My novel is making the rejectiony rounds. The feedback from partials and fulls (when there is feedback!) is that the characters and worldbuilding are great, but it’s not high-concept enough to sell in a crowded fantasy market. I actually avoid reading high-concept fantasy novels sometimes because the characters and plot aren’t there—all you can see is the very marketable concept. My favorite authors and stories from that genre aren’t high concept at all. They’re just well-written, with good characters, not trying to bust out of any boxes or make cultural or political statements. I mean, yes, they’ve got themes, but not THEMES. I wrote the book I wanted to read (the advice they give you now instead of “write what you know”) but I might be the only one who wants to read it!
Should I keep querying (I’m up to 50 agents queried, have heard back from about half) and hope that someone thinks there’s a place for my delightful and well-written (but not groundbreaking) fantasy novel? The novel I’m writing now *is* more of a high-concept, but I have got to confess, I like my smaller-scale book better. Any advice you can give on this subject would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
No matter how much I love your book, or you love your book, we have to find ten thousand OTHER people to love your book.
And those other people have waves of reading likes and dislikes just like everyone else. Try and sell a zombie novel these days. No matter how much you love zombies, it's going to be a slog.
Or medical mysteries. Or mysteries set on academic campuses featuring crime solving professors. All of those had their day twenty years ago, and now are much harder to sell.
For a long time Westerns were a big-ass category. Now, not so much, although they're still being published. The guys who are writing traditional westerns tend to be the guys with established careers. I've tried my hand with a couple westerns that were debuts, and had my hat handed to me in no uncertain terms, and escorted out of the saloon with instructions to come back when I had domestic suspense (right now the go-to category.)
It's not uncommon for writers to have a book of their heart. Often it's not the book that sells well, or even sells at all.
I sold five books for Jeff Somers before I sold the book of his heart. When I sold every single one of those previous five books, at some point in the conversation he would say "don't forget about Chum!"
And I didn't. And I sold it. It took me nine years, and I don't want to tell you how many revisions and submissions but it was a LOT.
What Jeff did was smart: he kept writing. He got published. He waited for his agent to get the book into the right hands, at the right time.
In your case you keep writing. Keep sending books on submission. Write books you want to read sure, but remember this isn't an academic exercise. We need books we can sell, not just books we love.