Pirates, Dogs and Books, Oh My!

We had a dog.  She was a good dog.  She loved hunting, slept most of the day and was fabulous with the kids.  Then said dog got old.  She no longer hunts, still sleeps most of the day and remains fabulous with the kids.

So, as many of you know, DH bought Dog Number Two.  She hunts, she sleeps (sometimes) and she’s great with kids.  She is a Labrador, after all, and labs are famous for these abilities.  It’s why they have a long history in Dear Hubby’s family.

But just because she’s a lab doesn’t mean she’s a replica of our first dog.  In fact, Kallie is a black lab and Bailey is buff.  While she doesn’t work out in the gym, her hair is very different than Kallie’s.  She sheds more in one day than Kallie does in an entire week.  (If I would have known that pre-purchase, I would have mutinied.)

She also drools more, barks more and jumps all the freakin’ time.  Her world is run by her belly, and therefore, so is ours.  Kallie used to leave food in her bowl for days, nibbling a kibble here and there.  Bailey starts whining by 5:15 in the morning.  Yet, she’s a bit endearing in that she plays constantly and will roll a ball back and forth with her humans.  Kallie has never fetched a ball in her life.

They’re the same, but different.  Slight variations of each other.  Each better at some things than the other, and each far more annoying in their own ways.  They have one purpose: fetch pheasants.  They are the same, but different.

And that’s the thing to remember about marketability in the publishing world.  Just because a genre is hot doesn’t mean we should all write Hot Genre Novels and they will sell.  In fact, it could mean the opposite.  By the time the shelves are filled with one genre, it is likely that agents and editors are no longer looking for those types of novels.

To even be considered for purchase, a novel must truly stand out and stand on its own merits.  It must be different enough from what has come to warrant hard-earned marketing dollars by a publishing company.  It must be unique–in tone, in voice, in style, not just in characterization or setting.  Yet, it can be done.

“Dystopian is out.”  Or so I’ve heard–we’ve all heard it.  Then my wonderfully, talented writing friend, Mindy McGinnis, sold her dystop in a majorly good deal.  This tells me that dystopian–as a gravy train genre–may be heading through the tunnel and out of town, but stellar dystopian novels are alive and kickin’.

It also gives me hope, because I have a chapter book manuscript I love dearly.  (My agent loves it, too, so I know I’m not completely biased.)  And while Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean are hogging the seven seas, I believe the pirate ship hasn’t sailed altogether.  I believe that somewhere in the vast ocean of publishing is a home port with room for a tiny vessel carrying my beloved pirate family.  I believe that my tone, style and voice, along with my characters and plot, are truly unique and not just a slight variation of what’s already out there.

I will never give up on this project, but I’m smart enough to know I can’t sail aimlessly in saturated waters.  It’s why I write nearly every day.  It’s why I have nearly a dozen completed manuscripts–some ready for submission and some not quite.  It’s why I keep my eye on the hunt and why I’m not afraid to buy a new dog.

How about you, dear writers, do you chase publishing trends or stay well away from hot markets?  Why or why not?  Do you let the fate of one novel dictate the fate of all your novels?  How and why? 

As a reader, what do you believe is more important in setting a novel apart from the masses already lining the book store shelves: a unique voice, a unique story idea or unique characters?  Do you read exclusively within specific genres?  If so, does this ever get tiresome?  Do the stories run together after a while?  What truly sets one novel apart from another?

Curious minds want to know.


9 responses to “Pirates, Dogs and Books, Oh My!

  1. what an interesting post! you have given me a lot to consider. is there ever REALLY anything new in the world? not sure. but i think, like your dogs varying personalities, different writers bring their own personalities to subjects that have been written about and written about for years. the same subject, different slant. and it’s always fun to see what other writers do with the same old same old. plus, i think can be much harder to find the “new” in an old subject than to come up with an entirely new one.

    • Oooh, great writing conundrum you pose. Is it harder to find a new slant to an old subject or a new subject altogether?

      There are days I don’t think I have an original thought in my head! I look at what some of my writing friends put together and I’m like, “Holy crap! That’s freakin’ amazing. How in the world….”

      Then I turn fourteen shades of green and start searching under cabbages for new ideas. Which I never seem to find.

  2. I believe it was Neil Gaiman who said one of these days he would write a vampire novel, the way vampires were meant to be. Then he went on to say, when the market wasn’t saturated with all the various sparkling species. He had enough sense to know another vampire novel in the midst of Twilight wouldn’t be cathartic.

    I do agree, we have to stand out on voice with an original play on an old idea. Everything has been written at least once. We just have to write as if no one has ever wrote the way we will. (Hugs)Indigo

    • Neil is a smart man, he is. Thanks for that quote!

      The nuances of writing to get published are vast and have a tremendous impact on our journeys. It amazes me that we all aren’t curled up in tiny balls fisting bottles of Jack.


  3. I tend to do my own thing. Always have, hopefully always will. That’s not to say I don’t end up getting ideas that work within recent milieu crazes. I recently wrote a short story that has werewolves in it. I will wait until shirtless werewolves are no longer craved by sensible women everywhere before I try to market it. It is NOT the werewolves are cute sort of story. LOL

    • Well, then, this reader is ready for it. She doesn’t drool for hot werewolves or lusty vampires or sweet zombies!

      Trend chasing is a waste of time. Trend setting is challenging at best. Where is the easy balance?


  4. Are dystopians out? Perhaps somebody should’ve told Suzanne Collins that 😉

    Since I’m not published or contracted, I have the luxury of writing what I want. It’s part of being an independent grown up, like buying pie for no reason other than that you want it. I’m writing a werewolf novel right now, actually, simply for the joy of it. Would I love to see it on shelves? Of course. But I get so impatient with the reading public’s tastes, I’m going to cater to mine!

    • So very true! I, too, write what I love. While this means some of my stories may never see the light of day, I guess I won’t stop giving voice to the characters I love.

      Maybe we should say dystopian isn’t “out”, but that it is “selective”. There are so many dystop manuscripts in the slush piles that it is hard to stand out among them with a truly unique idea. It’s a cycle that most genres go through at one time or another.

      Keep writing your werewolves.

      As to Ms. Collins, I would read anything she wrote. I heart her!

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