Writing for a “Dead” Market?

I’ll admit it, I’m writing dystopian. The first step is admitting you have a problem. While many people still thoroughly enjoy this genre, the market for it from a publisher’s perspective is (as far as I can tell) pretty dead. The number of denied queries I am amassing speaks to this fact. So what does a frustrated writer do in this situation?

First of all, it’s even more frustrating because I understand the situation completely. Knowing the principles of basic supply and demand as well as the way trends go, it makes total sense that savvy literary professionals such as agents and editors are not jumping at the chance to grab more titles that boast corollaries to the wildly popular (currently) Hunger Games and Divergent. Instead agents and editors want to snatch up the next big craze, which will certainly be in a totally different and unexpected genre.

So I get it. But I don’t want to stop writing the story I am trying to tell. I didn’t decide to write about Mara and Runey because I wanted to write the next Hunger Games. Despite what the genre may suggest, I am not writing for a trend. The story came to me and clamored to be told, so I am telling it, despite its marketability with literary professionals. I have read many articles and blog posts that say “shelve your dystopian/paranormal projects,” but I disagree. Personally, I don’t like to leave work unfinished. Especially something as near to my heart and soul as my writing. It would feel like more of a failure to shove Mara and Runey in a drawer than even if they never make it to the bookshelves.

Thus, the writing goes on. So does the querying. I have nowhere near exhausted my list of possibilities for getting published. Somewhere out there is surely an agent who will be as enthusiastic about my project as I am. I just have to be persistent until I find that person. Writing novels and querying is also good practice. Should this project end up shelved once it’s finished, at least I got the great experience of writing a trilogy and getting to know the professional side of the business. It will be great experience for my next book. 🙂

There is hope when writing in a “dead” genre. One of my friends that I met at the Las Vegas conference wrote a paranormal romance novel (the same genre as the supposedly played out Twilight sensation), and she just landed a book deal with publication coming in 2016. Read about her story here: http://linkis.com/www.cmmccoy.com/blog/p4Ia8 . And if you’re writing in one of these hard to sell genres, I would love to hear your story/strategy! Above all, never give up on your self as a writer or your story.

On Staying Positive

Last Friday, going into the weekend, I posted on my Facebook page that I was 43,000 words into Inductance, with plans to write throughout the weekend and make a big push. Naturally, after making this bold statement, I was hit with writer’s block, the story was moving slowly, etc. However, looking at my word count one week later, I am sitting at 51,000 words. 8,000 words in one week is really much better than I felt like I was doing!

What this means to me is that I need to relax and trust the process and not be so critical on myself. Doubts are the fodder of procrastination and fear. Yes, my word count for the week could have been higher, but considering the fact that I also more than doubled the number on my sent queries list AND accomplished 8,000 words, I should be feeling pretty good.

So I am feeling very good on this Friday, and I am looking at another weekend of no plans–which means I can accomplish even more on Inductance this weekend! Yesterday was a huge accomplishment as I finally  hammered out a scene that I was feeling incredibly insecure about; it probably still does not have enough details and more will probably have to be added later, but I did establish some very good relationship-building dialogue between two of my characters that I think was a very important step for believability.

Well, it’s a short post today, but I hope it leaves you all with a positive message! Whether you are a writer or not, staying positive can be an incredible force in your day to day life. When you get down on yourself, that makes it harder to perform to your highest standards. I am striving to look to positive everyday and I know it will lead me to great things both with my writing career and beyond. I will be posting Chapter 3 on Monday! 🙂 Have a great weekend!

Writers’ League of Texas Agents & Editors Conference 2015

I had so much fun attending the Henderson Writers’ Group Conference in Las Vegas, that I just registered for another conference next month! I will be attending the Writers’ League of Texas Agents & Editors Conference June 26-28 in Austin, Texas! Since I live in Kansas (and drive a fun little car) I am going to be road tripping down south–just me and the open road, mind clear, practicing my pitch. I can’t wait!

The pitch will be important as there are 19 literary agents from big name agencies such as Trident, Writers House, and Curtis Brown, to name a few! While pitch sessions with agents are paid add-ons to the conference fee and are limited to two agents (I won’t be table hopping my pitch to everyone like I did in Vegas, haha!), the number of agents at this conference makes it more likely that I will be able to approach them in a casual setting. This conference appears to include a lot of casual settings, like cocktail hours, that could be great opportunities to meet and network with the agents and editors. I am going for all three days of the conference rather than just one day like I did in Las Vegas, so I plan to take full advantage of the opportunities to meet new people.

