Tag Archives: Writing to Market

Ten Things That Changed in Ten Years – The Speculative Fiction World

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Ten things that I’ve noticed have changed in the last ten years:

1. Nearly every major market now accepts electronic submissions. (The Big Three were paper-only until just a few years ago, prompting this essay by John Scalzi in 2009.)

2. It’s so easy now to write and submit (in a physical sense) that there are thousands of writers out there. For short-story magazines, an acceptance rate of under 1%  is not unusual. (It used to be much higher.) Most magazines now have “reading periods” or “submission windows” during which they accept story submissions, so that they’re not deluged continually and have a chance to clear the backlog.

3. The converse of that is, even if you’re a good writer, rejections are usually a lot more common than acceptances, even with semi-pro magazines. (The Science Fiction Writers of America uses 6 cents/ word as a cut-off for “professional” rates. Below that is “semi-pro”, token payments, or “for the love” meaning no payment at all.

4. With a low cost-barrier to entry for an on-line magazine, there are a lot of small markets. Many of which are single-person efforts. Some of them evaporate quickly, others survive for years and get quite well-known.

5. For novels, Amazon has been a complete game-changer. The stigma against self-publishing has evaporated, with Amazon and e-publishing being a possible route to success. (Self-publishing short story singles except tied into a novel series is mostly pointless.)

6. With the advent of successful e-publishing of novels, the series cycle is much tighter. The conventional wisdom used to be that you should aim for one novel a year in a series, because that’s what publishers want. Now, according to successful self-published novelist Annie Bellet, you ideally want one a month. Or hold off until you have six books ready to go, so you benefit from reader momentum.

7. People are always trying to game sales algorithms, and the owners of those algorithms are always fighting the games. This means the rules continually shift, and non-gamers can get caught in the cross-fire.

8. In traditional publishing, just selling a book doesn’t mean you’ve made it. Publishers are more and more impatient with books that don’t take off. They may cancel a series that’s selling, just not as well as they’d hoped.

9. TV possibilities may exist even for short stories, and definitely exists for novels series.

10. Podcasts are no longer a marginal medium, and are increasingly interesting.

Anyone with further thoughts – your comments?

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My Norwescon 2017 Panel Notes: Writing to Market

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Writing to Market  (Tori Centanni (M), Annie Bellet, Marta Murvosh, Brenda Carre, Tegan Moore)

For me, this may have been the most interesting panel of the day. It nicely complemented the New Publishing panel I attended earlier.

  1. What is writing to market?
    • Marta: Understanding the tropes of a genre and making sure you deliver what the readers want. (She writes to anthology calls to challenge herself, and considers that writing to market.)
    • Brenda, who is published in many short-story markets – both spec-fic and literary – writes to her passion, and less to the market. She’s also published several books.
    • Annie (who is a very successful self-publisher): Writing with reader expectations in mind.
    • Writing to market is not writing to trend. Writing to a fan-base is ultimately a more successful strategy than hooking on to the latest trend. Even if you can do it, you may not be able to repeat the performance.
    • Teagan writes mainly short fiction, and writes to anthology calls. Pacing in literary markets is slower than in spec fic markets.
    • Markets may be more liberal than people think.
    • Distinguish between writing to the reader and writing to the editor.
  2. So how do you achieve this “genre methadone”?
    • Marta: As a librarian, I look for “appeal factors.” When someone likes a book, I ask what they liked about it. For e.g.: Hunger Games. Some of the factors: Dystopian; Speaking truth to power; Love triangle; Action adventure; bows and arrows. Then I can recommend another book with the right appeal factor.
    • Annie listed all the things she loved about books she read, focused on the urban fantasy genre, and wrote a series (The Twenty-sided Sorceress) using that analysis.
  3. How do you study the market?
    • Annie: Read! Read extensively in the genre you want to write.
    • Brenda: Read widely, it can spark new ideas.  Markets change over time, especially Young Adult.
    • Teagan: This is even more true (changing markets) of short fiction markets.
  4. Marketing to readers vs marketing to editors
    • Annie: It’s easier to market to readers than to editors. Editors are jaded, and they have to read lots of manuscripts and get fatigued when the same tropes keep appearing. Readers don’t care, they like what they like.
    • Brenda: Also, editors are responsible to a committee. Readers only have to please themselves.
    • Annie: For commercial success, reverse-engineer your tastes to the market. There is no such thing as trash. You have to enjoy popular culture. Find out what will connect you to your market. Susan Kaye Quinn suggests starting out by writing fan fiction of genres you love.
    • Annie: Look at the sales of sequels to your novel. Ideally, it should be >50% of Book 1.
  5. Is there a market for everything? Can I just take what I like, and extrapolate?  Someone spoke about books written from the point of view of the bad guy. Does the protagonist have to be appealing? We go into a discussion about flawed heroes and anti-heroes.
    • Marta: The market may exist, but it may be small. Who in this room has read “The Best American Short Stories 2016”?  [ I look around, and maybe 2-3 people have raised their hands.] “Right? Not many. It’s an important book, edited by Junot Diaz, but it appeals to a small market.”
    • Annie: I think there’s a market for everything, but there may not be a market for everything we write. And your market may be too small to support you as a writer. (She also has trunk novels which will never get published.)
    • Marta: It may appeal to a different audience than intended. I get YA Romance that aren’t really YA. They don’t address the concerns of teenagers,  the characters don’t think like teenagers. They’re just cleaned up romance novels. But there’s a market for clean (i.e. no onscreen sex] romance, and so I direct them to adults who want clean romance.
  1. What are the biggest mistakes?
    • Annie: They want to write something no one has seen before. It’s difficult to do and even harder to market.
    • Brenda: Only getting the low-hanging fruit – duplicating the market.
    • Marta: Not understanding what the reader wants