When is the last time you went to the bookstore? Have you considered setting aside a block of time to go and immerse yourself in your genre? To study The Shelf? Who's publishing, agenting, or designing the covers you love? (Perhaps you should plan an outing...while there are still brick-and-mortars to visit.)
Do you have a story that might inspire an amazing cover that would look both original and competitive?
Have you realized that publishing is now a competition?
I know. I know. It's all about writing a great book.
Yes. Writing is about writing. Obviously.
But this is not about writing. It's about publishing.
Take off that Writing Hat, or Editing Hat, or Marketing Hat, and dig in your closet for something new. Something edgy. You need a Publishing Hat.
"Now, hold on a minute," some of you say. "It's not my job to worry about that. I need only write a great book, find an agent, and let my New York Editor worry about the publishing part."
Go ahead. Write a great book. That SHOULD land you an agent, if you've been paying attention to the do's and don'ts. But I've got a friend who has done all that, even had a big agent love her entire story, but not be able to offer representation because she couldn't sell it. Anywhere.
You wanna know why? Go look at The Shelf. Go see what's already been done, what's on the best-seller list, what kinds of things publishers are willing to take a chance on. Pick up a book. Take a whole minute and find out what the selling point was, the hook, the mind-blowing original idea that made each one stand out. Nothing? Take a peek at the writing. Anything there?
No? Pick up another. Is this your genre? If it is, you'd better pay attention. Can you put the book of your heart in a different package? Can you see it there, on The Shelf, among the others? Can you see someone picking yours over the one next to it? If not, what can you do about it?
If you're starting with a new book--especially if you're starting a new book, go see what you're competing against. Get off your dusty High Horse and admit that the industry has changed. Everyone in your genre is your competition if you both end up on The Shelf. Everyone.*
*In my next post, I'll discuss how to create your own gang.