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One Smart Thing I did to Sell My Manuscript: I Wrote for the Market… Sort of

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Should you, or shouldn’t you write for the market? This is one of those perennial questions which writers who long to be published often ask. My answer is simple. You absolutely need to be aware of market trends, but you also have to write the book of your heart.

I’m convinced that The Neptune Project sold because the market for science fiction was heating up at that time. I had been studying teen fiction trends. Vampires had been “hot” for a long time, but I knew I couldn’t possibly write a good vampire book because the basic vampire myth leaves me cold. Zombie stories were popular, too, but the idea of dead people lurching around eating brains doesn’t do much for me either (sorry, zombie fans!)

Then Suzanne Collins and other authors appeared on the scene and wrote some brilliant dystopian novels, which are basically sci/fi with an apocalyptic twist. I had a hunch I could write a good sci/fi story because I loved to read them when I was a kid. I’ve always wanted to write a story about young people fighting to survive in the sea. So, before the market became deluged with dystopian stories, I sent out a proposal for The Neptune Project, received some encouraging comments from agents, and promptly went to work on the novel itself.

It was a labor of love. I’ve always relished survival stories like the classic The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss about a young Swiss family struggling to survive on a deserted island, and Island of the Blue Dolphins about a Native American girl fighting to survive on her own by Scott O’Dell. I got caught up in the idea of a shy girl who is ignored by her classmates and family on land, but beneath the waves she becomes a hero. Genetically altered by her parents to live in the sea, Nere Hanson must learn how to survive in her dangerous new environment with the help of a pod of dolphins her family trained.

I dove in into the story, so to speak, and I loved my plot and my characters so much that the book almost wrote itself. The Neptune Project truly is the book of my heart. But I’m not sure it would have sold five years ago when vampire and zombie stories dominated the teen section of bookstores.

So, to sell your first book, I think you do indeed need to be aware of trends in the children’s fiction market, but you also need to write a book you would have loved to read when you were young.  

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Comparable Titles for IN THE AFTER

It’s strange to compare your book to someone else’s…but here goes…

In the After is a post-apocalyptic story, but it’s also strongly rooted in sci-fi, dystopian, with a dash of horror. It’s like if you take Brave New World, War of the Worlds, and One Flew over the Cuckoos’ Nest and put them in a blender, then took the gelatinous mess and molded it into something new and delicious. Chocolate mousse maybe? Mmmmm chocolate…

Anyhoo, if you like old school sci-fi, you’ll want to check out IN THE AFTER. These titles are also comparable if you’re in to the apocalypse…because who doesn’t love a good destruction of everything story?

And if you’re more in to dystopian titles, like these:

Then IN THE AFTER also has you covered. It’s classic sci-fi with a modern, dystopian twist. Yes, the world ends, but hopefully you’ll love every minute of it.

You can find In the After on Goodreads and will be available June 25, 2013.

And don’t forget to check out this week’s giveaway…sponsored by myself and the awesome K.A. Barson.

Comparable Titles for Caela Carter’s ME, HIM, THEM, AND IT

Oh! How I fear the comp title question! Which published books are most like ME, HIM, THEM AND IT? Where will we find your book on the shelves?

I just can’t answer that question. I can’t compare my own work to the greats of YA lit—to the books that brought me to tears or had me jittering on the edge of my seat—without having a massive insecurity-freak-out.

So, instead, I’ll tell you what I wanted to write, what I tried to accomplish, to whom I’d love to be compared. And, when ME, HIM, THEM, AND IT hits the shelves on February 5th, you can tell me if I was successful.

I tried to employ Evelyn, my main character, with a unique, raw, honest and vulnerable voice like Coe Booth manages in TYRELL.

I aspired to a heartwarming and womanly tone like I found in Sara Zarr’s HOW TO SAVE A LIFE.

I wanted to create diverse and genuine cast of characters like Walter Dean Myers does in so many of his books for teenagers.

I hoped Evelyn’s countdown would barrel the story forward at a breakneck pace the way Mile’s narration did in John Green’s LOOKING FOR ALASKA.

And, I truly hope I treated an “issue” with a balanced and personal approach somewhat akin to Laurie Halse Anderson in SPEAK or WINTERGIRLS.

Meanwhile, I’m thrilled to be giving away a fabulous book from the Class of 2k12! Check out LETHALLY BLONDE by Patricia Lyle and enter our raffle this week to win a copy!

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