Friday, December 11, 2009

Writing What Sells

The title of this post may sound like a no-brainer piece of advice: Writing what sells will get you published.

What kind of post would that be? It’d be a post of wrong information.

If you’re writing a sweeping saga of two generations of vampires in hopes of jumping on board that big vampire sailboat, you’re most likely too late. That boat sailed. But maybe you can build your own boat filled with adventurous satyrs who can blend in with humans.

Sure, agents are still looking at vampire novels, if they have a new twist or an angle not yet used. But you’ll have a better chance of selling your book if it’s unique, different, new.

The chances are slim that you’ll sell tomorrow what’s selling in the bookstores today. Why read a copy when you can read the original? Unless you make it new and totally you (the way Meyer’s books are her vision and Rowling’s books are hers), it’s not going to sell. It’ll be a copy.

Come up with your own ideas, your own characters, your own new angle. And make it YOURS. If you do, you’ll be much closer to a ticket on the sailboat of getting published and signing books.
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39 comments:

  1. Hence why I think following publishing trends is a waste of time. By the time you write the book the boat has sailed AND if you wrote a copy well then is it just a copy. I keep an eye on what is selling just so I know what is out there. But I write the stories that are in my heart. Really, what else can you do?Anything else would not be me.

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  2. Great advice, Helen. I think you have to write what moves you, instead of what you think will sell.

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  3. Stop by my place Helen, wanted you to know how much I appreciate your site!

    Have a great weekend.

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  4. Terrific advice. The market needs watching...not to copy what is out there, but to see who is reading. Rowlings books captured entire markets (YA and adults), Meyers touched on both too. Perhaps the key to readership is identifying the content that crosses over age brackets? Or maybe the answer is being unafraid to let your imagination run wild, and making sure to get it down on paper?

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  5. Thanks for a straightforward reminder.

    I remember long ago when I had that "eureka" moment: Publishing is a BUSINESS! Right! Publishers want to make money off their books!

    Lightbult shining brightly over the head!!!

    Yes, good writing matters, but it's more important that there is a market for your book (besides friends & family).

    Find out what's hot and then take it up a notch. Or, better yet, find the gaps or think about what's NOT being done... and then DO IT!

    Cheers, Jill
    "Blood and Groom" is now in stores!
    www.jilledmondson.com

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  6. Yep. I agree with you...and agree with the post about following trends. God's Spirit is a much better thing to trail.

    Enjoyed the visit. Hope to come again!

    Patti
    www.pattilacy.com/blog

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  7. I hope the vampire boat has sailed! I'm tired of it already.

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  8. A perfect example of how Publishing is an industry where the writer has to think a couple years ahead, being very forward-thinking, when they're writing that manuscript.

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  9. I'm obviously not a trendy person (no matter how much I'd like to be). I have to write the story that's going on in my head instead of the ones selling at the bookstores.

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  10. In addition to not trying to write what's already popular, it is a good idea, as some have already noted, to remember that even if you are a super-fast writer and write a book in three months, chances are high that your book won't be out for another year at least (and that would be pretty fast for a big publishing house).

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  11. "Sure, agents are still looking at vampire novels, if they have a new twist or an angle not yet used."

    Angle? Angels, apparently. Fallen angels are going to be the new vampires in 2010.

    I just heard that Sky News in the UK reported that there were 300 vampire books published in 2009. Sky is a Murdoch company, so take it with a pinch of salt, but even so, there sure were a lot of them.

    I really pity the writers who've been plugging away with their vampire series for years and years. Meyer has ruined it for them. :)

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  12. Helen - 2012 is the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birthday and the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the titanic. Someone is probably already writing the tie-in novel in preparation for the inevitable celebrations.

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  13. Excellent advice, Helen. It's what makes you the only person who could write the story.

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  14. Anton, I think I'll leave the Darwin/Titanic book to you. At the moment, I can't fathom the tie-in. ;-)

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  15. Helen - obviously Charles Darwin was dead when the Titanic sunk.


    So, zombie Charles Darwin then...

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  16. It's so tempting to think you can jump on the current ideas wagon, especially when you think it might lead to publication. But yes, as you say, much better to think of your own idea and write from the heart about it.

