Friday, December 26, 2014

Query question: market saturation

I have a pretty high concept novel that is in an overly saturated market. I have had one agent request and reject it. In contests I have entered, the feedback I've gotten is that market is too saturated. I am thinking of hiring a professional editor to possibly smooth out the writing.
However, it's quite expensive, and while I would be willing to spend the money if it really helped me move up to the next level writing wise, I don't want to if it won't get published because of the overly saturated market. If that's the case, it may be better for me to move onto my next novel. I hope that makes sense. Would it be out of line to ask the rejecting agent if he thinks a professional editor would be worth it? I hate to bother agents that are already so busy, and I don't want him to give me an editorial letter. He's the only professional that has read the manuscript.

An "overly saturated market" doesn't have anything to do with the quality of your writing. If the shelf is full, no one is looking to take on more authors in that category.

Hiring an editor to improve your novel for a category that's already full is solving the wrong problem.

On the other hand, you're basing your decision on VERY limited feedback. One agent requesting and rejecting is hardly the basis for making any changes.  And I'm not sure what contests you're entering, or who the judges are but unless they are agents who make the choices of what to take on, and what not to take on, I don't think that advice is worth much either.

You need to query much more widely before deciding anything.

And if you're writing in a category, you should be reading that category as well. Front list (ie published THIS year books)

How can you tell if a market is getting full?  Look for debut writers in the category. If the category is mostly authors with three or more books, that means there are a lot of authors with on-going series.  If there are more than four or five debut authors published THIS year, then there's probably a lot more opportunities.

This is one of the many reasons you need to read widely and deeply in your category. It's very easy to get discouraged by what someone tells you unless you've done you're own reading and know they're full of hogwash.


Unknown said...

Savvy answers. I always learn something new by these posts; or gain another layer of WHY certain things are said.

Thank you JR.

Colin Smith said...

This is an area where I feel totally inadequate, and probably always will: being well-read. I know I read more than the average Joe (or Jane, for that matter), but among writers, I don't think I read nearly enough. Part of that's due to my lack of discipline. But it also has to do with my full-time job, my family, and my desire to keep up with reading in other fields of interest besides fiction. I know this impacts my ability to know whether what I'm writing is already thoroughly represented in the marketplace, so my strategy is to do the best I can to stay informed, but write the stories I have the most passion for. If agents tell me the market is saturated with what I'm offering, then I keep going and write something else. Hopefully, one day, I'll write something that someone will take on, and maybe by then there'll be room for the other novels.

That's my approach, anyway. But note I said "agentS"--don't take one agent's word for it. Unless she happens to be the QOTKU... ;)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Well, because I know what I know, I now have validation, You're all full of hogwash.
Considering what hogwash actually is, swill fed to pigs, I think I'm probably right on the mark.

Doesn't say much for us does it? Although after what I ate in the last two days, and am attacking as leftovers this morning,I am exactly that. Oink.

Kalli said...

I am very sceptical about the term 'saturated market' because 'the market' seems like such a vague and nebulous term, and saturation is an unquantifiable metric. I'd be more inclined to interpret that feedback as 'i've seen so many werebadger romances the last few months, and yours doesn't stand out in the crowd'. However, if the next werebadger romance they received was knock-your-underpants-off good, I'm sure the agent would suddenly consider the market a lot less saturated.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

You that I reread what I wrote, it sounds kind of nasty. Not meant to be. Sometimes 'funny' isn't funny after sitting on it for awhile. I still feel like an oinker but you guys and especially QOTKU are not. Chalk it up to food hangover and stupidity :)

Ardenwolfe said...

Keep in mind, they told J.K. something similar. And we know how that turned out.

Unknown said...

I think some Googling can probably answer the question of if that particular topic has hit market saturation. I have seen close to a dozen agents saying they don't want to see vampire, werewolf, or zombie stuff. Also, if you are participating in these contests, you can see the other entries-- are their tons of entries that are more or less on that same topic?

Ardenwolfe said...

I can see it being an issue if it's vampiric or zombie-like in nature. But, that said, good writing is good writing. And a great story is even better.

But, yes, the paranormal market is somewhat bloated right now. And, yes, it raises the bar if that's your genre.

But that shouldn't mean, you can't sell product if your work is a winner.

