Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Trying to be Smart

Sorry to be posting so late in the day, but I've had a little excitement. My manuscript, THE MISEDUCATION OF APRIL HILLSON, has made the semi-final round of the Amazon Breakout Novel Competition.

To read the excerpt and post a review, click here. Making it to the next round requires lots of positive reviews... so if you have a chance, I'd appreciate your support. (I've just learned of a complication that you need to be an customer -- the American store -- in order to post a review. This sucks. I'm looking into it and will let you know if Amazon fixes this. The authors are from all over the world. I think there were 12 countries from which writers were eligible to enter. The reviews should be eligible from those 12 or so countries, too. Luckily, some of my Canadian friends have accounts, but I've had people who are loyal customers of and and tell me they weren't allowed to post a review.)

Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled post.

And I don't have it all that well thought out. But I wanted to talk about the double edged sword of trying to be smart in this business. I guess there are tons of ways to be smart or the converse, but here I mean: trying to find that intersection between the books you want to and think you can write, and the books the market seems to want at any particular point in time.

This is a tough thing. One never knows for sure about these things, (oh, for a crystal ball) but I think it's highly possible that if my April Hillson ms hit the desks of NYC a year earlier, it might have sold. It certainly would have had a greater chance, anyway. Conversely, I think fellow DWT Sinead had a book that hit desks a year or two too early for what the market was doing.

I'd like to pretend I wasn't chasing trends when I started that book, in fact, I wasn't thinking chick lit at all when I started it. I was going to target the NEXT line at Harlequin... but it just came out with a chick lit sort of voice, although the subject matter is decidedly not chick lit. But, some editors painted me with that brush and frankly, with the glut of chick lit on the shelves and warehouses, and pipelines at major publishing houses when my ms was submitted, it was getting hard to sell anything in the commercial women's fiction arena.

C'est la vie.

I've written another complete women's fiction ms since then and started another, but it sometimes all feels so pointless. Like I'm writing books that are missing that magic intersection and I could be smarter about the whole thing.

So, I've just switched gears again. An idea came at me in a rush just before Christmas that I think might be at that magic intersection between books I like, books I think I can write well, and what the market's doing right now.

Problem is... I fear I'm too late for the market surge once again.

How does one balance this? Makes me crazy.


Kimber Chin said...

Yeah, that's one reason why I went small press. I only want to write one sort of book and that sort sure ain't selling. LOL

The issue that I have with catching trends is that you have to know what is selling to publishers today, not what is on the shelf. On top of that, you should factor in the time it takes to write the book. So if it takes you a year, you really need to know what is selling next year to publishers. That, if you know what is selling today, you could kind of figure out.

So you need to figure all this out and come up with a witty, fresh novel. Too difficult for this gal, especially since I write for entertainment.

Ahhh... I was wondering why none of my Amazon email accounts were working. LOL.

Maureen McGowan said...

Publishers Marketplace is invaluable for keeping one's pulse on what's being bought, vs what's hitting the shelves.

Anonymous said...

Amazon sucks... they won't let me post because I haven't bought anything in the past year..
And I really, really love that book.

I know exactly what you mean, Maureen. Trying to write smart and what you love is a hard thing to do.
If I had the answers, I'd be published, but what I've figured out, really, what we've figured out is that you write the book you want to write and add the elements the market expects.
Again, so easy to write, so hard to implement.

Amanda Ashby said...

Just swinging by to say MAJOR congrats on your amazon thing! I just read it, loved it and left a review (I'm in NZ but I often use Phew!)

I'm hopeless at knowing what's going on in the market so I just normally send my agent a zillion ideas and then go with the ones that she likes. Most of the time she's right, though I still contend there's room for my call centre that's set in hell book!!!!!

M. said...

"books that miss the magic intersection" - great turn of phrase, maureen.

i tried to post yesterday and got a message that said i had to wait 24 hours after opening accout. i'll let you know if it works.

Maureen McGowan said...

Thanks everyone for your good wishes and reviews (if Amazon deemed you worthy).

Amanda, congrats on all your success with You Had Me at Halo! Best title ever. It's still on my TBR pile, but I'm really looking forward to it.

And I would totally buy a book about a call centre in hell. Where else would a a call centre be? ;-)

L.A. Mitchell said...

I wish I could remember the source, but a published author once told me if I wanted to predict what's coming, look at what's being published in non-fiction today. The ideas and articles and research and buzz in the present is the pool from which writers will get book ideas. Not sure how accurate this is, but it might make you think next time you're in B&N and you pass up a non-fic book table. FWIW, I've missed the intersection twice now, both times too early.

Oh, and I can't think of a more deserving author to take one of my 836 spots :) I loved finally getting to read it!

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