Friday Free-for-All

Janet Grant

Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

Location: Books & Such Main Office, Santa Rosa, Calif.

I’ve spouted a number of opinions about how a writer can break out from the pack this week. I could have added so much more, including:

–the importance of knowing what’s happening in publishing. Not just in your genre, but also in the broader industry. Read professional blogs and publications that give industry trends. It helps you to know what the current climate is in publishing, and that will inherently inform your writing.

–pay attention to authors who suddenly break out. Study what they and/or their publisher did that made a difference.

–know who the leading authors are in your genre. Read them. Even if you think their writing isn’t as good as yours, set that aside and ask yourself why they’ve succeeded. Is it some marketing angle? Is it some type of appeal to readers?

–don’t assume that you are the first one to come up with your latest idea. There’s nothing new under the sun. From the get-go, think about how to go deep with your topic, go in a surprise direction with your characters (if you write fiction). And really study places like Amazon to see what’s already published so you can steer in a different direction.

What one thing can you do differently that will help you to break out?

12 Responses

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  1. I like your suggestion to study Amazon. The landscape constantly changes, and there’s always something new cropping up there.

    Thanks for a week full of insightful and informative posts, Janet!

  2. After this week of suggestions I’m inspired to break out! Thank you Janet.

    I have discovered as well an absolute wealth of industry suggestions and fellow writer encouragement in BLOG-land. Writers are really without excuse these days when it comes to learning the craft.

    Still, the other side to all of this information can be an overly full aquarium of brightly colored ideas swimming in our heads when it comes time to actually working the keyboards.

    For myself, at least, I need to continually lean on the spiritual Draino of prayer to “un-BLOG” my mind when it comes time to writing fresh prose.

    Thanks again. We’ll look forward to your next time at the wheel.

  3. I beat myself up over this sort of thing all the time! I don’t know how I can get any closer to knowing what’s going on, but it’s more of an issue with me to know what I want to do. I have to push through the self-doubt and reluctance to make a commitment is what I’ve decided.

    So many ideas. Which one to finish?

    Also, is there a good way to discern exactly WHOM IS leading your genre? Sometimes who I think seems to be leading the way in reality may not be? Does that make sense?

  4. janetgrant says:

    Crystal, checking the best-selling lists based on genre is a good way to have a pulse on who’s generating the most sales. I’m especially interested when a new name pops up on the lists. Who is this person? Have they just broken out, or were they a one-time wonder? That requires a trip to an online bookstore because often that “new” name has written 20 books. That person is an overnight sensation after at least a decade of being published.

  5. Yikes! I think I’d die if the best writers in my genre didn’t write as well as I do. heh heh Shannon Hale? She’s OK but…not as good as me. 🙂

  6. May I link to this from our Shortgrass Children & Young Adult Writers Yahoo group?

  7. joylene says:

    Great post. I particularly like the part about studying those who have succeeded. How better than to gauge what works. Thanks!

  8. One area of building the platform that I’ve struggled a bit is knowing how much of the content / idea to share. With non-fiction, there is already a feeling of “so much free on the web, why buy the book?”

    I’ve focused on area workshops and also touching on the subject in talks to men or leadership training, but have been hesitant to directly start a blog or website (thought I did get a domain for it) which could let the cat out of the bag too early.

    Any tips welcome from agents or those who have been there. Thanks in advance.

    Rich Gerberding
    [email protected]

  9. Writing, for me, has never been about following trends. I would encourage every writer out there to write the book they need to write and worry, or not, about saleability later.
    The book du jour is tomorrow’s compost. I say, transcend the prose of the moment for something that will outlive today’s lunch special.

    Philip Wikel

  10. Would you suggest that a painter go to Target or Walmart to find out what people are hanging on their walls?

  11. janetgrant says:

    Phillip, I’ve always believed that an author who is serious about being published should listen with one ear to his/her heart–to write out of his passion. But then to listen with the other ear (we do have two) to what the market declares it wants. You have no idea how many untenable ideas an agent/editor sees each day. Or a rehashing of an idea that already has had its day (e.g., The Da Vinci Code). By not paying attention to what’s hot and what’s not, a writer might fulfill his passion, but he also might never see his material in print.
    Would I tell a painter to visit WalMart? Of course not. But, then Amazon carries everything–from the sublime to the ridiculous. A painter would recognize the difference.

  12. Thanks Janet. Your statements:
    “You have no idea how many untenable ideas an agent/editor sees each day. Or a rehashing of an idea that already has had its day”
    and:
    “A painter would recognize the difference” helped me a great deal in understanding your point about Amazon.
    Thanks again,
    Philip