3 Tips for Finding your Spot in the Writing Marketplace

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by Lisa Peck-MacDonald

How do you find your place in the Writing Market?

Finding the right marketplace for your book can be a daunting challenge. One I haven’t mastered yet, nor will I ever. Truthfully, I don’t know if anyone has, but there are definitely experts on certain parts of the industry and there are key components to think about that I will share with you here.

Thanks to the self-publishing revolution, new genres are being created all the time making the playing field wide, vast and ever changing. Readers’ taste are constantly evolving and the rules of publishing are moving with them. Gone are the days when merely learning the rules and playing meant success. This is an industry that plays by its own rules and one of those rules is: if you have a concept that’s not tried and true, it just might have a chance. So get creative and don’t let ‘we haven’t ever done that before’ stop you here.

  1. Figure out where you want to go.

The truth is there are thousands of paths and most often no two authors share the same path. So, with all the change and options, how do you find yours? The first step is you have to know what you want in the end.

I was at a writers’ event the other day, and a newly published author was asking advice on how to sell her book. So I asked her, “What is your goal with your book?”

She had no clue. She didn’t know who her readers were or why they would want to read her book. If the author doesn’t know the merit of their own writing why would anyone else want to read it? Clearly, she had some specific work that she needed to do before she could be effective in selling her book.

Because she didn’t have the answers, I didn’t know how to help her. I didn’t know how to set her up to win because I had no description of what success would look like for her. So the first step is to think about what success with your book looks like for you. To know what it means for you to sell your book to those who are destined to read it.

Who did you write it for? Why did you write it? Get clear on these questions first before you try to sell it.

  1. Choose the Right Path

The only way to really find the right path for your book is to get in the game.  What choices can you make right now to get you there?  This is the time to dive in see what works and what doesn’t within your genre. It could mean, posting a few excerpts on social media and getting feedback from your audience. It could be posting in groups that like your genre and select some early readers to provide feedback.

What steps could set you on the path of gaining more visibility with your specific audience? With the advent of the e-book and the revolution of self-publishing, the question of where a writer fits in the marketplace has become more complicated and even more important. If you can get creative with social media feedback and crowd-source ahead of time, it can also provide key steps to marketing later.

  1. Know your Audience

The question of where you fit in is an important question to ask at some point in your writing process. I have heard people give the advice to write the book that you want to write and then figure out where you fit. The advantage of this approach is you are freed up as the writer to write what you want to write and aren’t limited by outside influences.

I have also heard from other authors that you should figure out where you fit in the marketplace first so you can conform to the important tropes of that genre and not waste your time. You want to produce a publishable book. The advantage of this approach is fewer rewrites, a higher chance of readers being receptive to your work.

The right choice? Well, there isn’t one. It is about you listening to you. Tune into the bigger reason for why you are writing in the first place and come back to the basics.  It helps to get a general idea of what you are writing. After you have the piece written, if you still don’t know where you fit, ask other people who know the industry—agents, publishers, critique group, or a mentor.

Bottom line, you get to figure out what is right for you based on your goals and what you want.  Starting with your end game is very helpful. By knowing what you want is the foundation of building your author life.

So what do you want? Is your goal to build a six-figure book business? To get published by a traditional publisher? To be a New York Times bestseller? To write a story and enjoy the process? Or is it write a story that captures the something that you want to leave the next generation. Maybe your goal is just to say that you did it and it’s something you’ve always wanted to do.

No goal is better than another.  But it is important to know where you want to go. After you know what your goal is, it is important to determine which genre you play best in and who are the people in that genre that are rock stars so you know have some ideas of what working in the marketing place.

 

Lisa J. Peck-MacDonald is author of 23 books, including The Superstitious Romance, which hit Amazon best-seller list March, 2016.  She will be teaching Finding Your Spot in the Writing Marketplace this October for Inspiration2Publication.com.

 

Show Your Story

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By Elizabeth Lund

When I decided to write for children, I knew I had the writing part down. I’d grown up reading voraciously. I’d always been a good writer. I’d written lots of academic papers, and I’d even written features for a weekly newspaper for a while. But by the end of my Writing for Children Certificate Program at the University of Washington, I had learned that even though I could write, that didn’t mean I knew how to tell a story.

Halfway through the course, I was proud of myself. While other students in the class were writing a chapter here, a chapter there, working on a little bit of this, a little bit of that, I was working on a novel. A whole novel. And my goal was to finish it by the end of the class. I kept plugging forward, writing that first draft. I thought it was pretty good!

In the spring I registered for the Western Washington Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference in Redmond, Washington. One of the things you could do back then was pay to have an agent, editor, or published author read five pages of your work. I registered early and ponied up my money for a coveted spot. I was thrilled to see I’d gotten an agent! I came to the meeting on pins and needles with excitement. I left with my heart broken. The agent was not impressed. She seemed irritated. No, she wasn’t even nice about it. I don’t even remember what she said to me, I just remember being devastated at the rejection. The hard thing is that when a little time had passed and I could hear what she had to say, I knew she was right.

The agent’s response was confirmed when, at the end of the third quarter of my class, our instructor handed back the draft of my novel. She had dutifully written comments on it throughout. And they kept saying the same thing: don’t tell us, show us.

Somehow, I had made it through the whole certificate course without understanding what was so essential to telling a story, especially for young readers, but, according to Stephen King, also for adults. Writers need to show, not tell, their readers. Show the reader the action, show the reader the character, show the reader the setting and let your reader infer the mood. Don’t tell them. It’s showing that draws the reader into your world, makes them identify with your character, and makes them want to go on the journey with you.

Not long ago I took a look at Gary Schmidt’s work. He’s one of my favorite writers for middle grade readers (8-12 years old). I sat with a highlighter and went through a chapter of his novel, The Wednesday Wars. Telling? None. Showing? Pretty much all. That’s a high bar, but it’s one I began to try to reach.

Gradually I’ve learned that the keys are sensory details and scenes. First, sensory details: what does your character see? hear? smell? taste? feel? Visual details are easy – we get those in. But what about the other senses? Not every sense needs to be evoked every time, but take a look through your chapter and see whether you have mentioned smells or sounds at all. If you haven’t, where would a smell or a sound bring us more deeply in connection with your character? Plunge us into the world.

Second, scenes. Scenes set your character in action and let us experience life right along with them. Ask yourself how you can convey information about your character or plot through a scene rather than in narration. What does your character say? What does your character do? How does your character interact with others? How does your character react? What is going through the character’s mind?

Does this mean there’s never a place for narrative summary, which is basically what telling consists of? No. But if you take a close look at the best fiction and creative non-fiction out there, it’s rare.

Learning to recognize the difference between showing and telling, and working on incorporating showing into your own writing, can go a long way to bring your writing to the next level.

Learn some solid tools in Showing in Elizabeth’s online class: Show, Don’t Tell: Make Setting, Dialogue, and Action Do the Telling for You! starting October 31, 2016.

elizabeth Elizabeth Lund is an MFA student at Antioch University Los Angeles, focusing on the genre of Writing for Young People. She also studied at the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts focusing on Children’s and Young Adult Literature. She completed a certificate at the University of Washington in Writing for Children. In learning her craft, she found that showing rather than telling was one of the hardest things to learn but one of the most exciting things to practice. She is currently revising a middle grade fantasy novel (for 8-12 year olds) called Finding Memory. In her spare time, she teaches English, hunts for agates, and is an avid reader.