Tuesday, May 05, 2009

How we come up with ideas

One of my favorite blogs to reads is Pub Rants, agent Kristin Nelson's blog.  Every morning for years I've gone to her blog first thing and I've learned a ton about the industry from her.  I also credit her for being one of the reasons I'm where I am today.  Back in Spring 2006 she ran a fun little contest that I ended up winning -- the prize was a partial critique.  Problem was, I didn't have a partial.  This is what really got me laser focused on writing and what prompted me to start Dead Bodies and Debutantes (and then I wrote The Forest of Hands and Teeth when I needed a new project but couldn't get the protag of Debs and Death out of my head).  Incidentally, I "won" another contest she held (pitch critiques) and ended up getting a partial request which is how I became friends with Diana, without whose help I doubt I would have never subbed FHT.

See -- it really all does go back to Kristin (crazy, right?).   Anyway, one of the things I loved most about her blog (particularly before I sold) was reading what editors are looking for.  I found this peek into editor's wants fascinating.  I love speculating about the market but I was also one of those writers who tried to be aware of what's selling.  I spent a lot of time trying to come up with the most marketable ideas I could.

I've mentioned before that when I wrote FHT I was utterly convinced there would be no market.  I was positive that not only would agents auto reject my query, but that they'd pass it around so everyone could get a good laugh.  In fact, one of the reasons I even queried my agent, Jim , is that I knew he's recently sold an adult zombie book and therefore wouldn't laugh at the word "zombie" in my query.  When I was writing FHT sure there was The Zombie Survival Guide and the remake of Dawn of the Dead, but as far as I knew, zombies were never going to be a trend.

FHT was really the first time I wrote a book without caring about the saleability or the market for it.  I just loved the story and was tired of writing things I'd think would sell only to find out they wouldn't.  (Actually, now that I think about it I wasn't totally blind to some aspects of the market -- I knew I wanted it to be YA and so every time I tended toward a plot point that was too adult my critique partner would reign me in.)

So you can imagine how strange it was for me to catch up on Kristin's blog and find that in a recap of The London Book Fair she mentions how the UK is looking for "literary zombies."  My reaction was similar to one of the comments -- really?  literary zombies are a "thing" now?  Two commenters point out examples of literary zombies: Pride & Prejudice & Zombies and FHT (thanks Mari Mancusi!).   And so suddenly I just had this utterly surreal moment of thinking of myself a few years ago reading Kristin's blog trying to learn as much about the market as I could and I know I would have been that anon commenter saying "truly, am I the only one who laughed at literary zombies?"  Really, could there be an aspiring author out there checking out that list going "hmmm... literary zombies..." and it getting their minds whirring?  I mean that would be awesome, but also totally surreal.

I really admire authors who are able to look at what editors are looking for or what's going on in the market and capitalize on it, especially since I spent so much time trying to do that and never could.  It's REALLY hard to do and so when an author's able to pull it off I think it's totally awesome.  One of those authors is Aprilynne Pike, whose debut WINGS is out today (to a ton of buzz and fanfare).  She's talked about how she came up with the idea in interviews and in her podcast (here) but essentially she was reading on Kristin Nelson's blog about the B&N buyer predicting faeries to be hot in YA.  That's what led Aprilynne to put two and two together -- she'd always loved faeries, she wanted to write YA and BAM - she decided to write a faerie YA book.  She then spent a lot of time crafting a unique spin, wrote the whole thing in less than two months and sold it in a four book series!

I love her story because I feel like it's something I tried so hard to do and failed (hey, even if I failed at least I now know the thought process wasn't totally skewed).  But I also love her story because ultimately it's so different than mine.  I love that two people can have a different approach and both succeed.  I think it just goes to show that everyone's path in this business is different!!

Hopefully all that makes sense - lol.  But the bottom line is ultimately, congrats to Aprilynne for her debut Wings!

1 comment:

David said...

Trying to play the market is definitely a risky game. I guess all you can hope is that you love to write whatever it is that you think is about to take off.