Here on the SOLD! blog we love the stories of authors proving that the “impossible”–selling the story “everyone” says will never work–comes true. Here’s one story from new Love Inspired Historical author Christina Rich that succeeded!
“I’m sorry, Christina, although your writing is good, the story isn’t what we’re looking for. We’re looking for something new, something different.”
Wait! I wanted to explain to the editor that I do have a different manuscript. Sure it’s an off the wall fairy tale about a Jimmy Choo-wearing private investigator with a blinged-out manicure caught in a wormhole who becomes best friends with a cat in boots who sports a cutlass so they can save the prince from his evil step-father—insert deep breath—or was it his step-mother? Anyway, after the cat cuts a deck of cards and kisses a frog, the private eye and the prince catch a ride on Pegasus and well… they ride off into the sunset. Hey, I didn’t say it was any good, but at least they have a happily-ever-after.
In all honesty, I never heard those words directed at me, and I don’t have a whackadoodle manuscript keeping the dust bunnies company, at least not that particular one. However, I did follow agent blogs and editor tweets and I couldn’t help notice they were all looking for something unique, something different.
I didn’t quite understand just what they meant by that until I went with my young niece to see The Princess and the Frog. Set in New Orleans during the Jazz era, it’s quite the twist on “The Frog Prince” and it’s unique.
I knew if I was going to realize my dream of becoming a published author I had to offer something unique. So, I set out to write a Cinderella-type story set in 835 BC surrounding real biblical characters. And yeah, I totally tipped the scales in the other direction. It was too unique, set in the wrong time period. I cannot tell you how many times I heard “no.” I even had an offer or two of representation from agents for other pieces of work but they would not represent my biblical set romance, because “biblicals don’t sell.” (FYI: Biblical fiction is generally set within the context of specific books, characters and people referenced in the Old or New Testament.)
I was on the verge of losing hope for my unsellable Cinderella story, but I decided to enter a few writing contests for feedback, most of which was very positive. I also entered pitch and query contests. Due to a simple pitch contest, I received a partial request from Emily Rodmell. Now, if I’m to be totally honest, yes, I was excited, but I also didn’t hold out much hope, because you know, “biblicals don’t sell.” I was over the moon when that partial request led to a full request, but as the days ticked by and I continued to hear from industry professionals that it was impossible to sell biblicals, my excitement spiraled downward.
Not only did she like it, she offered me a contract. For my biblical! Can you believe it? I couldn’t, not at first. But The Guardian’s Promise is out March 2014!
So, how do you sell the unsellable? Write the best story you can.
Start with a compelling paragraph. Sol Stein states in his book, Stein on Writing, that every opening paragraph should have three goals; excite the reader’s curiosity, introduce the setting, and to lend resonance to the story. You want the editor reading your manuscript to be drawn in, not looking for reasons to move on to the next story in their queue.
Next, keep them turning the pages, and then, leave each scene on a strong hook. Leave your reader unable to stop turning the page to see what happens next. Not in a “if you want to read the book you have to buy it” attitude toward an editor (which is generally a fail), but with a “this is so good and juicy I can’t wait to find out what happens next” excitement.
If you do these things, you just might have Prince Charming coming to your house in the form of a contract.
You can also follow @EmilyRodmell on twitter, or #LoveInspiredHistorical, and check out their Writing Guidelines!