How to Stand Out in a Saturated Market

Posted on Aug 11, 2014 by   12 Comments | Posted in Blog · Uncategorized

 FFnP-Cathy Yardley   by Cathy Yardley  

I love fantasy, sci-fi, and paranormal romance, and I work with many writers from those genres.  That said, lately, it’s been a tough row to hoe.  The paranormal market is saturated, the urban fantasy market’s been struggling, and YA Dystopian is riding a downward trend.  It’s been very difficult to get a traditional publisher to nibble.  On the self-publishing side of the equation, it’s getting harder to cut through the noise and be heard when so many other authors are producing more novels in the genres, day after day. 

So how can you stand out in a market that’s already crowded?

  1.  Push the “very” factor. 

Ever been to a spotlight or read an agent/editor interview, where they said they were looking for books that were “very” – meaning “very” romantic, or “very” dark, or “very” funny?  While it can be enough to make you bang your head on your desk at the vagueness of it all, the best take away is this:  stories that stand out in a saturated market take risks in order to achieve a larger-than-life quality, whether that’s in the characters themselves, the conflicts they face, the settings and world-building, or the story arc itself.  Where in your story can you amplify your elements?  Where might you have been holding back?

  1.  Curiosity makes the sale.

Stephen King calls it “the Gotta” – as in: “I think I’ll stay up another fifteen-twenty minutes, honey, I gotta see how this chapter comes out.” Curiosity is the driving force. It’s an unresolved puzzle: wait, what’s happening here? That’s one reason why so many writing resources tell you not to info-dump at the beginning. Beyond being boring, it also eliminates curiosity, because it answers all your questions instead of teasing you along, making you work for it. The best stories have a series of puzzles, rather than just one question that maddeningly goes unanswered for the length of the book. As soon as one question is answered, one or two more pop up to take its place. Does your story have “the Gotta”? Have you layered in curiosity?

     3.    Do the twist.

Another old editor chestnut: “we want the same… but different.” What does that mean? Well, it’s taking something familiar, something everyone loves, and then adding a twist. Take the television series Once Upon a Time. There’s nothing more common than fairy tales, but the modern split, and the framework built around the characters, is the “twist.” Re-tellings, told from the antagonist’s point of view, can also be a twist. Taking a classic trope or myth, and putting it into a futuristic or fantasy setting? Another familiar – and successful – twist, if you match your elements effectively. If you’re working with a familiar trope, story line or sub-genre, can you incorporate a twist?

   4.    Nail the preliminaries.

With this many people trying to break into the market, it’s not enough to have a clever premise. Too many authors leap in, afraid they’ll miss the rush, and that’s exactly what trips them up: the rush. Rushing their writing, rushing their beta reading and editorial, rushing the structure and strategy behind their stories. If you’re going to stand out, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got the basics of story craft nailed down. Is your story structure solid? Are the elements of your story craft – setting, dialogue, description, introspection, etc. – nailed down? Finally, have you given thought to the marketing of your story before you’ve put it out for queries or up for sale?

So, what are you doing to make sure your story stands out in the crowd? Answer in the comments, and you can win a one hour coaching call, for plotting or market strategy, complete with recording and notes. 

Cathy Yardley is the author of seventeen novels, published with Harlequin, St. Martin’s, Entangled, and Avon. She is also a teacher, editor, and writing coach at her website, Sign up for her free e-course Jump-start Your Writing Career, and check out her e-books on plotting, revising, and writing every day! 



12 Responses to "How to Stand Out in a Saturated Market"

  1. Comment by Vaughn Roycroft
    August 11, 2014 1:56 pm

    I gotta admit, you really grabbed and shook me with #2, Teach. I’m working on a rewrite of “the prequel” and I just finished an info-dumpy scene. I was awake in bed wondering if I’d revealed too much, just from a “slog for the reader” standpoint. Now I know it’s gotta go. Reminds me to: “Reel ’em in slowly, V. Don’t get ahead of yourself.” Thanks, Cathy!

  2. Comment by Sonia Saner
    August 11, 2014 9:00 pm

    I’m taking a mythical creature that has a multitude of variations depending on which part of the world the myth originated from, and putting my own twist on it. I’ve rewritten the history of the mythological beings with my variation in mind, their reason for being an integral part of modern society, and how they impact the humans that interact with them. The dialogue will be instrumental in creating some thought provoking, humorous revelations, and with the structure firmly in place, I intend to keep readers turning the pages with witty banter, humor, and pulling at some heart strings.

  3. Comment by Evelyn David
    August 11, 2014 10:48 pm

    Very interesting – pun intended. I’m going to think about upping the “very” in my writing. Perhaps a little of this, a little of that has been a mistake. Thanks.

  4. Comment by Marilyn Watson
    August 12, 2014 2:46 am

    My story will fit into the cozy mystery series market. But what will make it stand out is that I plan on adding real current events from the 1930’s and 1940’s into them. I want them to be funny but ask deeper questions…

  5. Comment by Ginger
    August 12, 2014 6:16 pm

    Love that these are applicable for non-fiction as well! I’m in the process of restructuring my non-fiction WIP and #4 is absolutely my biggest challenge.

  6. Comment by Dede Nesbitt
    August 12, 2014 7:27 pm

    #1 kicked me in the gut. Even when you think you’ve pushed the limits, upped the stakes, and gone as “very” as you can, there’s still more. I’m learning that safe and very just don’t go well together. Fantastic article Cathy.

  7. Comment by Staci Troilo
    August 13, 2014 5:40 am

    My agent had trouble selling my PNR romance because the publishers all said that market was saturated. I thought it was just different enough, and “very” as well, but apparently not. Definitely some strong advice here, Cathy. Thanks.

  8. Comment by Joanna Becke
    August 16, 2014 4:20 pm

    This was a fantastic post on elements that can help your fiction stand out. I think I struggle most with taking risks. Not sure how to change it, but I guess recognizing the problem is half the battle!


  9. Comment by Boy Was Here
    November 15, 2016 1:28 am

    You can, only if you’re truly ready and determined to do it. Let me add 2 simple tips:
    1. Create something entirely or largely different from what the world has seen before. Don’t you imagine why books like Harry potter made it ? That’s actually because of it uniqueness in terms of world building ,idea, rather than its storyline. Harry Porter’s storyline isn’t any much good as many books. Yet it climbed all the way to the top ahead of many U/F stories.
    Similarly fantasy stories like Merlin, Song of Ice& Fire(Game of Thrones). The secret is only because they entail something new and different , which definitely make then to stand alone from bunch of other fantasy stories.
    2. Craft a very solid,compatible,sensible as well as mind compelling and well written story. If you can work hard, endure the pain and spend the time, then you can be able to do this. Once it’s done, there are many chances that your story going to be talk about and earn popularity among readers.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: