Knowing how to categorize your work is one of the most important skills a writer needs to know–especially while querying. Here’s an infographic to help. It’s not perfect and there are many places that writers won’t fit into and that doesn’t mean it’s not a marketable book. However, learning how to market yourself starts with knowing where your book stands and where it will sit on bookshelves.
Playing it safe gets boring. Writers who take chances end up pushing the boundaries and get conversations going. And when conversations get started publicity will take off.
- Station Eleven
- Age of Miracles
- The Golem and the Jinni
What do these books have in common? They defy category. They took risks and they paid off. They step outside our known boundaries, but stick to universal human emotion–that’s how we relate to their worlds.
4 Reasons You Should be Taking Risks with your Fiction:
1. Memorable is better than derivative. Nothing will make people remember like something they’ve never read before. Agents included. We are always looking for things that we can’t forget. When we say “we’ll know it when we see it” this is what we’re getting at. If we can’t forget it means that when we send something to an editor that they won’t be able to get it out of their heads either–and so on. Derivative books have a place, they fit neatly into genre boxes which can be helpful, but don’t be too scared to take a chance and see where your imagination goes.
2. Blending genres and categories is what creates unique books. Not only are risky books memorable, they’re also unique. That means that when sales staff are pitching to booksellers or publicity are pitching to magazines they will know how this book is different than all the rest. Don’t be afraid of mixing up genres and keeping readers on their toes. Lots of agents I know are looking for “genre bending.” It’s on our hotlist. (Read more about genre-bending books here.)
3. You won’t get better unless you push yourself and let go of expectation. If you try to write into neat boxes you are closing yourself down before you even try something new. It’s scary to sit down at your desk and not know if that writing time is going to take you anywhere. It could be a “waste” of 2 hours. But the secret is that all writing time is productive. It gets you closer either way–whether you use it or not. The first step is getting ideas on the page, you can edit the rest later.
4. Even if you take us into new fantasy, alternate historical, or sci fi worlds you can still ground it with relatable themes and human connections. As I mentioned in the opening, a lot of the recent successes in alternate worlds revolve around the idea that we are all still human and have universal emotions: the outsider, coming of age, survival etc. If you can tap into those human emotions you can still take us on a roller coaster plot into outer space. If we can relate to the character’s stakes and struggle than the rest is up to your imagination and ability to create believability.
Q: What are your favorite genre-bending or uniquely memorable books?
Thinking about embarking on self publishing a book on your own? Not sure what the experience is going to be like? This week I feature three of my hybrid authors who have self published projects or series.
There are a lot of factors to consider–How much you can do yourself vs. what you can hire someone to do? How do you get recognized? Will my genre be successful in the self publishing market?
Read on to get the inside scoop on writers making self publishing work for me.
From Rebecca Phillips, author of JUST YOU series
It surprised me how random an author’s success can be. You could spend a lot of time and money on promotion and only sell a handful of books. On the other hand, you could get really lucky and have a break-out hit without much promotion at all. It’s a big mystery.
From Kim Cano, author of ON THE INSIDE and more
Prior to self-publishing, I read every post on a popular self-publishing blog and decided to go for it. I knew there would be a lot of work involved, from writing a great story to finding/hiring an editor to marketing, but I was excited to start my career and saw it as a challenge.
Later on, I discovered most successful Indie authors were in the romance, thriller, and science fiction genre, and that only one, Darcie Chan, had a breakout hit in women’s literary fiction. Undeterred, I continued writing books I’d like to read and had some success along the way, with my first two women’s fiction novels hitting Amazon’s Top 100 several times. That said, it’s still tough to compete against big books in my genre with a limited marketing budget, but I continue to try.
From Caitlin Rantala, author of INDUSTRY DARLING
If someone thinks self-publishing is for them, I’d first say you should get involved in the writing community long before they publish their novel. Make friends! Read all the books! Join a writers blog! Create your own blog! It takes a village to publish a novel, even if you’re self-pubbing. So don’t be shy. Favorite people’s tweets, talk to them! Not only will you start to network, you’ll also meet some incredible people and incredible talent.
Second, you are your biggest advocate and you can’t be afraid to speak up and ask for things. Over the past few years, I’ve had the privilege of growing up in the writing community. Readers, authors and bloggers are some of my absolute favorite people and over the years I’ve watched this community be supportive, encouraging and uplifting of its own. And when INDUSTRY DARLING was published, I experienced this first hand–the trick with self-publishing though, is you have to speak up, you have to seek out opportunity. A month or so before my book was published, I shot out a few DM Twitter messages to a few author friends, asking if they would want to read an ARC of INDUSTRY DARLING and blurb it. Almost everyone I asked said they’d make the time and wanted to read it.
Sometimes I’m told ‘no,’ but more often than not, I’m given the green light. The main thing I’ve learned in self-publishing is if you don’t care, no one else is going to care. It’s certainly time consuming, but if you believe in your work, it’s absolutely worth it.
The feedback and trends from my recent BEA meetings and meetings with editors in New York City were varied, but there were some genre take aways that I can share that reflect where the industry is right now–especially in commercial trade publishing.
I’m not saying anything new, you’ve probably all heard this on Twitter, on blogs, or in bookstores. But, here are trends that have arguably hit saturation:
- Time Travel
That doesn’t mean that editors aren’t looking at it. Some will consider it, but ONLY if it is very, very special and unique. It does mean that the number of editors that would take a chance on it right now are super slim. Continue reading Trends: they’re fluid and you’ll never catch them