Considering I already have one conference under my belt, here are some things I won’t be doing this time around.

1. Stressing about my outfit. The wardrobe choices I saw at the last conference were much more casual and varied than I expected. When it comes to conferences, stay true to your personal style and you’ll be fine–worry more about polishing your pitch.

2. Bringing my entire manuscript. This is absolutely unnecessary. I know I said otherwise last time, but my aching shoulder and the entire universe of common sense would argue otherwise–everything is done through email these days. What makes you think an agent is going to love your work so much that they would be just as eager and willing as you to lug around a 300 page boxed manuscript all day? Save your posture, leave it at home.

3. Attending only business related class sessions. In Las Vegas, I stuck to the business side of writing lectures. This led to immense boredom and repetition; I had read most of the advice on the Internet due to my extensive and slightly obsessive research on query writing, agents, etc. Of course, I still plan on attending some business aspect classes as I know I still have a lot to learn, but I want to experience some writing craft sessions as well this time around.

Leave me a comment below if you’re planning on attending the #WLT2015 ! Also, I don’t believe I have mentioned this on the blog just yet, but I will be posting the first chapter of Capacitance once my Facebook page hits 100 likes. If you want to speed this process up a bit 😉 please like my page at https://www.facebook.com/emhardenburger ! Can’t wait to start sharing my work with you all!

Social Media & Being an Author

Sorry for the lack of posts lately! I was on a (much needed) vacation to California! The need for vacations to take a step back from your work is a topic for an entirely different post, but I can sum it up to this: sometimes it’s necessary to not think about your novel, to escape and have new experiences which will influence your writing, and to be in a more sublime environment so when an agent rejection pops up in your email, you take it in stride and order another wine sample! 😉

Today, I wanted to focus on a subject that has been giving me major headaches–the dichotomy between being an artist and thus trying to be a free spirit while at the same time being cognizant of the pressing need to create an online presence. This need for a writer’s platform necessitates the use of social media. Writers, as a rule, hate social media. We would rather be writing! However, our ultimate goal is to be read, and to be read and gain notice in today’s world means hashtagging and blogging our way to fame. Hopefully that prospect turns everyone’s stomachs as much as it does mine. It is a very imposing goal; in the millions of individuals out there on the internet, how do you make a difference?

It’s a question I, unfortunately, cannot answer in this post. But I do welcome good suggestions! The first step for me is simply, getting out there. One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was literally: “Tweet less.” Obviously, that is not going to fly. I have been trying to force myself to tweet more lately, and have gone to excessive use of hashtags. Today, I activated a Facebook account (under much mental stress), and a LinkedIn page. I am looking into #QueryKombat, which appears to be a great way to get some exposure as well as potentially awesome contacts with agents and editors! The Internet is a crazy, intimidating place, but I hope to do my research and find some success in it.

I want to get the word out soon because I am going to be doing something very exciting here on the blog. I am going to be posting sample chapters of Capacitance! I want the novel to get exposure and hopefully build momentum. Stay tuned on chapter one coming soon!

With that being said, follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@elisemarie52), and Facebook (Elise Hardenburger)! And comment below with any tips how you got your online following started. 🙂

Rejection–A Necessary Evil

Last week I started sending out query letters. Inevitably, I started receiving rejections. My biggest surprise upon receiving these rejection emails was that the agents had taken the time to actually hammer out a rejection;  usually it was only one line of text, but it was more than I expected after reading the horror stories on various blogs of sitting anxiously for months and months, never getting a response. Thus, a quick “Sorry, this isn’t for me.” was completely more shocking than the denial itself.

I was denied by three agents last week–plus, I had the bad luck of all three denying me on the same day! Rejection is always hard to take, but I was expecting it, so I didn’t take it as hard. I began my queries with some of the top agencies in the country, and it was asking a lot to ask my query to live up to their exacting standards. But it was worth a shot. It’s always worth a shot–you never know when that one special agent will read your words and fall in love with your novel. Many blogs and websites say that finding an agent is a lot like finding a romantic partner; you have to just get each other. I’m sure most people would agree that the search for love is not supposed to be easy, and you almost never get it right the first time. Just like we’ve all had a bad date, the querying process isn’t going to be love at first sight with every agent. But just because you’ve had a bad date, or the relationship you thought was sure to be “the one” didn’t work out doesn’t mean you stop dating. Thus, rejections shouldn’t mean it’s time to stop querying–yes they are frustrating, but who wants an agent who isn’t the right fit?

