C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

FAQs: How to write books agents will hate (but readers might love)

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

Yesterday I told you how a well-meaning friend with experience in traditional publishing gave me advice I thought was askew. As we struggle to gain traction in the marketplace, we get a lot of well-meaning advice we can’t take. (You’ve probably read that sort of advice here from me.) My friend’s other foray at saving me from myself was to tell me to court agents. “With World War Z, zombies are big this summer! Find horror agents and get traditionally published!” he said.

It’s not that it’s necessarily bad advice. However, it’s bad advice for me. Here’s a list of the things I do in my books that repel agents like fried bat armpits at the wedding feast:

1. Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus is written in second person, present tense. Unconventional scares agents away. They’re trying to make money after all. I don’t blame them, but I’m in the Art and Brain Tickle business first. I have this crazy notion that being me will lead to making money. Eventually.

2. The assassin/anti-hero in the Hit Man Series is neurotic and afraid of women. (Name another hardboiled gunner who has that problem. Take your time. I’ll wait.)

3. My hit man suffered childhood sexual abuse. He’s also hilarious. Those elements rarely sit side by side comfortably.

4. Hardboiled isn’t selling hard right now. Or is it humor? Or is it action adventure? Easily classifiable is really important to a lot of people who aren’t me.

5. The titles may offend some Christians, especially since it’s crime fiction with a lot of swearing.

6. The titles are confusing until you understand that the assassin, Jesus Diaz, is Cuban and it’s pronounced “HAY-SOOSE”. In fairness, agents and publishers should be repelled by these titles. It wasn’t the best strategy because any title that requires explanation sucks. After two books, I’m committed and in love. I also have a plan around this problem after the next novel in the series is published early next year.

7. In my zombie series, This Plague of Days, the zombies aren’t “true” and “traditional”. It begins with a flu pandemic. You get to see how society gets to dystopian before the action kicks into ever higher gear. The slow burn requires more buy-in from sophisticated readers. Underestimating readers’ intelligence is an easier bet.

Season One has five episodes. Get each one for 99 cents or get all of Season One at a discount for $3.99.

Season One has five episodes. Get each one for 99 cents or get all of Season One at a discount for $3.99.

8. This Plague of Days has an autistic hero who rarely speaks and whose special interest is dictionaries and Latin phrases. Sounds like sales suicide when I put it like that, huh? That sort of gamble can pay off in a book. It’s death in the tough sell of a query letter.

9. The table of contents is a long, dark poem embedded with clues to the bigger story. Reread that and tell me I’m not silly. I know it.

10. Who will serialize a book unless I do it with my imprint? (Amazon Serials didn’t bite but readers are buying in.) Besides hooking up with Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com for his awesome covers, serialization has been my best sales strategy yet. This Plague of Days is a sprawling story tracking action over two continents with a big cast of characters. (At times you may wonder, is Chazz British or American? Split the difference. I’m Canadian.) It was too long to publish as just one book and the serialization model fit best.

When you look at that list, which idea comes across stronger? A or B?

A. All agents are evil, lazy and lack imagination.

B. I am determined to fail.

It pains me to say that all agents are not evil. I’ll save further discussion of agents for my next post.

For more on the why of this post, the writer’s character and how this relates to Joyland by Stephen King

click here for my latest post on ThisPlagueOfDays.com:

Writing Against the Grain: B Movies, A Treatments and the Deceptive Familiar


Filed under: agents, book marketing, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

12 Responses

  1. danezeller says:

    Interesting take on the traditional/self-flagellation dilemma. By your way of thinking, my first detective novel that is written entirely in third-person camera (objective), having no narrator, would raise anti-tradition red flags in most every agent’s slush pile. Hmm. I like your style.

  2. MishaBurnett says:

    Yeah, how’s the “William S. Burroughs Pastiche” genre doing these days? Much of a market for romances featuring men possessed by alien murderers and half-plant hermaphrodites? No? Okay, call me when the demand picks up, okay?

    Originality is the kiss of death to agents, because they know how to sell a publisher what the publisher wants, and publishers can’t afford to take risks. Self-publishers, on the other hand, don’t have a huge overhead, don’t pay advances, and (most of us) don’t depend on the income from writing to live on. We can get wild and creative, and I think readers are starting to pick up on that.

  3. acflory says:

    lol – My problem? Psychopathic aliens who happen to be hermaphrodites, and no humans to provide context and commentary. I feel your pain!

  4. B. Patterson says:

    I can relate to #5. My vampire/dhampir debut novel is title Communion. I have a Christian friend who started reading an advance copy but wouldn’t finish it b/c the phrase “Christians take communion and dhampir give communion” was too anti-Jesus. I think Jesus will be fine 🙂

  5. […] FAQs: How to write books agents will hate (but readers might love) (chazzwrites.com) […]

  6. […] FAQs: How to write books agents will hate (but readers might love) (chazzwrites.com) […]

  7. […] FAQs: How to write books agents will hate (but readers might love) (chazzwrites.com) […]

  8. […] FAQs: How to write books agents will hate (but readers might love) (chazzwrites.com) […]

  9. Anonymole says:

    Bottom line: write what you want to write.

    Sure, get good at writing in general. Write in recognizable trope-based themes. But beyond that—write your own story, not theirs.

    Heartening inspiration. Thanks.

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