So there’s this book called TWILIGHT and it’s kind of popular.
Whenever there is a popular book, my inbox explodes with query imitations. There was the epic and ongoing TOTALLY NOT HARRY POTTER deluge, quickly followed by the TOTALLY NOT DA VINCI CODE phase. Often these queries boldly come right out and say they are the “next” [insert book they are imitating].
The current TOTALLY NOT TWILIGHT era we’re in blows all of the other eras out of the water, particularly when you combine it with non-vampire paranormal and/or urban fantasy tropes. Well over half of the queries I am receiving these days involve some combination of vampires, zombies, faeries, pixies, ghosts, and/or Dick Cheney.
Now, don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean that you can’t write or query me with urban fantasy/paranormal. The opposite in fact. Just look at the bestseller list.
And before I get angry comments, let me also say that I’m not accusing everyone who writes in these genres of imitating TWILIGHT. I’m not saying that.
But I think it’s important to keep some things in mind if you are querying in these increasingly well-trodden genres:
1. I don’t know if I speak for other agents, but I’m getting some serious vampire/faerie/zombie fatigue. Whether it’s the misfit teenager who is secretly communicating with a ghost or the misfit teenager who is actually a vampire (or, conversely, has a crush on one), I’ve seen it all and I’m seeing it often. Now. That doesn’t mean I don’t want you to query me with urban fantasy or paranormal. But I’m not going to be favorably disposed to something that sounds like the same old paranormal story. It needs to be something different and it needs to feel fresh. I know it’s really difficult to do something different and fresh when everyone and their mom and their grandma and her mom are writing paranormal. But thems are the breaks.
2. Do. Not. Mention. TWILIGHT. Don’t mention TWILIGHT. It never existed. You didn’t read it, it has no bearing on your book, you aren’t comparing yourself to it, you’re not living on the same planar field in which that book was written. Don’t mention it in the query. Agents don’t want the next TWILIGHT. Well. Caveat. We want something that is as popular as TWILIGHT. But we don’t want a straight up imitation. And saying your book is going to be as popular as TWILIGHT just makes you look…. well, like you think faeries are real. (They’re not, are they?)
3. Understand what you’re up against. You might think that because you happen to have a novel in the hot genre du jour that it’s going to grease the publication tracks and you’ll soon be showing off to your friends with a new hardcover of the next TWI… that other vampire book that is kind of popular. Keep in mind that because there are so many people writing these novels now, the stakes are raised. Ground has been trodden. You have to either trod new ground or trod the existing ground with spectacular, mindboggling execution. It’s not, in other words, easier.
Ultimately, the same old advice applies: write what you love, write a really amazing, incredible book, and let the gods of publishing take care of the rest. Or should I say the publishing zombies…