Breaking Into the Creative World

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So you’re really creative and looking to break into the creative/publishing world. Except everyone else is creative too, and they’re also working hard to build interest for their novels.

No question competition in any creative field is fierce. To make it more so, established writers lose their contracts time and again and go back searching for representation. Unlike doctors or lawyers, we’re not what the world calls proven commodities. We depend on our creativity, hard work, networking, and a lot of … luck. 

Yet, judging by articles penned by agents/editors, demand for extraordinary talent is higher than ever, and therein lies the paradox.

From agents’ perspectives (again, according to their blogs), there is a lot of mediocrity out there. It’s hard to find good writers, they say. Editors and agents send armies of interns into screening rooms, demanding they find the next Amazing Manuscript by the next Big Author. With thousands of queries sent out daily, that shouldn’t be hard to find, right? But it is.

Is lack of excellence the big problem? I can almost hear you say: if only it were that simple. But no, dear friends, the issue before us is more complicated.

For one, the agenting world depends on a lot of other things, such as: 1) connections at publishing houses, 2) the trending market, and 3) the business aspect of it all.

But the cited articles, you remind me, are about talent. So, then, absent name recognition is amazing talent the sole ingredient for success?

Maybe, and how does one define talent? Look at Fifty Shades of Grey — is it the product of exceptional talent? Whatever our take on FSG, the book is a huge success. Same with Twilight. What made those books attractive to agents and later colossal successes?

I wouldn’t know the answer to the first point, but here’s my guess as to the colossal-success point: word of mouth, or something, created immediate buzz, leading to sales. Maybe the agent anticipated it all, maybe not.  Irrespective of plans and expectations, something triggered that first important spark.

How in the world does one create buzz? This goes for self-published authors as well, because the major complaint I hear there is about dismal sales. Aside from talent, what does one do to stand out? I don’t know.

Of course, we can be creative for our enjoyment and not worry about this — which is what I’m doing now, just writing and editing, although plans change all the time. And when they will change, I’m sure the same questions will cross my mind.

What do you think? About any of it. (Rushing to my son’s open house at school, then back to chat with you and read you).

_______

Image courtesy: Breaking the Icewww.flickr.com

 

 

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24 responses to “Breaking Into the Creative World

  1. Hi Silvia! Finally found my way to you!
    What I find sad, or whatever, is books get published and sold, and they are not good never mind extraordinary. As the examples you cited. The other aspect is fad. Some topics are fashionable some not so much. And according to some blogs I’ve read, society is attempting to dictate what shouldn’t be written about.

    • Yeah, that last point, Sue — society dictating, or certain groups perhaps — I’ve seen that, too. Sad part is we let ourselves be led in that direction. So glad you found your way over here. Thank you for reading.

  2. oh – this is me – authorsusankoenig – I think I forgot to send you email…

  3. How to create buzz, market, promote, etc. is such a big subject. I’m researching it all right now, joining groups, receiving newsletters, taking classes all while trying to write!!! I need to finish revisions then spend more time on the buzz/marketing end of getting published. I’m going to try and blog about my different approaches as I do them.

    • It’s been very informative following your road-to-publication series, Linda. Thanks so much for sharing, and look forward to seeing your book out there in the world. You’re a fantastic writer.

  4. Basically being a novice at writing myself, I’m probably guessing, but since I have a marketing and sales background I’ll go with prior experience and observation. Sadly, I’m seeing trends lead the way in the publishing world. People who write to the popular Tween Market seem to do well. The majority of my friends write for the teenage market. However, that doesn’t mean that other genres aren’t popular, it simply is harder to access an older generation of people.

    Also, over the years life has changed as well as interests. It is hard for me to find the magazine stories that I once liked to read. Now, I’m at that stage in life where I have decided I will write what makes me happy. Maybe I’ll find a market and maybe not, but I will develop my skills. Hey, hopefully, I can make someone chuckle in the process.

    • So true, Gwynn, interests, same as life, change over the years. Someone was telling me that all they want to read now is existential books, with the big questions: why are we here, what next, etc.? Very interesting. And you are so right about certain genres doing far better than others. Vampires come to mind. :)

      I’d encourage you to continue writing. You already do that on your blog, and do it well. Humor is a special kind of talent, and I think you have it. For fun, then who knows.
      Thanks for reading and the comment. Always happy to read your thoughts.

  5. I think it’s equal parts luck and skill. You have to have the writing skill to do well first. Then, you have to hope that the readers find you. And that’s the hard part.

  6. Hi Sylvia! Interesting post – comments as well. Thank you. I love the paradox of agents seeking higher talent yet the field is so overcrowded with mediocrity. I reckon word of mouth plays a role, whether self published or not, probably reviews as well … so that Amazon or whoever takes note …. And a HUGE stroke of luck as well, not forgetting that we make our luck to some extent ie by hard work.

  7. The creative world is a tough one, and a large one. Standing out amongst all of the other great authors is tough! I’m not sure how I’m going to go about it, but I think connecting with others and finding those who would enjoy your work is one of the most important things :)

  8. It’s a tough racket, and personally I believe that a LOT of it has to do with personal opinions, likes, and dislikes. A ton of publishers rejected the first Harry Potter book…it wasn’t until the daughter of a publisher read it and immediately demanded more that said publisher gave Rowling a chance. Does that mean that all of those other publishers are idiots who couldn’t see a good thing? Not necessarily…it all depends on who was doing the reading. An agent/publisher who is partial to historical fiction will probably hate and reject a supernatural romance even if it’s amazingly-well written. An agent/publisher who is obsessed with “perfection” in writing may reject a book that they think is written poorly…but the STORY of that book may be so wonderfully interesting that hundreds of thousands of people would happily read it.

    Books like FSG and Twilight are huge examples of this. Yeah, they’re pretty terribly written. Yeah, they’re rife with “Mary-Sue” characters and have chapters full of meaningless drivel. But they also sparked the romantic, sexy, adventurous part of many peoples’ minds, and went on to sell millions.

    A book doesn’t always have to be literary perfection in order to make people happy, and sometimes even the most well-written book will be passed over because it’s just not the reader’s cup of tea. Being a part of the creative world means dealing with those facts and trying to rise above them.

    At least, that’s what I think. ^_~

    • I love stories like J.K Rowling’s example, being rejected time and again, only to be saved by the publisher’s daughter. Talk about good luck. Also, very true that people love what makes them happy. More than once I have up acclaimed literary novels in favor of goods mysteries or thrillers. Thanks so much, TraceyLynn, for the great comment.

  9. As always, a thoughtful post. As I’ve struggled with low numbers of book sales and listened to many presentations on finding an agent, marketing, etc., I’ve concluded there is no formula for success. There’s a strong element of serendipity certainly, aggressive marketing can definitely help, and of course, your writing has to be strong. Of those, you can control only the last two, but since some books lacking the last have been successful with only first two, it’s discouraging. I’ve come to get satisfaction from knowing that people have enjoyed my book – friends and strangers alike.

  10. I don’t know the answer. FSG was horridly written, but I think it did well because it gave “permission” for women to read about sex. “Everyone is reading it.” I read it because I make it a habit of not critiquing that which I haven’t read.
    I have not read the Twilight books,nor seen the movies, because I’m not into vampires at all, and because I’ve heard that the writing is bad. I can’t stand that. As to their success, I think in this particular case it was the stars chosen for the roles and their chemistry and the movies which drove the book sales. My cousin is a voracious reader and she said she could barely make it through the books, they were so bad.
    I think we creative ones just need to do like you said: keep at it. Who knows what will happen one day, but nothing at all will happen if we do nothing at all.
    Tina @ Life is Good
    On the Open Road! @ Join us for the 4th Annual Post-Challenge Road Trip!

    • I’m with your cousin on Twilight, Tina. I read a page or so in a bookstore and had to put it down mid-sentence. And you nailed it: “nothing at all will happen if we do nothing at all.” Thank you for this.

  11. Loni Townsend

    “Of course, we can be creative for our enjoyment and not worry about this” — That’s where I’m at in my life. Sales and numbers were never of great concern, just so long as other people like the story and get caught up with the characters and world. That’s my real desire. Fame and fortune are secondary to that.

  12. Wonderful post, Silvia. You hit on what’s on a lot of writers’ minds. It’s tough out there, especially now with the rise of self-publishing, there are more and more writers looking to be read.
    Like you, and many others, I don’t know what the solution is. I do know though that there are some out there who got on the bandwagon of helping writers get published, offering tutorials, workshops, retreats and so forth. These are the ones making the money, not the writers who are taking their courses.
    It seems to be like that now. And agents are looking for the Holy Grail in writing.
    So, besides stellar writing, a great plot and a can’t put down novel you’ve got to have a luck. Knocking at the right door at the right time.
    We never know when someone will answer the door and say, Come in. So, we’ve got to keep knocking.

  13. Hi Silvia .. FSG was awful .. I had a look at it – but certainly wouldn’t buy it and couldn’t read it. John Locke was another .. but people like that sort of thing ..

    Content and interaction are the key to start with … and just keep getting our work out there … the trending market if one is writing for popularity stakes as such ..

    The long tail is the thing isn’t it .. I’d rather have lots of regular small purchase of my books when I get there .. and just by adding more … I’ll be known about .. there’s few with the passion for their work as JK Rowling – and not many will have her success .. but never know and can only find out by starting …

    Cheers and good luck with your endeavours – Hilary

  14. My young adult daughter’s put FSG down after two pages, so I didn’t even try. :-) This whole marketing thing is scary, but I do believe luck is like happiness. It’s what you make it. When I finish my novel I’m going to do one of two things, maybe both. I’m going to search out the Good Luck God/Goddess and pray hard or I’m going to work my butt off in researching marketing techniques. What to do, what to do…
    Best,
    Deb@ http://debioneille.blogspot.com

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