I sat in a conference audience, listening to a panel of literary agents discuss what they were looking for, the types of queries they were accepting, and any personal quirks they might have. The most honest, by far, was the lovely Alice Volpe of Northwest Literary Agency, Inc. She said, and I quote, that she "accepts anything that sells."
I burst into nervous laughter, surrounded by a sea of adventuring writers, who also nurtured dreams of publishing. Their laughter, too, though just as genuine as mine, was nervous.
How does one gauge the pecuniary worth of an unpublished novel?
There is an entire debate raging over the "write what sells" vs. "be true to your gut" methods, and, while I suspect that the answer lies somewhere in the middle, I've little desire to embark on a discussion of something I also suspect resembles a dead horse.
One key, one of many on a jangling and massive keyring, is the tried and true Same but Different method. It's easier to provide examples than steps, but I will try.
1. Have a brilliant idea? Tweak it.
2. Have an idea no one has ever thought of before? Tweak it.
3. Suddenly inspired to write about fairies/faeries/fah-rees? You got it: Tweak it.
Fortunately, I've recently read a couple of books that are perfect examples of this: Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter by R. J. Anderson and Wings by Aprilynne Pike. I read them both on the same day -- they're both about faeries. And, oddly enough, neither reminded me of the other. In fact, they were completely and entirely different. But the same. Well, you get it.
1. Dying faery world; human world secondary
2. Faeries are born of eggs
3. There are no male faeries
4. Faery protagonist is kick-butt, defiant, and unraveling the mystery of the dearth of magic within the faery-world.
5. Ultimately (and I ruin nothing), it's pleasant to see yet another difference: instead of humans being the evil in the world, this particular view holds that the two species are essential to each other's creative health.
1. Normal girl who doesn't want to go to school; threatened faery world secondary
2. Girl discovers she's not human but a faery --> but faeries are plant material, not flesh at all
3. Male faeries impregnate female faeries through pollination, which has nothing to do with sex. Sex is just for fun.
4. Trolls are trying to take over a faery kingdom, and need access to the "gate".
5. Although girl is key, she finds herself in the midst of a battle she knows nothing about.
After reading these two books, things started to fall into place for me. I started to get this whole "same but different" idea. And I started to realize that what annoyed me as a kid is essential in this world of publishing. Because, oddly enough, it's the "different" ingredient that often drives the conflict. And, as you know, conflict is the story.
[Author note: I thoroughly enjoyed both of the books and urge you to check them out.]
How do you view "same but different"? Is there something I'm missing here?