10/12/07

What the Market Needs by Josi Kilpack

Writer's are always trying to figure out what a market needs, what they should write to insure they get a publishing contract? They watch trends, talk to publisher representatives, and in the LDS market, they pray a lot. All in pursuit to the Great Mormon or American Novel, all in pursuit of giving the market what it needs. So what do YOU think the market needs?

Vampires?
Wizards?
Real issue conflicts?
Mysteries?
Thrillers?
Picture Books?
Self-help?

I know the answer :-)

Ready?

What the market is absolutely and completely hungry right now--today--is . . . all of the above, or, well, maybe none of the above.

All of them if the publisher can a) sell it and b) It's well written. None of them if a) You're the only one that thinks people will buy it and b) It's poorly written.

It seems obvious, doesn't it? Of course a publisher needs to sell the book to make it worth their time and money investment and obviously, it needs to be well written if it's going to sell. So, seeing as how obvious it is, here are a few things I've heard from writers in the last six months:

"I knew it still needed work but I had spent so much time on it I just had to finally send it in, ya know, like when you get to the point in a relationship where you either get married or break up." "I know I should have revised it, but I was sick of it and had another idea that was begging for me to get started, so I just sent it in. That's what they have editors for, right?" "I just need one of the editors at (publishing house) to take me under their wing, show me what I need to work on. If they would just give me a little time I could figure out what my weaknesses are." "I find that letting other people read my work before I submit shows a lack of confidence in my own ability. The most important person to believe in me, is me."
I know I'm beyond objectivity for comments like this, since my life has become completely entangled with submission guidelines, knowing the market, and presenting about the overall world of writing and submitting, but honestly I hear this and I say "Really?"

Would you go to a bank for a mortgage if you were unemployed and had no credit?

Would you show up for your first day on the job with a suitcase full of clothing and ask your new boss to help you pick out the outfit?

And would you ever marry the guy that says "Hey baby, I either need to dump you or finally give in and make you my wife?"

It seems obvious in those cases, doesn't it? And yet dozens of writer's feel they are the exception, that their story is good enough that their grammar-defect won't be an issue. They continue to see editors as employees rather than employers. They continue to think that they are the exception to the rules repeated to them over and over and over again.

Getting published is a three point plan:
  1. Write your best work--this means making sure other people agree that it's your best work. Hire an editor, trade with other writers, take a writing class. Don't THINK it's good enough, learn enough and get enough feedback to KNOW it's good enough. Keep learning, don't ever rest upon your laurels and assume you know enough.
  2. Submit the right way--you're expecting an agent/publisher to respect you and your work enough to produce it. Respect them enough to submit the way that works best for you. If you've written your best work, don't screw it up by going slacker-face on the submission guidelines. With the internet and ease of getting the right info, don't flush it.
  3. Don't give up--You'll have lots of reasons to give up. Even as you begin achieving success, you'll wonder if you should stop. You'll get rejected, you'll get bad reviews, you'll get frustrated, and discouraged, and get tired of seeing other people's success. But if you give up, you're guaranteed that you'll never get published. If you write your best work and if you submit the right way and to the right houses, you will eventually find publication. If might not be your first book--my first book is still on my hard drive as are many other writer's first attempts. Keep writing your best work, submitting the right way, and not giving up.

And remember, the longer the process takes, the better success story you get to tell later.

Find Josi at http://www.josiskilpack.com and http://www.josikilpack.blogspot.com

8 comments:

Rachelle said...

Josi,
Thanks for the pep talk. You gave a lot of good reminders to us wannabe authors. I'm thinking my success story is going to be really good because I just got ANOTHER rejection in the mail today. Over at our Authors Incognito group we're having a contest to see who can get the most rejections by the end of the year. I'm going to be a tough-rejected-author to beat! :)

Annette Lyon said...

Great post with lots of good advice and reminders.

Rachelle, you go, girl!

Anonymous said...

That's what they have editors for, right?" "I just need one of the editors at (publishing house) to take me under their wing, show me what I need to work on.

That is the last thing any editor will do these days. The last of the "under the wing" editors retired after Gradpes of Wrath was published. If your technique is good enough, but not superior, and the story will sell, they will sign you up. Its your job, wither you have been published once, twice, thirty times or never, to hone your craft. And if you've never been published, hone away baby. There are no such thing as "take me under the wing" editors anymore.

Traci Hunter Abramson said...

You definitely touched on a lot of lessons that so many have to learn the hard way. I know when people ask me how long it takes for me to write a book, I have to clarify that writing the first draft might only take a month or two, but getting it ready for submission takes at least twice that long. Then again, I'm lucky to have someone close by that will give me honest opinions.

Carole Thayne said...

Great post Josi. It's hard not to fall into less than productive thinking when it comes to our babies, especially when we feel we've given it our all. But doing your homework and doing it the right way, will eventually pay off.

Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen said...

Good, informative, much-needed-in-the-writing-world blog. Thanks.

Rebecca Talley said...

Great post, Josi.

And here I thought publishers only accepted manuscripts because they felt sorry for you. Right?

Great info.

spaldam said...

Wow,... I've been working on a book for 2 years now, and am thinking I'm getting close to submitting a first draft to a publisher. After reading this, and all the comments, I'm now thinking I need another four years before I'll be to that point…

What can I do to keep my motivation?

At least it was good information. I'm glad to have found your blog. Hopefully it'll help me to get moving in the right direction towards publication.