For Readers & Writers

from Susan Dennard

October 3, 2014
I turned in Truthwitch on laaaaate Monday afternoon--meaning I FINALLY had time for some TV and pleasure reading this week. (That deadline was why I failed to blog on Monday. Sorry! I turned in the revised book and just crashed on my couch.)

Also, um, can we discuss how amazing Legend of Korra Book 3 is? I'm loving the friendship between Korra and Asami.

For the Misfits:
Current Musical Inspiration
It has been forever since I shared music with you all. This is partly because I've been listening to stuff I already love (Two Steps from Hell is basically on constant repeat on my iPhone). But I do have a few new discoveries/additions that I just have to share!

First off (and the most important) is the new Thomas Bergersen album, Sun. Bergersen is probably my most favoritest composer, and I have literally been counting the days for Sun to release (like, since I first heard about it in early 2013). It TOTALLY met my expectations...and went beyond.
  • Starchild -- Holy WHOA. This is one of those songs that builds and builds and then goes out with a BOOM. I love how Bergersen adds a dubstep sound to his compositions. (Sadly, this is only a preview of the song.)
  • Empire of Angels -- This is a gentler piece that fits those intense, character-type scenes. I imagine "deep discussion and epic planning" montages to it.
  • Our Destiny -- As the title implies, this music just screams of "Heroes Fulfilling Their Epic Purposes." (Sorry, but this is a link to iTunes. No one has uploaded these songs on Youtube yet--probably a good thing--so you can only try out teasers for now.)
  • Fearless -- This song. THIS SONG. I have probably listened to it a hundred times since the album released on Monday. The vocals!! The TENSION!! I am obsessed. (Sorry, but it's another iTunes link! That's all I can find for samplers!)
Next off (and thanks to a lovely reader!), I've been rocking out to the Maze Runner soundtrack by John Paesano.
  • The Maze Runner -- Chills. Seriously, I got full body chills when I heard this opening piece. The slow build, the lurking strings, the introduction of drums. Phew. I love it.
  • The Finale -- More of the slow, sweeping epic. This is one of those pieces you put on as you write up your ending/resolution.
  • Griever! -- Excitement! Drama! Chase scenes and shadowy alleyways! This is one of those catch-all compositions that I can add to any high-action playlist.
So, this is an old flame that I've recently rekindled: Assassin's Creed II by Jesper Kid. You all know I'm obsessed with Assassin's Creed soundtracks, and this is possibly my favorite one of them all...
  • Flight over Venice -- I might have listened to this composition more than any other in existence. I'm not sure WHY I'm so obsessed, but the rhythm/melody at the 1:06 market just...Man, my Muse goes nuts.
  • Ezio's Family -- This is probably the most famous/popular AC composition of all time, and with good reason. It's haunting, beautiful, and can set the stage for so many different scenes.
  • Back in Venice -- Sigh. Sigh. This could essentially be the musical score to EVERY scene I've ever written in which a character travels through a new city. Something about it just evokes "seeing new sights" and "colorful markets" and "melting pot." :)
  • Dreams of Venice -- The female vocals in this are the same as the vocals in my 2nd most favorite AC composition. I'm not sure that I ever noticed the shared theme until my recent re-obsession. This is a GREAT piece for slower, possibly romantic scenes.
Finally, here are some single musical pieces I can't get enough of lately:
  • Main Title from Joel Goldsmith's score for Helen of Troy -- Can't you just see an army (probably the bad guy's army) marching down dusty streets? That's what I imagine at least. ;)
  • Warrior of the Seas by Inon Zur -- This has a fun, Pirates of the Caribbean vibe. Perfect for my pirate character in Truthwitch.
  • End Credits Part 1 from Danny Elfman's score for The Corpse Bride -- Just click play, and you'll understand why I can't stop listening. Ungh. The pretty.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from Brian Tyler's movie score -- Epic, brooding, and perfect for your action scene needs. (Just wait'll it picks up at the 2:00 mark.)
Alrighty, that's my current musical inspiration. What about you all? What are you jamming to? I'd love for you to share in the forum.

And of course,
 if you have any questions about Something Strange and Deadly or Truthwitch, you can head over to the forums to ask.

