Reasons That Passionate Novel Writers Fail to Publish - Part II


Virtually every time you speak with a new writer (especially genre writers) you discover that she or he has not sufficiently researched their market. In other words, they don't have a clue as to what types of first novels are currently being published in their genre. Why is this important? Because first novels provide the writer with a concept of what the market is looking for. Also, it helps steer the writer away from starting a project that will be DOA on arrival due to being way way too deja-vu. Far too many writers make the Dan Brown mistake, i.e., they attempt to emulate a well published writer, falsely believing it will get them published. They don't understand that a privileged few can get away with horrible crimes and still be published. The writer needs to examine what types of first novels have been published in their genre over the past five years: investigate story types, settings, protagonists, etc. The research always yields productive results.

btw, we're not telling you to chase trends, but you must understand that certain types of story premise and characters, preferred viewpoints and more, change and evolve over time.  For example, the typical gumshoe detective of the past has been replaced by protagonists more exotic and diverse.  Terrorists and 911 stories are dead on arrival, and the thriller market overdosed on Nazis a long time ago, shortly after Allan Folsom's publisher launched THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW.  Historical cozy mysteries are more popular while Miss Marple's many clones have sent countless sad writers to shelve their manuscripts and return to their wage slave existence.

Keep in mind too that providing good comparables in your query letter can prove difficult if you are not well read in your genre. Also, if you ever meet with an agent or editor and they question you about your genre, or what you've read lately, you'll fall flat if you don't appear knowledgeable on the subject of what is hot and/or upcoming.


1 comment:

  1. Great advice Michael! I'd also add that a lot of newbie writers hope to "Cash in" on a trend - when that really only works if you just happen to be in at the start of it - or start it yourself.

    The dreaded "been there done that" happens - and it's a shame because even darn good writing won't dig you out of that hole... even if you think you're better that the guy (or girl) who did it first.

    An example - a film producer told me recently if he saw one more documentary treatment about the homeless he was going to scream. His take was everything about it had been already said a hundred times... and he has a point.

    To add to Michael's excellent advice I suggest looking at not only what's selling but also what's on the remainder racks at your local MegoLoBooks. It's a good lesson in seeing what people thought would sell well - and then didn't so much.

    So avoid writing stories about wizards who attend wizard high schools; "Zombie" versions of classic novels (a fun concept once - not so much after six books); movie scripts about Vietnam (unless you add something really really new) and anything with vampires is (pardon the pun) getting a bit long in the tooth.