Sunday, October 20, 2013
I've been thinking about being different (don't you just love that pic? I do) for the past few days really.
It was sparked by listening to an interview the lovely Emma Newman did on her podcast Tea and Jeopardy with her agent. I heartily recommend the podcast, by the way, it's a hoot. Hosted from a different villainous lair each week, Emma talks to people in the industry, generally writers. She's ably 'assisted' by her loyal and somewhat untrustworthy butler Latimer.
During the interview Emma asked her agent what she was looking for in terms of submissions/queries. The answer was YA and particularly with a different world. Now that is right up my alley. This may sound vain, but Realmspace is most definitely different. That difference is what drew me to the concept in the first place and why I keep going back there.
I thought I'd look up the agent and maybe query her. However when I did so I found that she worked for an agency that I had already queried and been rejected by. It is not recommended to query multiple agents from the one agency with the same concept. If the one you've contacted doesn't think your idea/novel is right for them, but may suit another agent they'll pass it on. If they don't do this you can accept that for whatever reason they've decided that you're not for them.
This made me think that not only agents, but publishers and those who make TV shows and films often say they want something different, but what they really want is something safe.
Like it or not in this world of corporatised entertainment different is a hard sell. They're in it to make money and they won't accept anything they don't think will make money.
Sequels are so popular because they're a guaranteed sale. If someone read a book and liked it, then they're going to buy the sequel.
I have immense respect for A. Lee Martinez, because to date he has not yet done a sequel to any of his 10 books. Shame really because his debut Gil's All-Fright Diner is crying out for one. Tad Williams was the same early on in his career. Going from Tailchaser's Song to Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, then Otherland, followed by The War of the Flowers, is pretty brave.
On the other hand you have people like Raymond Feist. Feist was more than capable of writing outside his Midkemia concept. His one foray outside of it Faerie Tale was a highly accomplished dark fantasy. It didn't sell at the time so he got railroaded into doing more Midkemia books and never went back to something outside of that. Faerie Tale is these days very well regarded.
While I love Joe Abercrombie's 'grimdark' stories to death I'd love to see him do something outside of that dark, gritty, low magic stuff peopled with cynical, macabrely amusing, morally ambiguous anti heroes. I assume he doesn't because everyone is concerned that readers may not react well to it.
Mercedes Lackey despite having a strong sales record and being very prolific stopped writing her Diana Tregarde series because at the time (before the UF boom) they didn't sell. There were other reasons behind that decision, but low sales were also a driver. In today's market that is almost over flooded with supernatural heroes in this world they would have been a huge hit.
That's why many authors seem to be get locked into the one genre or path.
It's the same with films. You can almost start counting the profits by sticking the word or number 2 on a title.
This of course makes it very hard for someone who has no track record to enter with an idea that is different and get someone to take a chance on it.
Not being different is why we try and pigeonhole authors and books into an ever increasing amount of subgenres, whether or not they actually fit in those.
I suspect part of what is killing my queries stone dead is four words contained in my opening line: young adult fantasy adventure. That's what it is though.
I read a lot, i spend a great deal of time perusing book shelves (I'm almost physically incapable of walking past a bookstore without going in and having a look) and I also interact with fans on a daily basis. I come across a number of words: different, fresh, new, unique, original.
Nearly every new release seems to have one, some or all of those words on their cover from a reviewer, author or blogger (I rarely used the words when describing a book, which is maybe one of the many reasons I wasn't a particularly successful book blogger). Unfortunately a fairly quick look inside many of those books makes one realise that the reviewers have a different meaning of the words to the one I go by. Many of these books are the same old stuff presented in a slightly skewed way, some don't even do that.
I regularly see fans asking for something different that doesn't tread the same old ground. It's getting harder and harder to make recommendations to fit that request, because no one wants to publish anything that veers too far from the tried and tested road for fear that the public will turn away in droves.
Maybe what I have really isn't very good and I'm kidding myself in thinking that it is, but it is different. It just needs a chance and someone willing to take a risk.