What is genre? More specifically, what is your genre? This is something you will be asked by agents and publishers to identify when it comes to your work before you even submit to them. To ensure you are submitting to the right person, the right house, you need to make sure you are a fit. And it all comes down to the genre of your writing.
It sounds like a fairly simple concept, but the more you think about it, the more confusing it may become. Are you young adult? Adult? Romance, mystery, fiction? There are more to genres than just the age range you are targeting, or the main subject matter you are focusing on.
In an attempt to help you better place your book in the genre scale, I have prepared a simple tutorial.
To start out simple, the most basic breakdown of genres are fiction and non-fiction. Where it gets complicated, is all the endless subgenres that fall under each.
We will start with Non-Fiction
Non fiction is basically, what it says. Stories of fact, actual information based on real life events. Memoirs, biographies or tales of war, can all be counted as non-fiction. Under non-fiction, you will find
Now, moving on to fiction
Fiction is, as its counterpart, fairly direct. Fiction is a story created from the authors mind, and is not fact. It is an embellishment, with little or no basis is reality or actual persons.
Breaking down fiction, you may be surprised by the number of subgenres you will find
Now, finding your place within these subjects is only the start. It is not simply knowing you have written a fictional romance story. You must also place your work within an age category, outlining to agents and publishers, as well as future readers, who the book is most suited for.
These categories are as follows:
If you are unsure of how to place your book within a genre and age category, try having someone impartial read it. Ask their input. Where do they feel the book fits in to these categories. Sometimes, you may have been intending to write for an adult crowd, but on future examination, your writing, dialogue and prose tends to be more new adult in nature.
Placing your work in the appropriate category of genre and age is important for any writer. By doing this, you can better reach out to readers, promote on the correct forums, and focus on your group. Additionally, literary agents and publishers require you to include in query letters where your book fits in both of these areas, to see at a glance if it is something they wish to represent.
It is the fear and enemy of all writers. Regardless of genre, regardless of whether you write articles for magazines, or novels for the best seller list, no creative mind is immune to the horrors of this dreaded infliction. There is little warning to its appearance, but when it rears its ugly head, you will feel as though everything has fallen apart, and there is no escape:
Dun, dun duuuuuunnnnnnn......
There is a form of this mental constipation in every type of creative outlet. Photographers go through phases of lack of inspiration, where nothing they see evokes a response or light to photograph. Artists, staring a blank canvas, willing their minds to cooperate with their desire to bring about the next great work. But the most iconic, and hated, form of this blockage is writers block. It doesn't discriminate. It doesn't matter your age, experience, or preference in genre. There is no way to tell when it will hit, or for how long.
So, when this wretched mental block finds you, and it will...what do you do? How do you overcome the empty mind, and turn the blank screen and blinking, immobile cursor in to your next great chapter?
Here are a few tips:
1) Step Away - you've been staring at that screen for what probably feels like hours. You've read and reread all the preceding chapters, everything leading up to the sudden brick wall you face, hoping your mind will keep on its track and the words will come. A way to help clear your mind of this vicious cycle, is to step away, and write something else. Even if just for ten minutes, turn your mind to something completely different. Write creatively, nonsensically, and inspirationally. Moving your mind away from what has it stumped will open up another avenue of thought, and maybe even a side route around the road block.
2) Turn to research - all writers need to research what they are about to write about. Whether it is locations, customs, or any little detail, backing your writing up with facts and knowledge, despite just winging it, will make your writing more authentic. If the words wont come, turn your attention to the research that inspires it. You are still being productive with your work, and supporting your process, but you are making your mind use a different area of your brain. Rather than creativity, you are learning and researching.
3) Sometimes, when feeling like you just cant make yourself write, give yourself a time. Literally, a timer. Set the timer on your stove, or even an easy, peasy little egg timer. Set it for an hour, and type. Just type and write, and create. Worry about editing and accuracy after that hour. But at least for that hour, you have written.
4) Channel your mind - Sometimes writers spend too much time thinking of the whole picture. They know they want to get to a certain point, to reach the next scene, but are too busy considering all the other issues and items still to come. It is overwhelming for any mind, so the best way to settle that overactive imagination, is to channel your focus. Think of a certain scene. Not all the extras, all the additives. Focus on a single scene. Picture it in your mind, as though you were watching a movie of your book. Describe it, feel as though you are there. Taking it that small, one step at a time, rather than rushing to the finish line, will not only settle your mind and make you less anxious, it will also make that scene the best it can be.
5) Take a break! - Probably the most important, most logical, but most forgotten option when facing writers block is this...get up, walk away, and do something else. Maybe for an hour, or maybe until the next day. But staring at that computer screen or blank page isn't going to help you move forward. If anything it will only make you more exasperated. So, do something else. Go for a walk, play with the dog, maybe watch some TV. Do and think everything and anything other than writing. This will calm your nerves, and open up other areas of your mind for stimulation. In turn, you might find that you get the inspiration you need.
Writers Digest (2010). 10 Creative ways to beat writers block fast. Retrieved from http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/beat-writers-block/10-creative-ways-to-beat-writers-block-fast
Writers Digest. (2011). 10 Ways to stay sane when frustrated with your writing. Retrieved from http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/write-first-chapter-get-started/karin-slaughter-10
Writers Digest. (2011). 4 ways inspiration helps you beat writers block. Retrieved from http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/4-ways-inspiration-helps-you-beat-writers-block
Writers Digest. (2012). 3 Steps for overcoming writers block. Retrieved from http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/beat-writers-block/3-steps-for-overcoming-writers-block
Any writer looking to break through the proverbial glass ceiling of publishing will admit that although they would accept offers from any reputable and appropriate publisher, their sights are usually set on one of the main staples in the industry. When beginning the initial searches for publishing houses, their genres and the like, the same few names will continue to pop up. When looking through your favorite books, the ones that litter your book shelves, whose spines are cracked the pages bend, chances are the majority of them will come from one of the main houses and their imprints.
These main staple houses are lovingly referred to as ‘The Big 5’. They are the main houses, the biggest, brightest and most powerful in the industry, each of which holding several imprints under their label, specializing in a variety of writing genres.
When beginning your own publishing research, familiarizing yourself with these five is essential. Why? Because they hold the majority of power within publishing, and although you know their names, you might not realize the number of imprints they control. Why is that important? Simply put, because the big five don’t accept unagented and unsolicited works. The majority of the time, this rule falls down to their imprints as well. So even though there are countless options when browsing publishing houses, as many are controlled under these names, it is important to familiarize yourself with them.
And, of course, if you are lucky enough to have them consider your work, either through a literary agent, or by chance otherwise, it is essential that you are aware of their reputation. Think of it as a job interview. You wouldn’t go in to such a meeting with absolutely no familiarity with the company and their work, would you? The same can be said for publishing, and the houses that control the majority of the market.
In an attempt to spread the little bit of knowledge I have procured since starting my own publishing pursuits, I’ve decided to dedicate this weeks blog post to the Big 5.
Shall we begin?
I think it is important to point out, before I break it all down, that the Big 5 was originally the Big 6, until Penguin and Random House joined forces. The merging of these two powerful publishing giants gained strength and momentum to their brand, combining several large name title holders.
Additionally, I find it important to mention that all the Big 5 have their headquarters in New York City.
And now, lets break it down.
Of course, all writers would love to find a home with these names. Their established success, breadth of power and influence is known in the publishing world, and they hold the ability to make your book a household name. But, having said that, it is important to remember that there are still hundreds of other options, houses that are just as good, just as influential, without all the red tape. It is important to do your research, and familiarize yourself as much as possible with every house to submit to.
Like I said, it is like a job interview. Know who you are facing, what they want, and the work you put in will make you that much more noticeable.
