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.
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
- Writing Against the Grain: B Movies, A Treatments and the Deceptive Familiar (thisplagueofdays.com)
- Why This Plague of Days is a serial (and click on for a secret) (thisplagueofdays.com)
- Advice. When to take it and when to throw it away! (nathankinch.wordpress.com)
- This Plague of Days: A Secret Revealed (allthatchazz.com)
- Podcast: Get Shorty (allthatchazz.com)
- Authors and Publishers: Six things to do immediately to get more readers and keep them (chazzwrites.com)
- Self Publishing (Indie) versus Traditional Publishing (lissywrites.com)
- How Agents and Publishers Think About Manuscripts (randyellefson.wordpress.com)
- Zombies (tongaim.wordpress.com)
- Self Publishing vs Traditional Publishing (blueskypp.wordpress.com)