Last week, I talked about how you can write a novel in any genre, as long as you know exactly what that genre is. And believe me, you desperately need to define your book’s genre. As promised, here’s a nuts and bolts plan that shows you how to do it, in three outrageously simple steps:
1) Pick a genre. And by that, I mean walk into a major chain bookstore and wander the aisles until you find the section where your book belongs. If it ain’t on a sign, bucko, it ain’t a genre!
2) Find three recent, successful books in that genre that bear at least a passing similarity to yours. Close enough that you could tell a complete stranger, “If you like this book, you might like mine!”
3) Figure out the single most important thing that makes your story unique and fascinating. You want to be able to say, “My book is like this one, except…” and then point out the key difference. Example: “My book is like Robert B. Parker’s Spare Change, only the detective is a homeless man who can see the ghosts of the victims.” Or whatever.
If it sounds like I’m coaching you on how to eventually approach a literary agent, then (BING!) check out your big brain. I am. You need to have this stuff figured out long before you send your manuscript to anyone. (Bonus tip: you can start with the agents of the books you found in Step 2. But not until you’re ready!)
Now, if you can’t find any successful books that are anything at all like yours — and I mean not even remotely — then I hate to say it, but you’re in trouble, my friend. Rethink your concept and rework it until you can do the steps above. Because if you can’t, then the marketing people at the publisher can’t. And if they can’t, then your book is torpedoed. Dead in the water. Boom.
And nobody wants that. So get yourself to a bookstore, toots, and see what’s what!