Writing at the intersection of originality and what sells (#IWSG Blog Hop)

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2

There are books, without question, that have fought the mainstream current and traveled to commercial success on the other side of it, that have forced publishers to change course, forced booksellers to free up space on shelves for new categories. One could argue that E.L. James, J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer rank high on the list of modern trailblazing authors.

But for those of us at the beginning of our fiction empire journey, should we be striving for novel novels or aiming instead for something at the intersection of originality and what’s already selling?

Joint CEO of Curtis Brown (literary and talent agency) Jonny Geller speaks to this intersection—or “the bridge,” as he refers to it—in his TEDx Talk.

“As a reader, you look for a story that takes you on a journey from somewhere you haven’t been to a place you know not where. But as a literary agent, I’m looking for something slightly different. I’m looking for a story that takes you on a journey, but from somewhere familiar on a bridge to somewhere new . . . because publishers find original material very difficult to market. By it’s nature, it changes everything from what’s preceded it. It’s hard to compare anything to it.”

And if publishers can’t project a sales path based on similar titles that came before the novel in question, they’re less likely to take a gamble on it.

Author Christina Hoag’s agent once told her, “Publishers do want original stuff, but at the same time they want the same stuff. The same, but different.” Read the full post here.

Author Juliet E. McKenna, who wrote a great post that explores how to write, “…original but not too original,” once heard a publisher say, “Every editor is looking for the same but different.”

If your goal is traditional publishing, before expending brain waves on something that breaks every mold, take a walk into a bookstore and see if there is a bookshelf with titles comparable to your own idea, a place where your book would fit rather nicely.

I compiled this post for the monthly Insecure Writers Support Group blog hop. To continue hopping through more amazing blogs or to join the hop, click here.

I’d love to hear about your project. Do you have a title or two in mind booksellers could shelve your book with? Are you writing the next It book that will add a new genre to the mix, or change a genre as we know it? Let me know in the comments.

Thank you to Freepik for providing the graphics I used in this post’s image.

24 thoughts on “Writing at the intersection of originality and what sells (#IWSG Blog Hop)

  1. “I’m looking for a story that takes you on a journey, but from somewhere familiar on a bridge to somewhere new”
    Love this! Great way to look at how to make your story original, yet familiar enough to be placed on bookshelves with other titles in your genre.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great advice. Sometimes we write, because there’s something inside that needs to be set free: but, I f we want to reach readers, we have to think like marketers!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love your post Raimey. I once took a screenplay writing class where the teacher said there are only 9 themes in literature. It’s the way you spin it that sells. Lovely tips. I need to cruise s local bookstore or library this weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So interesting to hear what agents are saying on this topic. I think when an author is established and generating good sales, it may be easier for them to break these rules on being the same but new and branch out more if they want. But there is nothing wrong with writing the same but new because readers often want to identify with things they know in books as well as explore new subjects and issues.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. If we try to write what’s ‘popular’ the danger is, that by the time we’ve finished our ‘same but different’ idea, it’s become a grotesque publishing cliche that no one’s buying or selling anymore–sparkly vampires and anything with zombies or the end of the world, anyone? Now I try to write what comes natural, about characters who interest me, taking them places internally and externally that I would never venture, and hope for the best. 🙂 X

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Writing what I’m passionate about makes the writing possible for me. I don’t write romance, so while that’s a lovely rich market, it’s not mine. I don’t write horror, so “check” that one off. I don’t write thrillers–another “check.” I’m really into what happens to ordinary people when life deals some rotten cards. I’m always a little surprised at where that premise takes me and my characters. Thanks for the great post and thanks for the visit to The Write Game.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Rowling’s idea of writing a book about a school for wizards wasn’t anything new, but she did it so well it took off. I’m still working on my first book, a fantasy that’s meant to be a fun roller coaster ride.

    BTW, thanks for the FreePik link. I’m always looking for new sources of free pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I write what’s in my heart to write. If I didn’t, I would have no interest in writing. And I tend to write what I want to read because no one else has written it yet. I write what I wish would happen in stories. I’m kinda tired of reading the same thing over and over again too. And I know many others who feel the same. I believe it’s one of the reasons more people are turning to indie authors and book stores are losing business (because they won’t carry self-published books). People want fresh and new, but the mainstream fears it because they depend on old ways of marketing which don’t work as well anymore. It used to be that authors were elusive and stayed out of the spotlight. Success for authors these days depends on the author engaging with their audience and involving them in the process.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. That’s interesting because at a pitch workshop I went to last fall, the agent said something similar. He talked about the reason you pitch with comp titles is that agents or editors need a “box” to put your book in before they can really digest what your story is about.

    That said, I’ve never really written to trends. But I do keep my audience in my mind, which is middle grade. So rather than what agents/editors want, I’m usually asking myself as I write, “Is this how a kid x age would really react?” and “Would kids like this story?”

    Thanks for an interesting post!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. When I’m browsing in bookshops, though, I actively look for something that’s different – not same but different, or different but the same. As soon as the jacket declares it’s ‘the next Gone Girl’ or the like, I’m outta there!

    Liked by 1 person

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