How to Stand Out in a Saturated Market
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?
- 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?
- 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, RockYourWriting.com. 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!