About Money. (2016). The Big Five Trade Book Publishers. Retrieved from http://publishing.about.com/od/BookPublishingGeneralInfo/a/The-Big-Five-Trade-Book-Publishers.htm
Good Reads. (2016). Popular fictions. Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com
In keeping with my intention to shed light on some of the trials faced by some of our most beloved authors, this weeks post will focus on two somewhat related, but completely polar opposite works. One started as a dream, the other as a fan fiction. But both are beloved both in the book world and through the film adaptations.
Stephenie Meyer - Twilight
The concept of one of the most infamous young adult series is somewhat well known. In June of 2003, Stephenie Meyer had a dream of a young girl, and a vampire who loved her but thirsted for her blood. The book originally started as a simple draft; a one shot of sorts. At first, the main characters didn’t even have names. Meyer added more and more chapters to the work with little thought to backstory, until the manuscript had formed to a length that Meyer desired to bring out more of the events in the backstory. Over the course of three months, she completed the manuscript in August of 2003.
Meyer never had plans of publication, her writing being merely for her own enjoyment. At her sisters insistence, Meyer finally submitted the work to literary agencies. 15, in fact. Of these, 5 went unanswered, 9 were rejections, with one positive response. Luck would be on her side, as the response came from an inexperienced assistant at the agency, who didn’t even know that the manuscript was more than double that of a usual young adult title. But that error worked in Meyer’s favor, the manuscript being reviewed, and signed.
Little, Brown and Company initially offered Meyer $300,000 for the series, but with the support of her agent, Meyer requested $1,000,000. Finally, a settlement of $750,000 was made for all three books in the series. Twilight debuted at #5 on the New York Times bestseller list, and the rest is history.
E.L. James – 50 Shades of Grey
Just as with Meyers work in Twilight, fans of the 50 Shades of Grey series are probably already familiar with how the books came to be. After reading and falling in love with the popular young adult series Twilight, James began her ‘sequel’ to the books, with a more adult twist. James had never written before, and started this work as a fan fiction on a popular writing forum merely for her own interest. Publishing the books as Kindle works using the pen name Snowqueens Icedragon with the book entitled Master of the Universe. The books were not exactly as we know the current series, but due to the fanatical popularity of the online versions, in 2009 James set to work on the 50 Shades of Grey works.
James admits that the books are her own expression of mid life crisis, that all her fantasies are featured. Using the characters of Edward and Bella as the soon to be renamed Christian and Anna, the work was meant to be a continuation of sorts. The original Master of the Universe was a single work, later to be divided in to the three books we know now by Writers Coffee Shop of Australia. The effects of virtual marketing and online popularity greatly impacted the shoot to stardom James experienced, as both the original work was a fan fiction online, and the majority of North American awareness came from online fan fare surrounding the work.
It just goes to show that yes, fan fiction ARE real books too. And there is no end to the power of online forums, and support from enthusiastic and dedicated readers.
It is yet another aspect of the publishing world that new and struggling authors may find daunting. Beyond the art of the query letter, the countless hours hunched over your computer, your eyes blurring to the point of searing as you edit your masterpiece, there are so many other aspects of getting your work on book shelves than you would have thought.
Many of the large scale publishing houses will not accept unsolicited manuscripts. Which, when you’re starting out and trying to find someone, anyone, to read your work, reduces the number of options significantly. For those dreaming of getting that six figure publishing deal with one of the big five houses, you will need a literary agent. There is no if and or but about it. For these power houses to even consider looking at your work, they need to know it first caught the eye of an industry professional: enter, the lit agent.
When seeking the representation of a professional literary agent, the process is pretty much exactly the same as approaching a publisher. Query letters, synopsis, page samples. Trying to get an agent to request the entire manuscript is just as difficult as getting a publishing house to do the same. Some may suggest doing the leg work yourself, get that elusive publishing contract in hand, then go looking for an agent to simply close the deal for you.
So you may wonder, why bother? Why do twice the work for the same outcome?
