There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

On Querying and Originality in Fantasy January 25, 2014

Filed under: Publishing — thereanddraftagain @ 7:08 pm
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Hi everyone!

If you’re a writer in the query trenches now or if you’re planning on looking for an agent and getting traditionally published in the future, you know that getting rejections is part of the process.

For the purpose of this post, we are going to assume the Querying Writer has done her research, finished and polished her manuscript, written a professional query letter and put together a list of relevant agents to contact, along with their submission guidelines.

There are many, many reasons for an agent to send the Querying Writer a rejection, and for nearly every single one of them there’s a solution. Sometimes, the agent will tell you what’s wrong with your submission: it’s called a personalized rejection. Other times, the agent won’t tell you why she’s rejecting your manuscript: it’s the infamous Form Rejection.

Thankfully, a few agents use Twitter to reveal the most common reasons why they reject a submission. They use the #10queriesin10tweets or #tenqueries hashtags. And one reason that keeps popping up when it comes to Fantasy manuscripts is this one:

Sara Megibow Tweet

The premise isn’t unique/original/inventive enough.

In a sea of submissions, agents and editors are looking for a Unique Concept. Or a Familiar Story With An Unexpected Twist. They want the Unfamiliar. They want to be Surprised. As we do, as readers.

So how do you avoid being rejected for lack of originality? Here are a few pointers:

  • Research the industry: find out what’s on the shelves right now or what will hit the shelves in the next 18 months. This will give an idea of what agents/editors have already seen and aren’t looking for.
  • Avoid tropes in your writing: I recommend this website to find out which writing devices have been overdone.
  • Read: writing a Fantasy book requires reading Fantasy book, to avoid the annoying predicament which consists in writing a book that already exists.

Are you worried about how original your manuscript is or isn’t? Have you had rejections stating your premise felt too familiar? What have you done to ensure your book was as original as possible? Make sure to leave us a comment below!

EM Castellan

 

Going the Indie Route January 23, 2013

Filed under: Publishing — thereanddraftagain @ 5:30 am
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Your writing will never chase you — you need to chase your writing. If it’s what you want, then pursue it.
~ Chuck Wendig

 I’ve been asked several times since making the announcement, why I decided to go Indie with First of Her Kind (formerly known as BD&L). The simplest answer, and probably the most basic, is that I believe in the story.

That’s it.

No matter how many times I read it, I enjoy it. The second book in the series is well underway, and I even have several scenes written for the third. Each one just gets better and better. I’m excited by where it’s going and I want to share that excitement.

Yes, I could (hopefully) do that following the traditional route as well. Originally, I was headed down that path. I slaved over a query and synopsis, made my list of dream agents and started at the top. I entered pitch contests. I did everything I could to get my manuscript in front of The Agent. The one who would connect with it. The one who would believe in it like I do.

But something happened on the way to the forum . . .

I stumbled upon some articles and research touting self-publishing and the Indie movement. I’d never really paid it a lot of mind, even knowing several authors whom I respect who had gone that route. To me, dare I say it, it was almost like giving up. If I couldn’t make it the traditional route, then maybe I wasn’t meant to make it.

The problem with that line of thought was that I just couldn’t make myself believe it. So I started doing some more research. Here are some of the things that helped shape my decision:

TIME: Finding an agent can be a long process taking anywhere from months to, yes, years. And for fantasy, the unfortunate reality is the list is not as long as some, meaning competition is much higher, and those agents that do handle the genre are bombarded with tens of thousands of queries a year. Once an agent takes you on, it’s more months (possibly years) until a publishing contract comes your way. Even after a contract is signed, it generally takes another year until your book sees the light of day. So, realistically, if I snag an agent now, and they get a publishing contract within six months, the likely scenario is that my book still wouldn’t see a release date until sometime next year.

Call me impatient, but I want it out there now. I’m ready to share it with the world.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Even though it’s not all about the money:  These days, even the major publishing houses are asking for more from their authors in terms of marketing their own books. Some, I’ve heard, are even cutting back on the editorial services they used to offer. Yet the royalties remain the same. Those royalties are about 15%. Compare that to the 70% or more available as a self-publisher and, well, seems to me, if I’m doing the work, I ought to get paid for it.

CONTROL: Okay, maybe I’m a control freak. Self-publishing puts me in charge of every aspect of my book’s success or failure. A daunting task, and not for everyone. But I enjoy it.

VALIDATION: This was a biggie — passing on the sense of validation that comes with being accepted into the traditional publishing echelon. But, really, won’t my readers provide that same sense of validation? If my book is good, the reading public will let me know. If it’s bad, I’ll find that out as well. What better way to grow as a writer?

I’ve written a few posts on my blog that outline some of these points in a little more depth. You can find them here, here, and here.

Does this mean I’ll never try the traditional route again? Heck no! In fact I’m working on an urban fantasy that may just get shopped to agents when it’s done. There’s nothing that says you have to choose one way or the other.

Who knows where the road will lead me. All I can say for sure is, “I’m going on an adventure!”