There used to be a time when you could write a book about any topic, find a publisher and get a deal. Times have changed, the ever-growing list of self-published authors has meant larger competition. When the money is cut back, so are the books that publishers will take a chance on. However, don’t let this put you off, there is always the possibility that you will be published. New authors are discovered every day.
Know your genre
One of the factors you need to take into consideration when pitching to agents and publishing houses is which genre is your book written in. Dean Koontz was a master of writing books that fitted into multiple genres, those times have changed though. The best advice for new authors is to have a genre in mind when you write the book. This isn’t to say that you can’t cross two genres, but a clear first genre is essential.
When I completed my last book I believed it was a one genre book, crime. Through working on it I discovered that it also crossed into LGBT. There is a good chance now as I embark on a journey of querying that the LGBT genre might be the more prominent. Crime is an already oversubscribed, would LGBT have more success? Questions I ask myself daily. I also don’t know whether there is a strong enough theme of a gay relationship through the book to sell it to a publisher. As it is a series book, there will be in future books, but does this hit the mark this time.
These are the questions that as writers you should be asking yourself. They are questions that interested parties will ask, you need to know the answers to sell your work.
Write from the heart
One of the other aspects that may sell my book is that I am an LGBT writer, with an LGBT book. Some aspects have been written from the heart, through personal experiences. The murder side, however, is all imagination before anyone starts worrying.
To be successful there needs to be elements of truth behind what we write, to make it authentic. Even if you are a fantasy writer, this matters. You need to write authentic characters, that resonate with your readers.
Learning from other writers.
These techniques are evident when you look at successful writers and analyse what they have achieved.
Michael Crichton is an author that has played the is it true or not game. He wrote several books on nanotechnology and genetic manipulations. The science behind Jurassic Park is sound, however very unlikely. Well, at least I hope so. His novel Prey is about an experiment releasing a cloud of nanotechnology that attacks humans. As you read the book the fear comes from the fact, you are unsure whether this could happen in society today. The answer is we have the technology to produce this phenomenon.
Margaret Atwood’s, A Handmaids Tale is considered to be a work of fiction. Many will argue that a society similar to Gilead will never appear in the modern world. Then I read an interview with her, where she states nothing contained in the book, is a work of fiction. She wrote the treatment of women from real-life situations. She used various countries and societies, when assembled, they made Gilead.
John Carr is my latest favourite writer. The two books I have read of his are The One. This details a dating site that genetically matches people to their perfect partner. You answer questions, send off your DNA and the computer will match you with your perfect genetic partner. We already have websites that psychologically profile you to your ideal partner. How long will it be before DNA is used? His second book The Passenger is about self-drive cars that take over the driving completely. It is thought that self-driving will be the next technology added to new cars. Carr wrote books about society today at exactly the right time. He saw a gap in the market, genres that didn’t cover these issues and had great success.
Elements of a good story
Regardless of the genre, you write in publishers will look for a level of realism in everything they publish. If readers do not relate to some aspects of the book then they may not continue to read. This is not to say that some of us don’t read to escape, we all read to escape, but the realism has to be there. If romance is your thing and you want to escape into it the story, it has to have a vein of realism. This allows you to put yourself into it.
There are several ways to achieve this in your writing. For example, if you were writing about a knight’s family being attacked by a dragon. How would he react? Well, he would react exactly as you and I would if your family was being attached. The feelings and reactions would be the same. Putting this realism into your story, helps it relate to the reader.
Scenes do not have to be in an actual place. The countries, cities could all be fictional. The structure through of a town would be the same as we have. If you’re writing a fantasy novel can history help you, look at how settlements were set up. A fictional world, but based on structures and systems we are familiar with.
Dialogue, no matter the setting should be realistic. When you speak to a person, how many times do you use their name? In your dialogue this should also be evident, don’t overuse the characters name. I read a book once that I couldn’t finish, they had used the characters name every sentence. The story felt unnatural and didn’t flow.
If you are using actual places as a backdrop for your novel, then ensure they are accurate. Last year I read a book where the detective’s in the novel went to arrest someone from Folkestone harbour. Folkestone doesn’t have a port anymore and no longer runs trips to France, it was completely inaccurate. I know this because I live twenty minutes from Folkestone. This tiny inconsequential detail put me off the whole book. I couldn’t help thinking what other mistakes were in there that I didn’t recognise.
Publishers like it when.
You play the truth, fiction game. Keep them wondering could this happen or not. This realism in any story keeps a reader engaged. Most readers want to imagine themselves in the story. The potential for readers will encourage a publisher to take a chance on you as a new writer.
Every book will have at least five different interpretations of it, as readers change. A good book will keep all readers wondering, how could this happen or provide complete escapism. It is these elements that will make you stand out from a very populated crowd.
To attract a publisher you need to fulfil these basic elements
- Have a story, readers will read
- Write realistically even if the book is complete escapism
- Know your book well to sell it to publishers
- Have a couple of genres in mind that you think it fits into and pitch these publishers and agents
- Don’t give up
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