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  17. Good advice as usual, Helen. "Hot" topics, such as vampires right now, seem to ebb and flow and because a book takes so long to produce in the traditional method of publishing, what is hot today will be cool next year.

    While we do have to keep part of one eye on the marketplace as we work, I agree with those who have said it is more important to focus more on the story we want to write and our craft.

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  18. Trends disappear; it's a fact of business. When I write my games I look at my demographics and specifically write what will appeal to the most people. For my writing in other forms, I write what I can write; which is historical mysteries.

    Elspeth

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  19. Yes and no Helen. No don't follow trends but Yes you must think seriously about your market. Going off on a 120,000 word odyssey about your navel is going to get you no where.

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  20. Anton, have Darwin travel through time.

    Elspeth, that's a really smart idea - checking the demographics.

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  21. I am so glad to hear you say this, Helen, because I am unable to do anything but write what's in my heart to write. I'm happy these days if I get words down on paper,let alone worrying about whether it will sell.
    Karen

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  22. It is sometimes hard enough to write what I love - it would be next to impossible to write for some floating mind market somewhere. I need to be a mountain where the trees sway and animals play not a willow wisp.

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  23. I agree Helen. Most books are variation of a theme (For example, Romance). The names and the characters can be changed but remain, as you say, a copy. But I like how you advise make it your own. add something that's unique to your POV and voice. It adds a difference and makes it yours.

    I have several friends that have sold because, at the time, theirs filled a niche. In the time of werewolves and vampires, she wrote about mermaids and talking fish. Just a bit of a twist.

    Still, you do need to be aware of the trends in the market.

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  24. . I think you have to write what moves you, instead of what you think will sell.

    Work from home India

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  25. The problem is if the book you write is so much your own that the publishing houses have no baseline to judge it from. I try to avoid doing anything I've seen done before and unfortunately I succeed.

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  26. I can be difficult to get published if you're way off the mainstream, but it can be done. Rick Riordan and his mythology series for kids comes to my mind.

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  27. I like to keep an eye on the market and *emerging* markets...but you're right--ultimately, we need to write something uniquely ours.

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

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  28. I think you're perfectly right, Helen. I doubt one can get very far just by following the trends and writing what the market wants and not something that comes entirely from who they are.

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  29. I like to think that maybe I'll *start* the next trend. ha ha.

    Actually, though, if you gave me the choice between receiving prestigious awards for my writing and selling 70 billion books on best seller lists all over the world, I think I'd choose to win the awards. Trends die. I think it would be much more fulfilling to write classics that survive, stuff my great-grandchildren will read in English class someday than to be the trend-setter who nobody but weird groupies remember in twenty years.

    But maybe I'm just crazy.

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  30. The best advice. Chasing trends is a dead end game.

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  31. Good advice - writing & publishing a book is too long of a process to assume what's selling now will still be around when we get to that point.

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  32. Good advice - writing & publishing a book is too long of a process to assume what's selling now will still be around when we get to that point.

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  33. Wouldn't that be a hoot? Having your grandchildren read your books in school? Cool.

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  34. Unique, different, new! The thing about ideas is that there's only so many ways to make cake, but it's the topping you can go crazy with. Dean Koontz is my comfort author, he never lets me down, but I long for a new voice. I want treats with my roast. Off to order new books!

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  35. Excellent advice, Helen. And if vampires are your passion, go ahead and write it - your passion will probably shine through. But if you're just writing it because that's what's hot, it will more likely come across as flat - a copy, as you say.
    ~jon

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  36. I was very relieved to read in the comments section that being too way off mainstream doesn't necessarly prohibit a book from being published.

    My voice in the novel I've been sending out has been compared (by three disparate writing professionals) to the writings Louise Erdrich, Margaret Attwood and Hemingway (not that I can really believe that - I have a strong feeling that these people have just been very kind in their assessments), but in the same breath I've been told, or it's been implied, that my novel is probably unmarketable. I've been wrestling with the decision of whether to change my voice to suit the market or to stop worrying about writing to publish and write to suit my voice.

    I've gone with the latter choice and it's amazingly painful to think I may never be published.(but one still hopes that my poor story will find the right editor/agent at the right time!)

    (Win one of five unique prizes from South Africa by entering the easy Christmas contest on my blog)

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  37. I'd read a book about Darwin the time travelling husband.

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