Here is why:
Obviously, there are plenty of other aspects to be considered. Finding the right agent, finding the right genre, are all important steps to consider. You need to have a connection with your agent, not just a name. You need to relate to them, and be able to trust that they will work for you and find you the best possible real in the publishing world.
It is a lot of work, but the outcome could be much more lucrative if you query agents before publishers. Especially if your goals are one of the big five, you cannot hope to get your toe in the door without them. And even when you do, you need someone who knows the business to navigate its slippery slopes on your behalf.
Let a literary agent be your sidekick in your writing adventure!
Peterson, V. (2015). What does a book agent do to get your book published? Retrieved from http://publishing.about.com/od/BookAuthorBasics/a/Literary-Agents-Do-You-Need-A-Literary-Agent-For-Your-Book.htm
Strauss, V. (n.d.). Why a Writer Needs a Literary Agent. Retrieved from http://www.sfwa.org/why-a-writer-needs-an-agent/
During my adventure towards publication, I often wondered how other writers made it through. Those who reached the NYT bestseller list; those you went on to have their books turned in to blockbuster films. How did they all start? How did they navigate the confusing and harsh world of publishing, and come out intact and, more importantly, sane?
As with most of my little personal musings, I’ve decided to do a blog feature on some of our favorite authors. Learn what inspired their infamous works, how they found publication, and what happened after!
This week, I am starting with J.K. Rowling of the Harry Potter franchise, and Wattpads very own Anna Todd, author of the spectacularly popular After series.
J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter
Joanne Rowling is known around the world as the mind behind the most famous magical adventure series, Harry Potter. But what they may not realize, was the struggle she faced before that one story changed her life.
‘Jo’ Rowling, who took on the moniker J.K. as she believed boys wouldn’t want to read a book written by a girl, first came up with the idea for Harry Potter while on a four hour train delay in 1990. When she finally reached her flat, she began writing immediately, finishing the work in 1995 with the use of an old manual typewriter. The work was a savior for Rowling, who after seven years out of university felt herself a failure. Her first marriage came to an end, she had a young child and no job, living on the welfare system. She suffered clinical depression, the feelings generating inspiration for the soul sucking creatures introduced in the third book, Dementors. Additionally, the death of Rowlings mother was the catalyst for the loss of Potters own parents, the detail of his feelings being stemmed from Rowlings own grief.
In 1995, after an enthusiastic response from a friend and agent, the book was submitted to twelve publishers. All rejected the manuscript ALL OF THEM. A year later, she was offered a small advance by an editor at Bloomsbury, who had given the first chapter to his daughter, who immediately demanded more. Bloomsbury encouraged Rowling to seek a day job, as they believed she had little chance of making money from childrens books.
Oh how wrong they were. In 1997, the initial copies of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone, half of which were distributed to librarys, are now valued at approximately 25,000pound. Rowling went from rags to riches, being the first person in history to become a billionaire from writing.
Rowlings success proves that rejection is not the end. Challenges are not always insurmountable. And sometimes, all you need is a little faith, and a little magic.
Anna Todd – After
For those of you familiar with Wattpad, there is no way you have not heard the name Anna Todd. And if by chance you had been living under a rock, let me say this: After.
That should ring a bell.
The worldwide phenomenon that brought fanfiction to the forefront of fiction along side 50 Shades of Grey started as a pastime. Tired of waiting for her favorite authors to update their stories, Todd decided to try her own hand at writing under the name imaginator1D in 2013. Using Harry Styles of One Direction as her main character, she created an AU world of secrets, drama and betrayal that reached heights that Wattpad had never seen before. The series has surpassed 1 billion reads online, a feat never seen before in online writing.
Big 5 publisher Simon and Shuster snatched up the publishing rights, signing Todd to a six figure advance. The fanfare around the books continued to blow up around the world, with Todd now a New York Times bestselling author. The book has now been taken up by Paramount Pictures, and is currently in the preproduction stages of becoming a major motion picture.
