You can find Part One of this entry here: Part One
Genre is something you should think about as early as possible in the writing process. Do you want to be a genre writer, or do you want to be a pure literary fiction author? Or does your book lay somewhere between the two extremes? I posit that, as a debut writer, you have a greater chance at landing a publishing deal if your book at least has a genre hook.
Of course, it’s not a requirement that you know exactly where your book fits before you finish. I didn’t realize until after I finished FATE’S PAST that I was writing a horror novel. And had I known my horror proclivities going in, I would have joined the Horror Writers Association (“HWA”) much sooner.
For any aspiring or established horror writer, the HWA is a great organization. If you are unpublished, you can still join as a “contributing” member—and trust me, there is nothing wrong with that level. It is less expensive and you are provided access to most of the perks—you get to post on the forums, receive the Imailer, join the database of other horror writers, etc. Best of all, you get to vote on the Bram Stoker awards, which recognize superior achievement in a host of different horror-specific categories.
For more information about the HWA, visit their website: http://horror.org/.
In any event, to the extent you can identify the genre of your book and get plugged into that world, you will be in a better position to market yourself to agents and publisher. Here are a few more genre specific writing organizations you may want to research…
- Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Awards: Nebula. The SFWA is a bigtime player with nearly 2000 members worldwide. The eligibility requirements are high—a “qualifying sale” is a prerequisite to qualify as an affiliate member. Notably, they now allow self-published and small press writers to join as long as the minimum income requirements are met.
- Romance Writers of America Awards: RITA. Like the HWA, you can join as an “associate” member if you do not meet the requirements for general membership. For more information on membership levels, visit http://www.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=521.
- Mystery Writers of America Awards: Edgars. Unpublished mystery writers can join as an “affiliate” member.
Three Comparable Works
Yes, I realize your book is a unique butterfly; so is FATE’S PAST. But as the saying goes, “pride cometh before the fall.” I will say this—I had much greater luck pitching FATE’S PAST once I decided to list three “comparable” works in my query letter. That’s not to say the works I listed were similar—they were merely comparable. Comparable in structure, writing style, themes, whatever. Indeed, the Publisher Marketplace press releases often contain such comparisons: “Blogger and freelance copywriter Kathy Parks’s THE LIFEBOAT CLIQUE, pitched as MEAN GIRLS meets LIFE OF PI, to Claudia Gabel and Katherine Tegen at Katherine Tegen Books, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, by Mollie Glick at Foundry Literary + Media (NA).”
Bottom line, agents and publishers are looking for books that will sell. And their jobs are made much easier to the extent they can compare your work to a few books with a history of sales.
To be clear, you don’t even have to compare your book to those of the same genre. For example, I listed Neil Gaiman’s THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE as a comparable title, which is far from a supernatural horror novel; FATE’S PAST and OCEAN, however, contain many of the same thematic elements.
Ok, so you’ve identified three comparable works. Great job! What now? Well, read the books, of course! But beyond reading, learn about the works—research what inspired the authors. Find out how the books were marketed. All this information will help you increase your knowledge base and improve your chances of eventually getting published.
I will draft an entire blog post (or two) about why Twitter is a necessity for aspiring writers. But for now, let me say that: if you are an unpublished writer, join Twitter. Now. And after you join, get plugged into the Twitter writing community—follow writers, agents, and publishing houses. Soon, you will gain followers of your own; and when you do sign a publishing contract, you can use your Twitter page to cross market your other social media platforms—for example, you can send direct messages asking that new followers “like” your Facebook author page. You can tweet about your new blog posts. You can inform your followers about the release date of your book. Twitter is a great introduction to the power of social media and the perfect gateway to enhance your other social media marketing endeavors.
Twitter can even help you get published—every so often, Twitter hosts “pitch” parties, where unpublished and unagented authors tweet their manuscript “pitches.” If an agent or publisher likes a pitch, he or she will “favorite” that tweet. The largest pitch party is “#pitmad,” and you can find more information about it here: http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitmad/. As for suggestions on who to follow on Twitter, here are a few of my favorites…
- Paulo Coelho
- Neil Gaiman
- Jon Winokur
- Carly Watters, literary agent with PS Literary.
- Guy In Your MFA / Dystopian YA Novel (hey, Twitter doesn’t always have to be serious)