For the Daydreamers:
Figuring Out What the Industry Wants

I got this question last week, and I've been mulling it ever since--'cos it's a toughie.
...I was wondering how an aspiring writer could find out where the industry is heading vis a vis genre preferences, but most importantly, how do you balance between keeping up with the interests (or future interests) and writing what your heart cries out for?

First off, I think you should ALWAYS write the story in your heart--no matter what that may be. As I said in last week's newsletter: "I'd rather write a book I loved writing and never sell it than write a book I think will sell, be miserable the whole time, and then...maybe never sell it."

That said, if you can find an intersection between what you LOVE and what publishers/readers want, your odds of selling are much better. (And selling means $$, and $$ is good.)

Unfortunately, it's really hard to know what editors are looking for. Remember that what's hitting shelves is about 2 years behind what the industry is actually looking to acquire (since it takes ~2 years from a book's purchase
 for it to go through editorial and production).

This is where stuff gets even trickier because what's hot NOW in publishing--what editors and houses are trying to acquire--may not be what's actually hot in two years. Publishers are trying to guess the desires of future readers, and oftentimes, they guess wrong. For example, when I was first getting an agent, there was talk of steampunk EVERYWHERE. I thought, Yay! I have a steampunk book! Perfect timing.

And it was perfect timing...Except that steampunk never really took off on the READER end of things. So while I ended up with an exciting book deal at a great house, the audience in YA simply wasn't there when the book released.

On that note, when publishers see a trend catching, they'll move to buy it. Right now. This can be good if you're an aspiring author with a manuscript ready. However, it can also mean that
 1-2 years after that buying surge--when your book actually comes out--the market is so saturated that readers don't want it anymore.

Interestingly, this is an area where self-publishers have a HUGE advantage over traditional publishers. The speed with which they can get out new books allows them to ride trends and/or to start them. If a book doesn't take off, then the self-publisher isn't contracted to write more. He/she can abandon that series and try a different genre.

And this leads me to finally answering the above question: to find out what's "hot," you need to know if you're  it traditionally publishing or self-publishing.

Let's look at authors aspiring toward traditional publication first. Here are a few ways to figure out what publishers want right now:
  • Look at what literary agents want (this will be listed on their submissions requirements page or in interviews). Agents have their fingers on the publishing pulse (that's their job, after all), so if a bunch are seeking "contemporary issue books" or "epic fantasy," then you can infer that editors/publishers are ALSO seeking this. Either way, your first step is to get an agent, so you must have something they want.
  • Get a subscription to Publisher's Marketplace. I suggest all aspiring authors fork over the monthly subscription fee for PM. It's THE best research tool out there for looking at 1) what agents are currently selling (and what they've sold/how they've fared in the past) and 2) what publishers are currently buying.
  • Go to industry conferences and conventions. Not only does this allow you to possibly meet agents and editors, but you can attend panels where agents/editors actually go through EXACTLY what they're currently seeking and what current/future trends might be.
Now let's consider what authors aspiring toward indie publication can do:
  • Look at what's selling on Amazon. Amazon is where the majority of self-published books are sold, and it's also where you can see what's hot with readers (not publishers) right now. Start here, with the Top 100 Bestsellers, and then explore from there.
  • Follow book bloggers and stay connected on Goodreads. What are bloggers and Goodreads members enjoying RIGHT now? Maybe your book fills that need. Unlike with traditional publishers, you can get a book out in a few months--so you can tap into a current trend that publishers will totally miss.
  • Interact with the self-publishing community. Indie publishing has one of the most VIBRANT communities I've ever seen. It's super supportive, super transparent, and super welcoming. I suggest trying out the KBboards.
So there you have it. Those are my recommendations/suggestions for learning about the current publishing/reader trends. But again, if you don't think your book falls into those trendy genres, DON'T DESPAIR. Write what you love, and then worry about genre/market later.

Alrighty! As always, here are some links to wrap up the week:
See you next week, friends! And as always, if you have any questions about ANYTHING, drop by the forum to ask. Thank you for reading!

photo by Emily Rae Photography

Copyright © 2014
Susan Dennard
All rights reserved.

110 West 40th St., Suite 410
New York, NY 10018

I'm a misfit, a daydreamer, an animal-lover, and a (now gluten-free) cookie-eater.