Todd is the quintessential supergirl of the fanfiction world, has inspired countless other fanfiction writers to seek publication, and encourages others to strive for their dreams.
As you all probably have noticed, the trend #Wattpadbooksarerealbookstoo circulated in the writing community of Twitter not so long ago. Even I wrote a quick blog post about the tweet that started it all, a viner who suggested that books of the fanfiction genre are no actually books.
This started a small outrage among the Wattpad community, especially those who call the fanfiction world their literary home. It started not only the trend of promoting the amazing work that Wattpad features, but showing that fanfictions are just as equally worthy of attention and recognition as traditional fiction.
So, Ive decided that this weeks blog post is going to focus on the preconceptions of fan fiction, and the challenges faced by those who write it.
One thing I found surprising while working on a separate blog post topic was that E.L. James fantastically popular work 50 Shades of Grey was criticized by a writer at The Atlantic Wire, solely based on its fanfiction beginnings. To me, this is ludicrous. If you wish to criticize a work, focus on the quality of writing, the messages promoted, or the overall worth. A stories initial beginnings towards popularity, however, seems rather petty to me. The fact that 50 Shades was originally a Twilight fanfiction, with Edward and Bella the original Christian and Anna, makes no difference. The story is the story, regardless of the names or descriptions of the characters. And really, isn’t that all fan fiction really is? The use of names, physical attributes, or some settings, taken to create a new work?
Now, in the fanfiction world, there are the literal fictions, and the AU, or alternate universe works. Literal, are just that; the actual celebrity taken and a story created around them. They are themselves, they are famous, they are popular for their music, acting, etc. However, in AU fiction, while the names and the characteristics of a celeb are used, they are not actually themselves. They are merely the inspiration for the author to work from.
It is suggested by some fanfiction haters that it is merely derivative and not true fiction at all. That fanfiction is an infringement of the original work, or person, and should be considered insulting. Lev Grossman, New York Times bestselling author, stated “Fanfiction is what literature might look like if it were reinvented from scratch after a nuclear apocalypse by a band of brilliant pop-culture junkies trapped in a sealed bunker.” How lovely of him, huh? But at the same time, he changes his tune with the quote “I adore the way fan fiction writers engage with and critique source texts, by manipulating them and breaking their rules.”
However, not everyone would agree.
Joss Wheton, director of Avengers, has said ““I adore the way fan fiction writers engage with and critique source texts, by manipulating them and breaking their rules.”
Some people realize that fan fiction has the potential to be the next great untapped resource for writing and great new literature. 50 Shades of Grey was a fanfiction on Twilight. Anna Todd’s spectacularly popular After was a One Direction fanfic. Both of which ended up New York Times bestsellers, and being turned in to major motion pictures.
Fanfiction allows ‘ordinary’ people to try their hand at not only writing, but creativity. The outlet inspires a new generation to read, to write, and to think outside the box. Look at fanfiction.net and Wattpad, and you will see the popularity of fanfiction, and the fanatical response of readers. Some fictions have hundreds of millions of reads…but, to some, they aren’t real books…
Right, Tom Harlock?
Goodreads. (2016). Quotes about Fan Fiction. Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/fanfiction
Ah, rejection. The bane of any artistic souls existence. No form of media, art or even everyday muggle career opportunity is immune from the horrible feeling of being told no. It is an unfortunate part of life, and therefore, something we all must face.
Being a writer, a gentle, artistic and creative soul, rejection is sometimes even more difficult to bear. You put your blood, sweat and tears into a work, it is your baby, your muse, your everything. You spent days, weeks, months and sometimes years perfecting it. Everyone you've had read it says its incredible. Your mum, your sister, even your cranky old aunt.
You decide its time to show your talent to the world...you do your research, learn the lingo of the literary world. The art of the query letter, the mastery of manuscript formatting and synopsis writing. You have everything ready, and the possibilities seem endless.
