f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Establishing a Career as a Writer: Part III

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

Monday, March 13, 2006

Establishing a Career as a Writer: Part III

You have now:

1. Written your novel.
2. Given some thought to what kind of writer this makes you.

Now I think is the time to study the market—your market.

Many writers with an eye to the business of publishing would likely say this should be your first step. I’m not convinced. Of course, you’re also taking advice from a guy whose C.I.P data from his second book says, “Historic Buildings—Conservation and Restoration—Fiction” so nobody will ever confuse me with Donald Maas. All I know is that, as with nearly every complex market, trying to “read” it and “predict” from the outside is, often, a fool’s game. What’s hot now (unless you can write a very good book in three or four months) is unlikely to be seen as anything but bandwagon jumping (or worse, passe) by the time your book would emerge…likely 18-30 months later.

(For the moment, we’re going to assume your market is CBA. I think some of this advice can hold true for ABA, too, but that’s a world I know in less detail so I won’t claim to speak for it.)

There are four particular things I think you should become familiar with:

1. The books arriving on the shelves and their authors.
2. The publishers who put them there.
3. The readers who are buying them.
4. Insider information

It’s baffling to me, in talking with writers at conferences, how few are able to converse at all about other books/authors in the CBA market. Now, you don’t need to have read every book that comes out, but at least a handful that seem to be in the same general ballpark as your title.

Likewise, now that authors are more and more accessible on the web, I encourage you to visit their blogs and websites. Not to pander or hit up for their help, but just to listen, especially when they talk about the market. Deeanne Gist, Brandilyn Collins, TL Hines, Angie Hunt…I can think of a ton of authors with vibrant web presences.

Next, you need to get to know the logos on the spines. There’s, what, a dozen or so sizable CBA fiction publishers. Maybe more now. It’s not that much homework to do. See if you can detect trends in their releases. Get at least a little bit of an idea about where your book would fit for each of them.

Finally, it’s good to get a sense of what readers are doing. You can do this online. You can do it by talking with friends. You can do it by visiting your local Christian bookstore and simply watching people shop the fiction section.

In fact, your Christian bookstore (especially if you have a vibrant one) is probably your best resource. If you can find an employee willing to chat with you during some downtime (and if you buy something as thanks) you’ll likely pick up some sense of what’s going on in the world of CBA fiction.

The last resource I’d point you to is the “trades.” If you can get your hands on Publishers Weekly (often in libraries) or sign up for the newsletters there or Christian Retailing you’ll get some first-hand, advance access to what the publishing world—especially the editors—is doing now.

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Hang around here or many of the other CBA blogs and you’ll pick much of this information up. But it’s never a bad idea to do some grunt work on your own. Everybody (me especially) has their biases and information gaps. But it’s really not that complex a market so finding your place in it shouldn’t be that strenuous a task.

(Feel free to click here to see a little tour I once wrote up. Half of these publishers were sold last week, I think.)

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Continue on to Part IV of Estalibishing Your Career as a Writer.