In the meantime, between these “bad dates,” I am making myself fall a bit less in love with Capacitance. If I sink my heart into it too much, rejection gets all the more difficult to handle. Now my challenge is to walk the thin line between confidence and blind adoration of my novel. It is not “my baby” anymore, it is a marketable product–while I can be confident in its qualities, I cannot be overly sensitive if it is not the right product for everyone.

Admittedly, I did take a few days off from querying. Maybe that is not weakness–maybe it’s for the best, since I have gotten rather off track in my work on Inductance. However, I will resume my efforts to find and agent and get published; I want my books to be read and I won’t stop until that effort is fulfilled.

Query Week!

Today marks the day I started sending out the first of the dreaded query letters to literary agencies! While rejection is to follow, I am sure, I am glad I have finally settled on a query letter format to go with for each individual email I send. I plan on querying 10 agencies this week, and perhaps 10 more next week. I have read conflicting views–some sites say to query around 10 at a time, while others say that 50 is better for the initial round. I am starting large and working my way down; for example, today I queried agents at Trident, Writer’s House, and Janklow & Nesbit. I also sent my synopsis and requested chapters to the agent from the LKG Agency who requested them at the conference.

The most time consuming part of querying–after you have your hook and mini-synopsis constructed–is researching the agents you’ve decided to query. It takes time to narrow down which agent in each agency will be right for you and find some little detail of evidence to support this which can be added to your query letter to give it a personal touch, but I am sure that showing you’ve done your homework makes your query stand out to the agent reading it.

Here is the query letter I finally settled on sending out (excluding the personalized opening paragraph); it is not perfect, but I think I could have done a million drafts and never felt fully confident!

Mara is a university student of genetic engineering who has just discovered a deadly DNA mutation in users of Meditrinum—a genetic enhancement drug used by the government, society’s elite, and Mara herself. Faced not only with her own impending death, but the potential destruction of society as a whole, Mara’s ultimate focus is to develop a cure for the mutation before time runs out.

 

However, things get more complicated when Mara meets Runey—a shrewdly personable design student with a hidden agenda. A member of an underground government resistance organization, Runey has been tasked with the mission to find out what Mara is working on through any means necessary—specifically, by making her fall in love with him.

Under increasingly threatening demands for results from the ruthless leader of his resistance group, Runey endeavors to reveal Mara’s secrets—while keeping a few of his own. Although Mara tries to remain focused on curing the impending mutation, she finds herself growing closer to Runey. Despite her internal struggle to keep her distance, Mara falls in love with Runey and tells him about the mutation—after this disclosure life is never the same for either one as both Mara and Runey realize the stakes are much higher than they ever expected and the distinction between right and wrong is not as clear as they once thought.

 CAPACITANCE is the first of a planned trilogy set in the dystopian future on a university—creating a setting which is a marriage of the unknown and the familiar. The manuscript is complete and full or partial submission is available upon request.

Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Elise M. Hardenburger

I googled “how to write a query letter” and found a lot of great examples; many of which were structured in short paragraphs such as above. I think this allows for points to be emphasized and clarified, allowing for a presentation with more impact. Hopefully, this is a correct assumption! Call me crazy, but I am looking forward to seeing how this all turns out–even a rejection imparts a lesson that I need to try a different tact. Stay tuned!

Optimism

To continue the past couple day’s unintentionally alliterative title choices, today I am focusing on another “O” word: optimism. I will admit, this is not a concept I have been overwhelmed with this week–researching agents whose tone comes off as intimidating at best and reading blog posts of authors lost in a post-query depression makes optimism about the whole process a little hard to swallow.

However, maybe because it’s Friday and the living is a little easier with the weekend coming up, I am feeling the optimism today. I’m sure I will smirk derisively at this post in future moments, but for now I think after the rush of panic, dread and general anxiety of earlier this week I have finally come to terms with things. There are going to be rejections, there are going to be cold silences, but I also believe there will, one day, be acceptance. I am just starting out as a writer, and instead of bemoaning the dismissive attitudes of some agents or despairing that my work will never get published, I want to sit back and enjoy the ride! 2015 is a year of firsts for me–first novel finished, first writing conference coming up next week–and I want to enjoy that, and come into my own as an author.

Ultimately when–months down the road–I come back to this post, I don’t want to scoff at my naive, wide-eyed idealism, but instead be reminded of my confidence as a writer, and keep enjoying the journey.