If you’re a new author trying to break into the business, you probably want to write something a lot of people will enjoy reading. And if you’re smart and strategic, you’ll choose a proven genre in which to introduce yourself, since you have a built-in audience for promotions.
However, once you take the plunge, you’ll find those waters are already pretty murky. Not just with the vile vices of the dark characters inhabiting them, but with their ambitious and competitive creators.
Naturally, the only way to get noticed to is splash around by making your own unique noise. Still, you’re bound to be drowned out by the overwhelming volume of the authors already swimming in this sea, some flailing, some sailing.
Pretty soon, you’ll wear yourself out, with nothing to show for it.
But before you allow yourself sink into a state of utter futility, at least give yourself credit for not just being another fish in the sea. You’re your own species. Or at least you should be.
Mystic River of No Return
Prominent best-selling author Dennis Lehane once said during an onstage interview I attended that “cream rises to the top,” in reference to good work that often gets buried by the sheer weight of product out there, but whose merits eventually raise its prospects, and eventually, widens its audience.
These qualities can be any combination of elements, all of which have to do with a particular work’s value as literary entertainment, but also its individualistic assets that no other book can boast.
Only the author himself or herself can imbue their novel or non-fiction book with a personality that gives it distinction, no matter how necessarily formulaic the story may otherwise be in order to conform to the established expectations of that genre’s fan base.
Part of the way one accomplishes this is by implementing a voice that is both distinguished from the pack and relatable to the reader. Since no two human beings are identical internally, no two authors should sound alike, unless they’re writing by the numbers. ⤺ Tweet This!
Simply churning out products for mass consumption by giving the people what they obviously want based on tried-and-true standards may be the way to go for you, if making money is your only goal. But even this approach will eventually wear itself out, as weary readers tire of the same old routine, conveyed the same old way, and move on to discover fresher fiction, or even non-fiction, without straying far from their field of interests.
Show Me More Than Money
No matter what your topic is, whether it’s based in historical fact or fanciful imagination, you will eventually need to make your own mark, or risk being quickly forgotten, even after some initial success.
In fact, it’s probably best to start out essentially mimicking fellow authors that have hit pay dirt within certain perimeters by following in their footsteps down a well-worn but popular path, and then gradually detouring into your own original direction, taking the reader along with you in a journey of creative self-discovery, bolding going where no crime/horror/erotica/sci-fi/whatever writer has gone before, without alienating them in the process.
The trick is not to be overly self-indulgent or negligent of your audience – that is, if you want them to go along with you. But once you’ve won their trust by feeding them stuff they already like, even if it’s the literary equivalent of “junk food,” you may be able to adjust their diets with preparations from your private kitchen, rather than relying solely on mainstream recipes.
It’s like you start out as a chef at a popular restaurant, and then once you’ve won over the clientele, you’re able to open up your own place, with your own specialized menu, that pleases both your palate as an artist, and the reader’s hunger for innovative nourishment.
I’m mixing a lot of metaphors here, but hey, it’s a stew out there. If you want to stir the pot, you need to spice it up with something that no one has tasted before, even if you’re essentially slipping a mickey into their favorite dish.