Writer, Dreamer, Brown-Eyed Girl

Monday, December 12, 2011

Author Series: The Road to Publication Part 1

Are any of you aspiring authors?
If so, you will probably take great interest in this series of posts.  I'm not going to pretend I'm an absolute expert on what it takes to get published in today's highly competitive industry, and I'm not going to say I have all the answers on how to do so.  But I can relate to you my own personal experience, and perhaps those of you who are keenly interested will find it helpful.  Some of the most frequent questions I receive have to do with how I got to where I am being a published author, what kind of work it takes to get to that point, and how successful anyone else can expect to be if they try to do the same.
Today, I'm going to begin this mini-series by initially discussing  the different paths to your first and most important stop on your personal road to publication, and that is: DEVELOPING AN AWESOME IDEA.

There are two ways you can go about this:
1. Write for the industry.
2. Write for you.

Both have significant pros and cons.

1. Writing for the industry.   Well, to begin with we need to clarify the key differences between writing a novel that's merely a clone of another book, and writing a novel that will get published because your material is timely.  When I say 'writing for the industry,' I'm talking about the former: writing a book that you hope will be a guaranteed sell because it is a lot like another book that has done well.  Sad to say, there are quite a bit of authors who do this.  Let's be honest--some very lucky authors make a lot of money riding the coat-tails of other successful book series. 
Twilight clones, Harry Potter clones, Hunger Games clones, yeah, I'm looking at you.
There are pros to this route.  First, it is sometimes a good way for a new author to break into the publishing world.  Many people look for novels that are similiar to those they already enjoy, and if they read your similar book and like it, you should probably have at least a decent mid-list career on your hands.  Also, there is the potential chance (albeit rare) to snag a large advance and a large publisher.  In this instance, they see in you the dollar signs that will help them compete with another publisher with the same kinds of books, and so they are willing to take a chance.
Sounds great, right?
Well, there are still those nasty cons.  Many of them depend on your personal sense of artistry.  First, your book will, sadly, contribute to whatever publishing stagnation is going on at the time.  Believe it or not, this is a problem rather particular to the Western reading world.  In Japan, for instance, so many books of so many varities are published every year, your head might spin.  This is partly because the Japanese are more willing to experiment with different forms of media to promote and sell books, and partly because, well, they think a lot differently than us.  Unlike America, books are still big business in Japan.
*feel free to cry in a corner, if you'd like over this strange and fantastical development*

And do we really want to make bunnies cry?  Yes, this apparently happens every time an author cops out.
Anyway, let's say your Twilight or Hunger Games clone emerges onto the scene with a million others.  Lucky you, you're published.  But suddenly, those are the majority of books readers see on the shelves, authors with rampant imaginations are shot down like ducks over a pond, and hey, if I want to read anything other than paranormal romance, or a YA dystopian featuring a class rebellion, or another version of Gossip Girl, well, I'm just crap out of luck.
Yes, I'm exaggerating a little, but I think we all can agree that this is commonly the case.  Feel free to debate the crucifying effects of industry stagnation on author imaginations as much as you wish.
The other nasty con is a direct offshoot of the above: you will now be published as a clone to be forgotten in ten years.
If that does not bother you, it's your right to shrug your shoulders at me and laugh in my face.
Our last con is that sometimes writing for the industry has so much to do with timing, you can be fudged at the outset.  For instance, the YA paranormal romance market is saturated with vampires.  Write a vampire romance now, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a publisher who will take you on.  Been there, done that, they'll say to you.  Instead you'll be passed over for the next hot thing: in the present time--angels.  So, write an angel novel now, and you'll be passed over for that other upcoming thing: apparently, this will be mermaids.
In summary, trends are hard to predict.  Mermaids might never become overly popular at all, forcing your mermaid paranormal romance book to languish under your bed for eternity.
Oh, the terrors of random chance.
As a side note, however, I must be fair and give a nod to those who started their vampire romances eleven years ago and now have them published because books like Twilight, etc. made it that much easier for them to crack into the publishing world.  There is no fault in such a thing, and by all means, if this happens to you, spin around and sing like a happy maniac.
This is partly the case for me.  I started my novel ARCHON six years ago when there was barely an angel to be found in the fiction world outside of Christian fantasy.
Lucky me, right?
And that's the point I want to drive home when it comes to writing for trends and the industry.  If you try to do it deliberately, ultimately it's a risky game to play.

Check back soon for the part two of this post: Writing for you.

I guarantee, it's the choice that will ultimately keep you pertinent and sane. 
It will also keep the bunnies from crying, which means everything.


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