Sunday, May 07, 2006

BUBBA JONES AND THE GREAT MAGICAL DISASTER

Before I dive into the meat of this post, a couple of things to note:
  1. I'm never going to use actual author or title names of submissions that I've received. It's not only unethical, but it's unfair to the author who put so much work into writing their book, and had no idea that the agent they sent it to would post about it on the internet.
  2. Similarly, any plots or story concepts that I discuss on this blog are not taken verbatim from actual submissions. Instead, they'll usually be an amalgamation of common ideas that I've seen from reading the slush pile.
  3. People in publishing like putting the titles of books in all caps; I have no idea why this is done, but it's the practice that I follow (hence, the title of this post).

Ok, now that that's taken care of, let's get down to the fun business of answering reader questions!

lon writes: "3) If you could pick the next fiction "megatrend" to pick up after the Children's Fantasy and Da Vinci bubbles finally burst, what would it be?"

and Harry Connelly writes: "I forgot to ask my second question: Is there a trend in fantasy fiction right now? Shorter? Longer? Urban? High? How do things look? "

Well, to answer both those questions, I think that the children's fantasy bubble has definitely burst. It's an overloaded market, especially submission-wise, and editors are really looking for children's fantasy that's unique. True, you see a lot of children's and YA fantasy books out in bookstores right now, but you have to remember that those books were probably purchased by publishers about two years ago, and that market trends are constantly changing. In order to really catch an editor's attention, your idea needs to not only be unique, but captivating enough that the marketing department thinks that they'll be able to convince people to buy it.

For example, many, many people out there think that they have this great idea to imitate Harry Potter; that they're going to write the next Harry Potter and became mega-rich, just like J. K. Rowling. So a lot of submissions that I see are titled something like BUBBA JONES AND THE GREAT MAGICAL DISASTER. Bubba is invariably a teenage boy who attends boarding school (even in the US, where boarding school is not as common), and who must learn to control his magical powers as he comes of age. Bubba must face a great task: fight a dragon, defeat an evil wizard, or use a special potion or power to change the fate of the entire world. Poor Bubba, thinking that he can do it all, of course always has to rely on the help of his plucky, oddball friends. Is this sounding familiar to anyone yet? Welcome to the world of imitation. Unless your novel is exceptionally well-written and does marvelously inventive things with the same old fantasy tropes, there's a large chance that I'm just going to write it off as another Harry Potter wannabe. It's one of those harsh truths about publishing.

Similarly, Da Vinci Code copycat books don't do it for me either. I've never read THE DA VINCI CODE, and I personally have no desire to do so, although I may go see the movie later this summer. So if you're intent on imitating that book, chances are not high that I'm going to be particularly receptive to it. The market is completely overflooded now with Da Vinci Code type books, especially with the upcoming movie release, and the trend is going to get stale very soon, in my honest opinion.

So what's hot now, you ask? Erotica, my friends--no pun intended at all. =) It's a huge new venue for woman's fiction and romance, and there are a large number of romance editors that are looking for new novels. Am I particularly interested in it as a genre? Not really, although if your writing is good enough, I'm capable of overlooking what I view as tedious, gratuitous sex scenes. I prefer my romances with plots and well-developed characters, which I often don't see in the erotica that's being snapped up today.

Finally, to answer Harry' s question, the fantasy market is such a wide open one that pretty much all types of it are doing well. It's consistently beating out science fiction, which I personally think is a shame, since I like both. In terms of word length, I would aim for between 80,000-120,000 words for a first fantasy novel; anything shorter gets tough to sell and anything longer is not as easy to convince an editor to buy.

11 comments:

Laurel Amberdine said...

I don't know why people do the all caps thing either. I know I do it because I saw Lawrence Watt-Evans do it, and I figure he ought to know.

I suppose it works well in plain text.

Thanks for the answers!

Lon said...

Thanks Jenny! Too bad for me I'm not a steamy-style writer I guess. :)

Harry Connolly said...

Thanks for answering my question! I appreciate it.

Jenny Rappaport said...

You're welcome, guys!

To elaborate a little on an answer to Harry's question, I just had lunch with an editor today and she was telling me that she's finding it much easier to buy contemporary fantasy, since the rest of her company feels more of a connection to it. To paraphrase her: "When I start telling the sales force about space battles or dragons, their eyes just start to glaze over..."

Lon said...

But if it's a NAKED space battle, that's another thing entirely!

:D

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You got comment spam!

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Jenny Rappaport said...

I know, dreaded comment spam! That's why I've turned on the word verification feature, to try and prevent it. If it starts to annoy too many people, please let me know, and I'll change it.

Harry Connolly said...

"When I start telling the sales force about space battles or dragons, their eyes just start to glaze over..."

Weird. Is this a sales force at a genre publisher?

Jenny Rappaport said...

harry, it's a sales force at a major publishing house; they do all types of books, not just genre ones.

Harry Connolly said...

I should have guessed.