Inside Information

I spent this morning (and part of the early afternoon) at a Pennwriters Pittsburgh East Writers meeting where agent Uwe Stender gave a wonderful talk followed by an extensive Q & A. (That's group leader, Ellen Spain introducing Dr. Stender in the photo) I can’t say that I learned anything new. But I had much of what I do know confirmed by a professional. Example: whether or not your query is rejected or pages requested sometimes depend on the agent’s (or editor’s) mood at the moment they read it. And don’t pitch a novel until it’s FINISHED.

Basically, while the publishing industry is a dark and uninviting place right now, the best way to get published is to write the best you can and then rewrite and then polish, and then rewrite again. There are no tricks. No shortcuts. Just determination and a lot of hard work.

So I’m on the right track.

I asked Dr. Stender if having a body of short story work might help with getting a novel accepted and he said YES. That was one question I’ve heard answered both ways over the years. I always like it when they say it helps. (FYI, my 4,000 word short story that topped out at 9,000 words is now down to 4,100 words. I’m getting close!)

As for what is selling and what is not: thrillers are NOT unless you already have a name for yourself. Mysteries are a tough sell unless they are VERY cozy. Chick Lit is dead. However women’s fiction (something with some depth) has a chance. Clever, well written Young Adult fiction is in demand (protagonists must be at least 16 years old). And literary fiction is also in demand.

Okay, none of this is good news for yours truly. But Dr. Stender also stressed that you should write what you want to write. What is in the stores and hot now, was actually acquired two years ago. Tides turn. If you write for the market, you’re already going to be behind the market.

So I’ll keep plugging along with what I’m doing: polishing my work, studying the craft, honing my skills. And hopefully, sooner or later, my stubbornness will pay off.


Nancy Famolari said…
Good summary, Annette. As you said, nothing new, but very reinforcing. I do have to admit that his take on what's hot s different from what I've heard. I understand that cozys are a hard sell. Who knows.

Thanks for the post!

Annette said…
I believe the shift toward cozies may have to do with the economy and the stress the general public is under right now. Lighter fare is more appealing. I've heard this discussed elsewhere, too.

Whatever it is, it needs to have a hook. Stuff like knitting club mysteries are in favor at the moment.

Dr. Stender attended our June WPF Conference at Seton Hill last year, and I agree he gives wonderful insight into the industry without sugar-coating it, but by still being tactful.

Like you, I'm finishing another novel and hoping for a shift in the markets. ;)

Kristine said…
Great information, Annette! Sometimes it helps to get affirmation from someone in the Biz, even if it's what we already know.

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