Which comes first…the novel or the market?

Writers are often told not to write ‘to the market.’  We’ve got enough dystopian, Twilight-esq, and Harry Potter wannabe novels out there.  Hell, if I find one more novel set during World War II I might vomit.

Don’t search the bestseller lists and craft your story to match.  But when you follow that advice, take care, or you might end up in my situation.

I’ve started querying, and I’ve been told that I need to find a better, more recent comp.  But quite frankly, I am having no luck.

How do you best find a comp?  Am I looking for a similar tone?  A similar story line?  Similar theme?  Similar character development?  Several of those all together?  Am I looking at novels geared toward adult women since an editor agrees that my writing is good for upmarket women’s fiction?  Or should I instead focus on YA since my protagonist is seventeen?

I wrote my novel without regard for the market, but in doing so I may have made a rookie mistake.   I took the advice too literally.  Instead, I should have been reading widely in the areas of YA and Upmarket Women’s in order to clarify my audience.  I should have been researching to understand the marketability (or lack thereof) of novels with a spiritual bent.  I should not have written without a better understanding of my end goal.

Perhaps the better advice is to write your original story while keeping an eye on the market.  Don’t disregard it entirely.  Familiarize yourself with it.  Or you run the risk of having a story to sell and no clue about who might want to buy it.

 

The Twelve Days of Writing

Well it’s December 12th, and this seemed appropriate. Enjoy, and happy holidays!

On the twelfth day of writing my true love gave to me…

Twelve books on writing
Eleven bloggers blogging
Ten readers critiquing
Nine agents rejecting
Eight commas splicing
Seven plots unfolding
Six narratives braiding
Five novels written!
Four that won’t sell
Three more in mind
Two manuscript requests
And a house that will publish my book!