“We want something unique and original,” is what publishers always say.
But, do they?
In the next breath they’ll tell you to send comp titles. They want to see what other books are out there on the same topic and similar to yours.
Huh? If my book is truly unique and original, how can there be other books out there that are similar? And is that really a good thing? That just means competition.
I’ve discussed this before because I had this problem with my book, Return to Sleeping Bear by Mary K. Eastman, but I want to cover it again; because I know this is a problem for many writers.
When I started writing my novel, I wanted to do something unique and original. I noticed that in the romance genre, there were Christian romance and mainstream romance books. The mainstream romance had many sub-categories, but basically there was nothing in the between. When I was done, I had trouble getting a publisher to buy it. I began to realize that publishers have to be able to market your book to book stores, etc. It has to fit into a category and have comps. Stores want to know it’s going to sell and if there’s nothing to compare it to…. well… they don’t want it.
My book was too mainstream to be Christian romance and too Christian (If you have any Christian element at all, it’s too much) to be mainstream. I feel that going with a traditional publisher is the best way, if you can. That’s my opinion, because they’re the experts. They have access to the big book chains, etc. They can get your book out there. But, if traditional publishing doesn’t work, self-publishing is getting more and more popular these days. That’s what I did. I went with Mission Point Press and I’m glad that I did. I ended up with a high-quality book I’m proud of. But… the marketing is pretty much up to the author. I’ve done what marketing I can, (book signings, social media, etc.) but when you’re working a full-time job, it’s hard to just go out on the road, traveling across the country selling your books. (I only have a few more years before retirement, then I can make writing and marketing my full-time endeavor. Yes!)
When I don’t see things the same way as someone else, I try to put myself in their shoes. What if I were the editor? I might love a book that comes across my desk that’s truly unique and original, but now I have to sell the idea to the committee. I have to prove it will sell and how can I do that if it’s never been done before? They have to make money or their doors will close. It’s the same with authors. Some day I want to be able to just write and quit my day job. So, I want to make money too so I can do that. We are on the same page after all. They need to know there’s a market for your book, but it has to be a little bit different from the others and stand out. You have to have something in your book that isn’t in the others that the reader wants. Okay. I get that.
Being off work because of the virus going around, I have lots of time and I’m writing. The creative wheels are turning and I have so many ideas coming at me. Which ones do I choose to work on? Well, I guess I’ll do what gets me fired up. After all, I’m not so different from everyone else. If I’m fired up about the idea, chances are that others will be too.
Since I would really like to go with a traditional publisher this time, I’m also keeping them in mind. Smaller presses are sometimes more willing to go with something a little out of the ordinary. But before I spend too much time on a project, I do ask myself if this is something someone will pay money for. Would I buy that book? Who else will buy it? If you can see a market for it, go for it. Start writing. Keep sending things out. Most of the big-time authors say they were rejected for years before their book got accepted.
If you love writing, keep doing it! If you enjoy it, it’s not a waste of time. If you’re going after the big money, you need something which appeals to the masses. If you’re like me and you love writing and would like to make some money doing it, then write what you’re passionate about. See? Now I’m sounding like the Publishers. I’m contradicting myself. Hopefully, what you’re passionate about appeals to the masses. That would be the perfect scenario.
I’m enjoying this time I have to write and I’m taking advantage of it. Go after your dream. Write, write, write. There’s an editor and publisher out there somewhere who will love your book and there’s one who will love mine too. We just have to find them.