You start out with a few chosen agents and or publishers. Of course, landing a deal with one of the big five (Random House/Penguin, MacMillan, Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster) is the goal, but they do not accept manuscripts that have not come from an agent. A minor road block, you're sure. No doubt, the first agent you reads your premise will jump up, crying with elation, that they have finally found the book of their dreams.
Time passes. And then more time. And even then, a little more time.
Then the rejections start rolling in.
"Thank you for your query. Unfortunately, this isn't quite the right fit for me at this time."
You are disappointed, but don't lose hope just yet. Until the next round of queries, and the next, and the next, all returning with the same response:
Thanks, but no thanks.
It isn't an easy thing, to be rejected. Whether with writing, when applying for jobs, or in relationships, rejection sucks no matter the means. The key to moving forward and not giving up, is simple: learn to deal, make adjustments, and keep trying!
Here are a few tips that I have learned in my own pursuit of that elusive book deal that I found helpful, and thought I would share with those seeking the same proverbial golden egg.
1) Be realistic - No matter how much your mum and cranky aunt loved your book, you need to be realistic. You are not the worlds greatest writer. There is no such thing, in reality, as everyone's tastes are different. Checking your ego, and re-evaluating your goals and plans is the first step in this process.
2) Re-evaluate your goals - Not all of us are meant to end up with one of the big five. But there are countless other, smaller, equally as supportive and incredible publishers out there that you should consider. Look in to them, see what they have published, even contact some of their authors for a real, first hand account
3) DO YOUR RESEARCH!!! - I cant stress this one enough. There is NO more important step in this process than research, research, research. Look in to the agents and publishers you are considering. See their track record, the types of authors they support, the books they favor. Especially when looking directly to publishing and bypassing the agent route, make sure you are submitting to publishers who are producing the type of work you want. Do you want to see your book on store shelves? Then a digital only imprint is not for you. Want worldwide publicity? Then maybe a small, local imprint isn't the right choice. You need to have a firm grasp on who you are sending your work to. Because if they do offer you a contract, and you haven't done this work, you may be surprised to find a lot of what you wanted isn't offered.
4) Take a break - sometimes when you have been faced with countless rejections, with no change in sight, it is best to take a little break. Taking a step back from the process, distancing yourself and focusing on other things for a while will help you see clearly again. How long should you take? That depends on you. Sometimes a couple weeks...maybe a couple months. But staring at those pages you poured over so many times already isn't going to help when its all you've done for months. After clearing your mind and grounding yourself, you may be able to come back to your work with a new wave of focus and energy. During this break, read! Read other works that you love, read other authors who have written the same genre. This too will help you make adjustments to your own work and improve your writing.
5) Self Publish - this is always a viable option for any writer. The self publishing market is a force to be reckoned with, with some writers even making the NYT best seller list by publishing their own work. There are countless forums for this route; some you pay for, others you don't. Again, I refer back to #3 for this. Research your options here and find the one that is right for you
Obviously, this is just a short list of things to consider when trying to find publishing or agent representation. I have done all of the above, and am still doing them. My focus has changed from the big five (because lets be honest, its like the Oscars of writing to make it in with them) to smaller, but just as influential publishers. I have researched my options time and time again, making changes and adjustments based on my findings. I have spoken to other authors, and gotten direct feedback on routes to take, their opinions on agents and publishers, all of which have been incredibly helpful. I have made self published version of my work just for myself, so that even if nothing were to come of my lofty goals, I still have something tangible in my hand. And most of all, I took a break. That was the most clearing thing for me. Taking a two month hiatus from my laptop, from the writing community, from countless hours spent searching for the agent or house that may fall in love with my work. And it was the best decision I made. Because now, I can approach my work and my goals feeling renewed, with all the past rejections left behind me.
It is hard work trying to break in to the publishing world. But I am certain that then that big break finally comes, all the hours spent will be worth it.
Random thoughts from me on books, writing, news and more!