The publishing world is split into specific markets, and a writer can become a huge player in that market if they release a great piece of work into a specific genre where there are avid readers waiting to get their hands – and eyes – on the next big thing.
When you walk into any Barnes and Noble’s or Waterstones, you are instantly met with a vast array of titles, all separated into their specific markets: Fantasy, Horror, Sci-Fi and Fiction, to name just a few of the various genres out there. There have also been a few additions to the market in the last few years, and these new genres usually come about because of a runaway success, that then spawns a new genre.
A recent example of this is the ‘Paranormal Romance’ market, that has exploded since the giant success of the ‘Twilight’ saga, ‘The Vampire Diaries’ and many other imitators that have been inspired by their success. Even ’50 Shades of Grey’ – who’s author E. L. James learned how to format the novel by observing and learning from ‘Twilight’ fan fiction – has spawned a host of new erotic fiction in a similar vein to her pulpy triumph. Writers can often look at what is popular and shape their work to fit that market. It might not be high art (and it will definitely rub the critics up the wrong way), but you can find a wide audience for your work this way.
Research The Market
If you think that you can look at the literary chart Top 10 and say: “OK, I’ll write a vampire romance!” and expect to release the next big thing into the world, you are more than a little naïve: You’re borderline delusional! But you can definitely learn a lot about the writing and publishing world by researching the market and seeing what is reaching an audience and what isn’t. Trends change all of the time, and what is #1 now could soon become yesterday’s news. The key is to stick to the market you love and find out what is popular in that market and what is falling by the wayside.
For example, the teenage market is huge right now. The likes of ‘The Hunger Games’ and ‘Twilight’ are still storming the sales charts and the race to find “the new Twilight” never ends. If you want to write for the teen market, don’t try and replicate a formula, create something new by looking at new ways to tell a story that will please fans of the likes of ‘Twilight’ but won’t feel like a cheap imitation and become a doorstop within 3 months.
Know The Genre Inside Out
Readers aren’t stupid. They know the difference between a writer who is trying to manipulate them and somebody who is writing from a place of love and respect for the market they are writing for. From a personal point of view, if somebody asked me to write a screenplay for a new ‘Twilight’ film, I would run for the hills. Not because I think I’m ‘above’ that kind of film, but because I know I couldn’t do it justice, because I don’t love the previous works and I know nothing about that market. I’d have ‘Twi-hards’ at my door with lynching ropes in no time, and I’d deserve it for trying to manipulate them for my own financial gain!
If you absolutely love science fiction, are well read in the genre and know it inside out, then you are in a much better position to know what the readers want, and you will – in the majority of cases – create the work that encapsulates everything that is good about the genre, and what will sell in that marketplace. You have to be true to yourself as a writer and put all of your efforts into the story that you want to tell, to a readership that you know, because you are one of them. When a novel falls flat, it is usually because the writer has tried to write something they are not familiar or comfortable with, and the reader will know when this happens and steer well clear.
Submitting Your Manuscript
You’ve chosen your marketplace, absolutely nailed the story and gone through months of agonising over every word in the editing process. The next step is submitting your manuscript, and you have to do your homework here for sure. One of the biggest social faux pas for writers is sending a manuscript to the wrong kind of publisher. Sending a 500 page science fiction epic to a children’s book publisher is probably not going to end with a book deal. It’s more likely going to be a “Do you remember when?” story at the publishing house to raise some giggles. Best to get it right the first time, then!
Books like The Writers and Artists Yearbook are updated every year and list virtually every publisher in every genre. They give you detailed information of who to send your manuscript to, in what format (email or hard copy) and for what genre. Some publishers won’t specify exactly what they are looking for, but by checking out their websites and looking at who they have on their books will give you an impression on whether you should send your work there or not. If you are on a tight budget, make sure you check to see whether or not the publisher will return you work or not, and keep some money aside for stamped address envelopes so your work can be returned if necessary.
Dealing with Rejection
We have talked about dealing with rejection before on Million Pens, but it is worth reiterating just how important it is to be able to be able to brush yourself off and plough forward in your writing quest. Even if you are an expert in your market, it doesn’t guarantee you success. If you are rejected, it is important to listen to the feedback you receive (if you’re lucky enough to get feedback) and not take it personally.
Sometimes a publisher will reject a manuscript purely because they have released something similar already, and they don’t want to risk releasing another piece of work in your field at that time. It’s important to remember that not all publishers get it right 100% of the time. There are hundreds of examples of great novels that were rejected for years until they found a publisher, and then an audience. If you believe in the work, others will too. It may just take a little longer than you have planned for.
Keep plugging away in the genres and markets that you love and eventually you will be picked up and thrust upon the readers in your field. Soon you will become an authority in the genre, a place that all writers who write for a particular genre want to be!