Tag Archives: Bri Clark

Interview With Bri Clark on Writing What Sells

In my quest to delve a little deeper into writing what sells, I asked literary strategist and consultant, Bri Clark, to answer a few questions for me.  She’s graciously consented to an interview.

Bri, we spoke before about what’s hot and what’s not in the book market.  You’d mentioned Regency Romance and Highland Romance with slight paranormal elements as trending well.  Why do you suppose?

Both are historical. Both have the classic formula of a rake who did not want to fall in love being brought to his knees by an equally strong woman. Historical romance will and always has been a market to sell to. As for Regency era I think that is has a lot to do with the fairy tale element of balls, with royalty and aristocracy. All little girls, who grow to be women, dream of being a princess swept away by a knight. Then you throw in the added bonus of the fact this was an era in history that was true…making it all the more believable. As for Highland romance with paranormal elements. Hannah Howell is a great example of this. She has over 20 books out in this genre with slight paranormal elements. But here’s the catch – they are a series. The clans and characters all connect in some way through the generations. Highland lords are written as handsome, slightly dangerous but chivalrous with their own code of primitive loyalty and possessiveness toward their people but most especially their women. What woman wouldn’t love that? As for the paranormal it’s the play on magic or talents beyond the norm. For example in Howell’s books they can have a “healers touch” or have “seeings.” All very paranormal for the time but not so much for today’s standard.

So, if an author can manage to tap into a reader’s inner fantasy, they might be on their way to commercial success?  Ok, but many new authors scoff at the idea of writing to the market and instead insist on writing only what they want to write. Are there any pitfalls to this approach?

This comes down to that age old question of are you a hobbyist or a professional? You come to a point where you have to say “OK, I need to make money…where is it at?” I myself have faced this! Luckily I also have another job in the industry that supplements and affects that question. I find that sometimes what is popular now won’t be in a few months. The key that an author and as well as agents have to figure out is what will be the “next” popular genre and having that novel found, prepped and ready for release when it happens.

That doesn’t sound particularly easy! How do you, as a literary strategist, determine what’s strong at the moment?  Are there any discernible trends in the market right now that predict the future?

Bear in mind I’m not a publisher or an agent. I don’t necessarily have to know what’s strong but I do know how to sell to my clients’ genre. Right now Regency is strong, historical itself is always solid. YA romance has slowed a tad, it’s actually breaking out into its own sub-genres being based on age I’ve heard. Like 18 and under, 21 and up. I expect YA will take a spike in the spring/summer toward vacation time. I also predict that contemporary will take a spike. Most people went to historical when the economy crashed for a thorough escape. Now that things are getting a little better they will want a break from that and come back to modern times. Especially for beach reading.

That’s good to know! I’ve noticed many publishers and agents don’t want to see ‘sparkly vampire’ manuscripts or themes they feel have been ‘done to death,’ but these books still seem popular.  Is there a disconnect between readers and tastemakers?

Like I said before, publishers and agents have to be looking out for what’s next…not what’s now.

Thank you Bri for your words of wisdom!

~ S.G. Rogers

Bri Clark works as an editor, agent, and promoter for multiple publishers in addition to her career as an author and speaker. She can be found on her personal blog BriClarktheBelleofBoise. Bri is also a featured speaker for the upcoming Idaho Book Extravaganza in additional to her most recent engagements at Ignite Boise and Story Story Night at the Rose Room. After moving to Boise from Tennessee she was quickly dubbed The Belle of Boise for her hospitable nature, forward attitude, and sassy nature. Find Belle Consulting HERE.

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Write What You Know, What You Love…Or What Will Sell?

So you’ve poured your heart and soul into a lovingly crafted 70,000 plus word novel you feel just might be the Next Big Thing.  You’ve had it accepted by an e-publisher, who assigns you fantastic editors and arranges a wonderful cover. You start blogging, guest blogging, warming up Twitter and Facebook.

Full of confidence, you outline the sequel.

You spend hours on author loops, supporting others and being supported in return.  Tears of joy trickle from your mother’s eyes at her budding soon-to-be-famous author offspring.  The day of release arrives and your fellow authors slap you on the back.  Buoyed by a wave of euphoria, you wait for those fabulous reviews to roll in to Goodreads, BN.com and Amazon. You consult NovelRank daily—sometimes hourly—for glowing sales reports.

Woo hoo!

You sell ten to fifteen copies the first few days as your friends and family rally behind you.  Your Amazon rank falls below #400.  When the numbers fall off, you’re not dissuaded nor discouraged.  You step up your game.  You make a list of review sites your publisher hasn’t contacted and send out requests for reviews…twenty or thirty of them.  Maybe you buy a few inexpensive ads on Night Owl Reviews and web sites that recommend ebooks.  You are generous with giveaways, and send out more free copies of your books than you’ve sold, hoping to generate reviews.

Days pass, and then weeks.  Sales dive. One or two reader reviews have accrued here and there, but the review sites have completely ignored you.  Not to worry, sometimes there’s a backlog, you reason.  Two months go by and your grin is starting to slip.  You haven’t sold a single book in weeks and your Amazon ranking is approaching #2,000,000.  You’re beginning to accept the stinging reality that your book has rolled over and died.

What went wrong?

According to Bob Mayer of “Write It Forward,” first novels have a 90% failure rate.  In an article from Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, statistics indicate that most indie authors sell fewer than 200 copies.

Feel better now that you know you’re in good company?  No, heck no.  But it’s time to conduct a post-mortem. Assuming you’re a decent writer and your story was a good one, why hasn’t your book taken off?

I was kicking the topic around with literary strategist and consultant, Bri Clark (Belle Consulting), who felt that Regency Romance is what’s strong at the moment and Highland Romance with slight paranormal elements. In an About.com article by Elizabeth Kennedy on Teen Reading Trends: 2012, the president of the Young Adult Library Services, Sarah Flowers, thinks dystopias and post-apocalypse books will be popular.  She also sees steampunk and paranormal romance as still somewhat popular but perhaps vamps are fading.

Okay, but what if you don’t write that stuff? Do you switch from science fiction and try to whip up a good old-fashioned bodice-ripper or do you persevere with your Next Big Title?  You didn’t become a writer to become wealthy necessarily, but neither do you wish to slave away unnoticed, leaving dozens of unsold manuscripts in the attic for your descendants to hawk or shred long after you’ve passed on.

Perhaps we should consider this exchange from the 1995 mini-series Pride and Prejudice (hat tip to Drew’s Script-O-Rama):

Jane:  I should so much like…to marry for love.               

Elizabeth: And so you shall, I’m sure. Only take care you fall in love with a man of good fortune.

Maybe, as struggling authors, we should write what we know and love, but take care to put in marketable elements?  It certainly opens up vast new genres, doesn’t it?  Secretly-passionate debutantes in space?  Long-dead Highland warriors who sparkle in the sun?

Inquiring minds want to know…

As readers, what do you reach for when you want a good book?  Do you look for best selling authors no matter what or are you open to a new voice with a great story?  What seems tired or what never seems old?

As authors, what is your strategy for perseverance?  Will you ‘write to the market’ or will you soldier on with what you love? Hmm…It’s a conundrum.

~ S.G. Rogers

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