Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Twilight Games - Should We Write to the Market?

It's something we hear a lot on the internet, right? Don't write to trends. By the time you finish your vampire, dystopian, give-them-delegations-and-throw-them-in-the-arena novel, the market will have moved on (although for the record, I'd probably read The Twilight Games *snicker*). A lot of agent guidelines already say not to send stories with vampires, werewolves, angels, and so on. We all know that writing to trends is risky at best.

Which brings around the other internet advice I often, read. Write the book of your heart.

Now that's fantastic advice too, but here's a little story about when I wrote a book from my heart. It's a story I'd been dreaming about for a long time. It's not entirely filed away in a drawer, mind you--I think it might have a future someday.

After years of unfinished novels, I started doing something incredible--I started finishing the stories I started.

Breakthrough, right? But actually finishing stories can be a hard hurdle to overcome for us writers. I think we've all been there--you're slogging through the middle of your book, or bogged down with revisions, and things have become a little blasé between the two of you. And then suddenly, a fresh, exciting idea flits in front of your eyes. It's practically gleaming, and it takes all your will power not to follow it.

So I finally made it to the point where not only was I finishing my short stories, they were even selling! And so I deciding to finally tackle it--a book I'd wanted to write for a long time.

It was an epic, Narnia-style fantasy, complete with twists and turns, lots of journeying on horseback, mystical items, dying races, castles, flat-out war...the usual. And I was so proud when I started sending it out all polished.

There was only one problem. I didn't know the YA marketplace too well. But it didn't matter, right? Because don't write to the market! I sent my little novel into the world.

The responses I got from agents were fantastic, because they weren't form rejections! But you know what else? They weren't requests.

They were personalized letters that said, "This is great and all, but I'm just not reading traditional fantasies right now." One of them said, "Traditional fantasy just isn't as big in the market right now."


But...but... I thought I wasn't supposed to write to the market!

So I started following about 50 agent and book reviewer blogs. I brought home armfuls of books from the library and the bookstore. I spent a YEAR reading everything that was out there in every genre of YA.

And then I looked at my manuscript again, and I saw the problem. What I had on my hands was not very salable at the moment. The voice was stuck somewhere in the 90s, and it had no comparable titles.

Because while you SHOULD write the book of your heart, you should also be aware of the market around you. Be aware of the trends. Do your research. And don't keep your head down! You wouldn't head to school on the first day without a pencil in your backpack, right? You'd have a list beforehand of what you'll need, what other people will be bringing, and what's expected from you.

(Sorry for the reminder of school. It's August, so it comes to mind ^_^ )

So a year later, I sat down with my knowledge of the market, fresh from reading some of the most exciting voices in YA. I felt recharged, ready to share my own voice amid all these works of art.

I remembered that even dearer book of my heart, the YA I'd always wanted to set in Japan. The book that had haunted me for years after I left Osaka, whispering at me even from the plane, "You're going to write me."

And I did, and the rest turned out well because I was finally aware of the publishing world, how it worked, and what else was out there.

So writers, please, write the book of your heart. Be passionate about it, and write it the way you need to! But make sure your work is marketable. Research, read, and love your genre.

Because even more important than having your book published is having your book speak to a reader. And that will only happen if you look up and engage on common ground.

And if you have a vampire/angel/werewolf showdown in an arena book, I promise I'll read it, because you'll have written it with both eyes open, and it will be fresh. :)

Let me know in the comments--do you keep an eye on market trends?

No comments: