|AUSSIE ERICA HAYES|
Writing as a paranormal romance author is more exciting right now than ever. Opportunities are exploding everywhere, and in spite of the doomsayers (y'know, those people who've spent the last twenty years saying 'vampires are over!' and 'publishing is dead!') the markets for paranormals are still going strong. But paradoxically, it's also harder than ever to sell.
Traditional publishers are forever pushing for something 'fresh'. But indie authors and e-presses are still selling a bundle of vampire and werewolf romances. So if the familiar tropes are still selling to readers – and you only need to glance at publishers' websites or online bookstore bestseller lists to see that they are – why the obsession in New York with 'fresh'?
Well, I don't think they are obsessed with 'fresh'. I think they're looking for high concept – and when you're trying for high concept, too much familiarity is death.
So what's with the high concept? This isn't Hollywood, right? But remember that NY publishers are still trying to sell into bookstores. And since the demise of our bigger bookstore chains, competition for shelf space is fierce. So for a publisher to take your book on, the sales force has to be able to pitch your book to the bookseller in a sentence. And that means that your *idea* has to be catchy.
Not your writing, or your plot twists, or your fabulously drawn characters. Your *idea*.
So if it sounds like the same old, same old, it probably isn't going to cut it for NY. Your "girl falls for mysterious boy who turns out to be a werewolf" book might be the most original, scary, lyrical, gut-wrenchingly emotional and hopelessly romantic story ever. But the booksellers don't get to read your book. All they hear is the sales pitch. And they'd be falling asleep right about the time you said "mysterious boy".
(Not so in the indie/e-press world, so far as I can tell, where books sell directly to readers, and some readers will devour a thousand "mysterious werewolf boy" stories and never get bored. Traditional publishers are waking up to this, slowly. All those new digital-only imprints? Watch that space. But that's a whole 'nother post…)
So what does this mean for paranormal authors seeking that elusive contract? High concept, folks. Log lines. Elevator pitches. One-sentence hooks. Movie posters. Snakes on a Plane. I can hear your collective groaning from here… but it works.
|FIRST IN |
THE SEVEN SIGNS SERIES
For instance, my upcoming series with Berkley,The Seven Signs, is this: fallen angels in near-future New York must stop a gang of demons from hijacking the seven signs of the Apocalypse and bringing on the end of the world.
Think about it. I sold this series in late 2011, when nothing was 'fresh' about demons or fallen angels. It's a tiny fresh twist on 'post-apocalyptic', I think, because it happens during the apocalypse. But basically, it's high concept. You can tell it in a sentence. It paints a clear picture of genre, and of what the stories will be about. And it sounds cool – or at least I hope it does!
Of course, the book has to be good, too, if you want to sell! But the world's full of good manuscripts that never sold. More than ever these days, we have to know how to pitch our work. For a starting point, I recommend Save the Cat! Strikes Back by the late screenwriting guru, Blake Snyder. He's got an amazing method for formulating your pitch – and for showing where your story concept is lacking. Whenever I get a new story idea, I run it through this method to see if it's going to stand up.
Because, even in paranormal, the story does have to stand up. That's where the 'freshness' lies. Especially now we've already done pretty much every magical creature there is. So keep on with those vampires and werewolves, if that's what you love. There are always more stories to tell!
So do you like reading fresh new ideas and exciting, different creatures in paranormals? Or can't you get enough of vampires and werewolves?
Find Erica on the web at: http://www.ericahayes.net
@ericahayes on Twitter.
Copyright © 2012 by Erica Hayes ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.