Hey writers, Annette here. Have you ever heard the advice to write for the market? Then we hear that we should write our passion. So, which is it? Or maybe it's a bit less black and white than that. Today's guest, Carla Laureano, addresses the topic with some helpful advice and her own success story. Enjoy!
Know Your Audience
by Carla Laureano
When I first started writing for publication, the most confusing part wasn’t the craft details or the etiquette. It was the conflicting information on how to write the most marketable book possible. “Write your passion.” “Write what you know.” “Write what’s selling.” “Write to market trends.” How is an author to know which advice to follow? It’s easy to say that you should write to your audience, but which one?
If you want to publish traditionally, at some point you’ll submit your manuscript to a “gatekeeper,” whether that’s an agent or an editor. Writing to this audience means knowing what particular agents are looking for, what they absolutely won’t represent, and what the editors they work with are buying. How do you determine this if you’re not already working with an agent?
- Read, read, read. Agents and editors are looking for manuscripts to which they can say “yes,” and that means knowing their particular areas of interest. Read agent and publisher blogs. Read Publishers Weekly online. Read editor and agent biographies on conference websites to see what they’re actively acquiring.
- Watch the trends. Publishers acquire manuscripts eighteen months to two years from the actual publication date, so by the time a flood of one type of book hits the market, editors are looking for something completely new. For example, the dystopian craze is winding down and publishers are no longer acquiring much in that sub-genre. If you write in one of these played-out genres, the trick is finding a way to put a new spin on the topic, whether it’s a unique setting, narration style, or plot.
Agents and publishers ask for what they think will sell, but they’ll admit that sometimes even they don’t know what they’re looking for until they see it. If you’re a writer, you’re also probably an avid reader and you engage with readers who have tastes similar to your own. This is your chance to see what readers are looking for and where there might be an unmet area of the market you can explore.
Before I wrote Five Days in Skye (June 2013), my 20- and 30-something friends and I were reading general market romance because we liked its exotic locales and glamorous characters. But I always missed the added depth of a spiritual element. Conversations with other readers told me they too would buy a book that melded the glossier elements of general market romance with the morals and heart of inspirational.
My editor at David C. Cook saw the potential in this emerging sector, contracted the book quickly, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Yet no publisher was openly advertising an interest in European settings or edgier storylines. Had I not spent the time to find out where other readers’ wants intersected with my interests, I might have missed a great opportunity.
Did you notice the line above? “…find where [their] wants intersected with my interests.” I believe that writing strictly for the market often results in boring, passionless stories that read like contractual obligations. So while it’s important to understand your gatekeeper/reader audience, it’s also important to write something that gets you excited to sit down at your computer each day.
When I wrote Oath of the Brotherhood (NavPress, May 2014), the prospects of selling inspirational fantasy were even dimmer than they are today. And yet the story would not leave me alone. I wrote, edited, polished, rewrote, and submitted for almost five years before I landed an agent and then soon afterwards, a publisher. Had I written strictly for the market, I would have lost the valuable experience I gained in the writing and rewriting of the novel, and I wouldn’t have been ready for the window of opportunity for its publication.
In the end, it’s important to know all three levels of audience and maximize your chances for publication. But if you continually refine your craft and write with passion, you will be ready to seize the opportunities when they present themselves. Happy writing!
Carla Laureano has held many job titles--professional marketer, small business consultant, and martial arts instructor--but writer is by far her favorite. Her debut contemporary romance, Five Days in Skye, was recently selected as a finalist in Romance Writers of America’s RITA Awards in both the First Novel and Inspirational categories. She is also the author of the upcoming Celtic fantasy series Song of Seare under the name C.E. Laureano.
To his clan, Conor Mac Nir is a disappointment—gifted with a harp, but hopeless with a sword. To the beautiful young healer Aine, he’s one whose gift calls out to her own . . . and captures her heart. To the reclusive warrior brotherhood called the Fíréin, he may be the answer to an ancient prophecy . . . if he can be trained to fight. Can Conor and Aine find their true path as an ancient evil engulfs the isle of Seare? Must Conor sacrifice everything he loves, even Aine, to follow the path God lays out before him?