I had an interesting response from an agent the other day.
First, some back story: While I’ve been working on Ambeth and the edit for Oak and Mist, I’ve also written another book, called A Thousand Rooms. I haven’t quite finished it, it’s probably 85% done but I know how exactly how it’s going to end – it’s just a case of writing it. The genre is women’s fiction with a twist of fantasy, so it’s a little different to Ambeth – however it’s a story that came to me almost complete and I’ve really enjoyed writing it.
So I sent out a couple of initial queries, one of which I’m still waiting to hear from. However, the other agent did get back to me and this is the bit that was interesting. She didn’t dismiss my idea at all; in fact she was intrigued by the initial premise and very encouraging. However, she reminded me that I needed to ‘be aware of publishing trends.’ Her point was that, as the market for women’s paranormal fiction was fairly full at the moment, publishers weren’t so keen to back new books in that genre.
This was frustrating to me.
Not because I didn’t appreciate her advice – I know she meant well and I very much appreciated her taking the time to personally address my query letter. No, it was frustrating because I write the stories that come to me. I don’t look at trends and think ‘Oh, there’s some popular books about vampires or zombies or people with cancer, I’ll write one of those too.’
I realise that writing is a business and that we need to present ourselves professionally, positioning our work in a competitive marketplace. I’m also aware that publishers often don’t make back writer’s advances and so have to rely increasingly on the Zoella’s and Lena Dunham’s and David Walliam’s of this world, people who already have a large and established audience, to make back the money they lose backing less well-known writers. So I get that side of things.
But, as a writer, I can only write with the voice I have. To do otherwise would be false and, I know this sounds a bit weird, I think that if I did take that path, whatever it is that sends me stories would stop doing so.
So I shall keep plugging away. As I say, I’m only at the initial query stage and have yet to finish the book, so we’ll see what happens when I send out submissions later in the year. Perhaps trends will have changed or perhaps I’ll just find someone who really likes the story. Whatever the case may be, I’ll keep writing just like I always have, telling the tales that come to me.