As if my plate isn't full enough at the moment, my agent seems to have started offering my literary thriller again, because here are two rejections. One says "nicely written" but rejects because "our readers" aren't terribly interested in Prussia. The setting of the novel is 18th century Germany. Prussia is only involved because the novel begins at Freiberg (Saxony!) with the final battle of the Seven-Years war. This was won by Frederick of Prussia. The rest takes place near Lake Constance and in Mannheim.
So, I shot myself in the foot because I'm not writing about something people already know a lot about. Under normal conditions I'd just sneer at the thought. But conditions aren't normal when my books aren't selling. I am seriously considering making my characters British. I thought of making them American -- after all, some Americans did visit Germany in the 18th century -- but at the moment I'm pissed off at Americans for their cursed insularity that won't allow them to take an interest in anything but American people and American things.

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Comment by I. J. Parker on September 29, 2009 at 8:04am
Dear Dan, that's not such a good piece of advice. A new book (series?) will take one year to research and write. I suppose you can experimnt with short stories, but with a novel you have to be pretty sure. And I haven't been. I've done what I felt like doing. Twice!
Comment by Jon Loomis on September 28, 2009 at 5:07am
Depends. The literary market is hungry for difference--but only for specific kinds, and it seems to be going in cycles. Right now immigrant stories are very hot, particularly west-Asian. Historical would be tough, I'm guessing, unless you were writing about an era that's currently "hot:" not sure what that would be right now, since it's not a market I pay much attention to. In genre, yes, the expectation tends to be book as comfort food--although somebody has to be the first out of the gate whenever a new genre fad erupts.
Comment by I. J. Parker on September 28, 2009 at 4:27am
Thanks, Thomas. There are some ways in which I can adjust, and others that just won't work for me. I've become leery of rewrites, because the last time I did this with a rather thick book, following my agent's advice, the book changed dramatically and ended up not selling after all. We have to remain true to ourselves. It makes more sense to wait for the right agent or editor.
Comment by I. J. Parker on September 28, 2009 at 12:43am
Yes, Jon. But that doesn't really focus on the very real problem of selling American readers on something they aren't used to. That's why copy-cat books do so well. That's why Patterson and Brown sell so well. People know what they're getting, and apparently they don't get tired of it. Editors buy whatever has a good chance with the buying public.
Comment by Jon Loomis on September 28, 2009 at 12:25am
Feur makes a great point--but it's also true that editors (or their assistants) don't always read very carefully--I got one rejection from an editor at a major house that said "I didn't know there were so many gay people in Providence." Seriously--what can you do?
Comment by I. J. Parker on September 27, 2009 at 1:43am
Thanks all. I love this bunch of people. They've got good sense.
Comment by F.T. Bradley on September 26, 2009 at 11:41am
It sounds really interesting to me, I.J....

I've been in the submitting trenches myself, and I would think twice before putting too much stock into any feedback you get. Acquisitions are tight at every house at the moment, and editors often feel they need to say something, give you some reason for rejection. I really wouldn't spend a lot of time dwelling in this comment, or assume that it's true that readers wouldn't be interested.

And I freakin' hate vampires. I write YA, so they're everywhere I look...
Comment by Donna Carrick on September 26, 2009 at 9:03am
We keep hoping this market will improve and more people will start buying books again. I'm still waiting for delivery of Hell Screen -- I was told it was delivered over a week ago by the vendor, but hey, I'm sure any day! Something to look forward to... Hang in there, I.J., and good luck.
Comment by D.R. MacMaster on September 26, 2009 at 8:20am
I can't stand romanticized vampires too, and like the Knights Templar, have become the catch all cover for weak stories. Re-title your novel THE SECRET CODE OF EMO VAMPIRES and the publishers will be fighting for it. ;)

I don't know why folks won't buy a book set in a place they're not familiar with. I deliberately look for books about places and times I'm not familiar with. Because if it's done well, you'll get a good story, and learn something new.
Comment by I. J. Parker on September 26, 2009 at 7:54am
I hate vampires, too. The very idea of making those bloodsuckers into teenage heartthrobs! They are the walking dead, cursed by God. Hence crosses and silver bullets to keep them at bay. Whatever happened to research?
Ah, John, the British shy away from publishing American authors. I wonder why.

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