 20, 2004

A Piece of Advice for All HtBPWs (Hopeful to Be Published Writers)

My apologies for yesterday. Sometimes I’m just going to come up firing blanks and when that happens, well, I turn to the “Your mamma” jokes. Thank you for not taking it personally. I know none of your mothers but I assume they are/were all very handsome women.

Today, I want to take the blog back on topic by returning to the actual topic of writing. Next week, I’d like to do another nuts & blots study of the actual craft. I think I want to look at “tone.” If you’d asked me a few months ago if I could ever talk for five days about tone, I’d have said you’re crazy but after the whole 7 day POV-extravaganza I just want to give myself some time.

So, next week will be tone.

Today I want to encourage you all—after not seeing enough of this at the writers conference—to learn your market. One of the questions I asked most of the author hopefuls with whom I spoke was “What are some competing books in the market?”

The most common response was, “I don’t know.” Or, “I don’t think there’s anything like it out there.”

“I don’t know” is honest, but not real helpful. One of the roles you’re going to have to play as author is “promotions/marketing.” That may sound backwards or surprising but it’s true. Publishing houses have only so much time and a very limited window during which they can promote your book. After that, much of the hard work will fall on you. One of the things you’ll need to know in that promotion is where your book falls in the market.

“I don’t think there’s anything like it out there” may also be honest, but if it’s true, more likely than not, your book doesn’t have a place in the market. Yes, your book is unique but it needs some parallels or both sales people and bookstores won’t have a clue on what to do with it.

So do some homework. Read reviews on Amazon and place your book in the context within four or five other novels. And honestly it would help if those other four or five novels were at least mildly successful. But please, pick novels that actually fit your book. Just because you like and were uninspired by Lori Wick, doesn’t mean your book links with hers. And, honestly, don’t even bring up Left Behind. Unless you’re actually writing apocalyptic evangelical fiction, don’t say the words. (And please, just take it a step further and don’t write apocalyptic evangelical fiction. I mean, why bother, we haven’t even buried the first 12 books yet.)

So that’s my post with my marketing cap on. Know your market. This is something you don't need to know when you start your book, but you should have a pretty good idea of it when you're halfway through. You don’t need to write to your market, precisely, but you do need to understand which readers will come to you. If you can discuss those things clearly and rationally with an editor, I promise it will go much better for you.