We're delighted to welcome back Alison Stone as she talks to the Pink Heart Society about following your instincts when it comes to writing...
I heard a lot of advice during my ten-plus year quest for publication. Write the book of your heart. Write what you know. Don’t chase the market. Do chase the market! Read books from the publisher you’re targeting and try to figure out what the editor is looking for. Don’t write “this” genre or “that” genre because it’s dying.
The publishing industry is a much different animal than it was when I first decided to try my hand at writing. Back then, traditional publishing was the only game in town. Once e-pub, then indie publishing entered the scene, even more writers weighed in with their opinions. Don’t self publish if you want your books in brick-and-mortar stores. You’d be crazy to publish traditionally with such low royalty rates. It’s impossible to make a living by (fill in the bank!)
Regardless of the means of publication, it still comes back to the book. You need to write a good book that will sell. So, what kind of book should you write? Is it worth it to chase the market? When I first started writing, my goal had been to “break into” Harlequin. I had come close a few times and I was getting frustrated. When I attended the RWA conference in NYC in 2011, I went to a Harlequin panel and an editor with Love Inspired Suspense said she was looking for more Amish fiction.
Hmmm? Amish fiction?
I was intrigued. I live in Western New York and remember seeing the Amish on my vacation through Pennsylvania as a kid. When my dad told me they didn’t use electricity or watch TV, I was baffled that anyone could get through the week without Happy Days or Laverne & Shirley. (Am I dating myself?)
The idea wouldn’t leave me alone. Before I left NYC, I had a story idea, “What if a plane crashed on an Amish farm?” The idea of one of man’s modern engineering marvels crashing into a farm forgotten by time wouldn’t leave me alone. Less than twelve months later, I sold this story to Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense. My first sale to Harlequin! It was released as Plain Pursuit in June 2013.
So, I am an example of succeeding because I totally chased the market. Since then, Harlequin released 2 more Amish books from me, Plain Peril (February 2015) and Plain Threats (September 2015) and I am contracted for 3 more Amish books, the first, Plain Protector, will be released in May 2016.
In between my Amish books, I have also published non-Amish suspense with Harlequin. Basically, chasing the market got me an in and due to the popularity of Amish fiction, it’s kept me contracted.
So, is it a good idea to chase the market? On the surface, yes! However, I also believe that if I hadn’t had an interest in the Amish—and the subsequent research writing these books required— I would not have been successful. My lack of interest would have shown in the writing. However, by listening and being open to what’s popular in publishing, I heard something that sparked my interest – Amish fiction, who knew?—and used it to make my dream come true.
So, whether you write for traditional publishers or independently, be open to market ideas that will help you sell books because in the end, that’s what all authors want to do: sell a lot of books.
What was the best writing advice you’ve ever received? Join the discussion with Alison in the comments!
Rebecca Fisher's life was turned upside down when her husband was accused of murder and died in prison. Now, more than a year later, someone is reminding the Amish widow that all hasn't been forgiven.
But Rebecca isn't about to pay for the sins of someone else's past. So when the threats escalate and her rebellious stepson starts keeping secrets, Rebecca turns to former army ranger Jake Burke for help. She knows the Englisher is an honorable man, but being around him rattles her traditional community. Before long, Rebecca senses Jake is the only person she can trust with her safety…and with her fragile heart.
Alison Stone lives in Western New York with my husband of twenty years and our four children where the summers are absolutely gorgeous and the winters are perfect for curling up with a good book--or writing one. You can find out more information about her on her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.