Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Defining my Brand

I attended my first World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) over Labor Day weekend. My head has been spinning with ideas and questions ever since. Just to clarify, I'm not a sci-fi writer but the conference covered all speculative genres. I met lots of awesome people, drank more than I normally do, stayed up wayyyy too late, and attended quite a few panel discussions.

The main thing that's been bugging me is "Where do I fit in?" Most of the stuff covered there was very dark in nature. I was tempted to ask one publisher as he went over the rollout of upcoming titles, "Do you publish anything that is not about violence, death and apocalyse? I'm just curious."

I describe my fantasy novel as "The Lord of the Rings with girls in it" or "Tolkien meets Jane Austen."  It is an adventure story with magic and swords, but set in a society that has a strict set of rules within which the hero and heroine are trying to find their identities. I had to give the hero a POV because he's so repressed he rarely talks. I had no idea for the longest time how these two bumbling souls would ever get to the point of declaring themselves to each other. But ultimately it's a hopeful book about redemption and the triumph of faith over darkness. One friend who read it said it is "deep, with lots of layers."

But the point is that while I know there must be an audience for it, how do I find it? And how do I find an agent or publisher that will take it on? I've scoured bookstores for similar types of stories and can find nothing, though I've read a few self-pubbed or small press books like it. It seems that the active bloggers and facebookers I interact with are all writing things with a lot of sex, a lot of violence or just dark, brooding themes. They're good people and I love talking to them but it would be hard for me to promote their books and I doubt that they would like mine.

I had an interesting conversation in the shuttle on the way to the airport with someone who encouraged me not to write for the Christian market. I told him I have no intention of it. Like John Grisham and J. K. Rowling, I am a writer who happens to be a Christian, not a Christian writer.

How do I find a community of like-minded writers who can point me in the direction of their publishers and agents? Is my story even publishable? I have no idea.


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  2. First off, your book sounds interesting. I would begin by searching on Agent query for agents who have fantasy or epic fantasy described as things they represent. Next, I would work on a solid query letter that highlights the things that make your work special. I think what you may need is a little focus, and you have already done that by saying your work is like Lord of the Rings but with girls. That gives me an instant impression of what I can expect.

    Personally, you might have better luck with small to medium-sized presses. I am published with a medium-sized press, and I actually like it. I get to work with my publisher. Sure, I'm not getting famous or anything. But it can be me a fancy dinner or two from royalties and I get fan mail. And all the while, I'm building my base up of people who like to read what I write.

    Another thing I suggest you do is continue to write. Find areas where you can showcase stuff that's related to your fantasy, but stuff that you can publish without fear of jeopardizing your manuscript. Crank out short stories. Crank out novellas. Offer them for free online and then search out magazines to publish them in. You are a you need to write. A LOT.

    But you also need to get your work in front of people, or no one will ever know the brilliance that you have to offer the world.

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  4. As you know, Betsy, I'm aware of the story's shortcomings and the need to develop the heroine more. I appreciate your feedback enormously. Revisions are not complete. But there is a lot to explore within a framework of traditional roles, as we know full well from our collaborative project.

  5. The problem qith the Christian market is all the redtrictions that revent developing meaningful conflicts (no divorce, not even a hint of sexual relationships, no mention if a particular denomination or other religion.) That's why Ginger's book was never finished. They objected to the hero being Catholic (he's Italian, for crying out loud!)

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  8. Hi Michael, thank you so much for your comments. Yes, I am working on a story for an anthology and have another story and a spin-off novel in the works, plus an old romance novel I'd like to finish. That might make a good novella, now that you mention it!

  9. hang in there, dear friend. i know there's a place for it somewhere.

  10. I was totally up against the same thing and went the self-publish route, but mostly because I am a bit of a control freak. I likely could have found a small press. My work doesn't fit neatly in the Christian category. Any CBA publisher would have a fit over the fact my character is Anglican and that all the adult characters drink, including her grandfather, a rector.

    Based on the description, your niche might be closer to romance than strictly fantasy, and that opens up some additional small press options for you. But I agree that the big houses might not be a fit.


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