Always remember, the difference between those who make it and those that don't is that those that don't gave up.

Keep at it.

Stephanie said...

When I was querying my YA, almost every one of the agents I researched had a note on their "wants page"
stating they would not read vampires, werewolves, Angels or ghosts because the market was over saturated (ie the publishing houses are apparently no longer aquiring them.) I would say that if this person is getting similar feedback
From several agents, then maybe shelve it and bring it back out when the specific market is no longer saturated. But it's always possible that if it is in fact high concept, and truly original, then someone will pick it up and love it. Before I shelved my novel, I echausted every resource. And just as I was about to give up, I signed with an agent.

Jennifer D said...

Typing this on my phone, and something mysterious just happened, so sorry if this appears twice.
The part about looking at how many debut authors appear in the category in the last year is brilliant. It makes so much sense that I feel it should have been obvious to me, yet it wasn't. Thanks for this very helpful insight.

Anonymous said...

Oh ho! I'm familiar with this.

I just finished critiquing a posse member's women's fiction that has a woman escaping a loveless marriage, complete with cheating husband, and going to Scotland to research her new novel. Once there she falls in love with a handsome Scot and a dangerous ghost claiming her life and soul falls in obsession with her. (Terrible description.)

D is getting ready to query and was dismayed to see several agents saying they don't want anything with ghosts because they don't sell now.

I think if you read what the agent wants, you can figure out if an agent is truly just not going to read anything that has xyz. This is where it helps to do a little research and read their twitter and facebook posts.

My epic fantasy has ghosts. It opens with a ghost scene. I'm still getting requests for partials and fulls.

What I am more concerned about with the original poster, because I believe a truly unique story and captivating writing will grab an agent, is the urge to hire an editor. They have the money for the first pass. What happens if an agent requests a revise and resend? What happens when they get three R&Rs? Do they have the money to hire the editor again each time to maintain the same quality and voice on the revisions?

My editor at the horse racing magazine I wrote for was very conscious of trying to maintain each writer's voice. (Not all editors are.) You could read the magazine even if they didn't have bylines and tell who wrote which story. Even so, after 23 years of writing 3-25 weekly horse racing stories, plus the human interest stories, her editing definitely influenced my writing. It just happens. Editors leave their fingerprints.

I think the OP would much better served to figure out if agents really don't want xyz, find a great critique group, and find a good self edit system. I'm using Margie Lawson's. It's a pain in the neck and makes me want to pull my hair out, but worth it.

Anonymous said...

Carolynn, so jealous. I am already out of leftovers. I'm thinking of buying another ham so I can have more leftovers.

Stephanie and Ardenwolfe, agreed. My new wip is a Civil War story with demons and vampires. (Not in the vein of Abe Lincoln Vampire Hunter.) I know the market is saturated with vampires, but I figure the story will stand out on its own and who knows what will happen in a year or two?

Dear Lord let me live to be very old with my mental faculties intact and a way to tell all these stories.

Ilex said...

A little stubbornness doesn't hurt in this situation, either. A year ago, I was querying a YA v-word novel and collecting rejections (75 of them). But because I really believe that my book is different from the paranormal crowd and deserves a chance, I made a mental bet with myself to prove that no agent would touch it before I gave up querying, no matter how discouraged I felt. And query number 76 got me an agent.

Will my book find a publishing house willing to risk it? Who knows. But I've got representation either way. So my advice is -- if you truly believe you have a good book to offer, persevere.

Mary Feliz said...

Janet, if someone held you at gunpoint and forced you to quantify the number of rejections a writer should have before she could safely say she had "queried widely," and if your agent super-powers did not allow you to escape from the deadly situation without replying, what number would you give?

To the original poster, I would recommend hiring the editor and considering it an efficient way to take a master class dedicated to your work and your needs. When you look at it that way, it doesn't seem as expensive.

One agent told me, in a long, kind, and polite rejection, that she knew there was one other cozy mystery in which the amateur detective had the same profession as my detective, and she didn't think the market could support another one. Therefore, she recommended I make the detective a baker. (When you've stopped laughing, I should tell you that I was able to understand that because there are hundreds of cozy bakers, it didn't take much code-breaking skill to detect that she was saying there was something, perhaps a lot of somethings, wrong with my novel.)