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Behind The Fiction, Past
A Fiction Column
By Michael G'Francisco


The fiction market today is a bit bleak. Why? Because it has become an agents' subjective abyss. The computer has enabled anyone to type words on a screen, press a key to make a paper copy of what is supposed to be a story and call it a manuscript. They believe that spelling and grammar check will cure all their mistakes. Oh boy, if it were only that simple!

Todayís acquisitions editors and publishers are all looking for ďthe next best-sellerĒ, which is a novel that is judged to have tremendous commercial appeal. It not only has to have commercial appeal, they also want the author to be extremely talented, and possibly a known celebrity.

Editors also rely upon the agents to pluck good commercial novels from self-published and novice writers. Forget the fact that a writer may have written a blockbuster story. What good is a great story if it lands on an agentís desk and it isnít his or her "cup of tea"? It hits the slush pile and a form rejection letter is sent to the waiting author. So, as a result many good novels never get to a publishing editorís desk.

The publishing world is cold and unrewarding most of the time. A writer, unless he or she has a natural knack for spinning a yarn, will usually never have their first manuscript published. Even if a writer queries one hundred agents and receives rejections letters from all of them, itís not time to quit, but itís time to write another book. Maybe the second book will also be rejected many times. Is that the time to "toss in the towel"? Hell no! Write another book. A true writer will write as many books as it takes to hone his or her skills That writer will also read continually, and research more thoroughly for each and every book.

Personally, Iíd like to believe the reason that a lot of books never get published is not because there arenít a great many talented storytellers. I take stock in the fact that there are not enough books being published because a small number of publishing houses (the big seven) control what is being printed.

My dream is to see the revision of the mass-market paperback. Too bad all the small publishers like: Dell, Bantam, Ace, Avon and Harlequin, were swallowed-up by the big fellows. A writer had a chance, after WW II, to become a success. Well, enough reminiscing and on to the work at task.

The nut in the publishing shell is marketability. Will the subject matter or story appeal to the masses? It must. Because publishing is all about investment and return to the publishing company and its stockholders.

The eternal question is, "What must an aspiring novelist do to get published in the fiercely competitive arena?"

Letís take a look at a few approaches to achieve success.

A few years ago the genre Christian Fiction was only a blip in the fiction world. Today itís the hottest in attracting readers. The Nashville-based Ablington Press and Thomas Nelson, the publisher of Inspirational books, canít stop their presses from printing. Acquisition editors are crediting the improved quality of Christian Fiction plus its expanded fields such as: Amish fiction, Historical fiction and Supernatural fiction.

Weíre seeing more books that confront the spiritual world, in which Christian faith is tested by challenges from the fantasy world. The conflict of "good vs. evil" isnít new, but writers are handling it in a new way by spinning off many sub-genres that are catapulting up the best sellerís list.

Another road to being a successful writer is the path of writing magazine articles. If that type of writing is of interest, the best thing to do is take a course or buy a book about the art of article writing. Peter Nisbetís web site Article Czar and could help.

Naturally, the first thing that must be done is to select a subject for the article and research the subject thoroughly. Then, select several magazines that might be interested in that type of article and write query letters to the magazineís editors for an approval to submit.

First and foremost, itís best that you read the magazines that are targeted for the articles. Go to the library to check out the various types of magazines. The masthead of a magazine should show the proper information aboutf who to contact for their guide-lines. The library or the Internet can supply the names of books that are available on How to Query Magazines.

Once the ok is given to submit the article, one of the best rules to follow is to read the article several times, and then rewrite if necessary to be sure that itís properly edited and impressive.

In the beginning, most writers have to ask to submit articles. But, after time, some magazines will request writers to submit articles. They can depend on their readersí feedback on the subject.

Another way to become a "Freelance Writer" is to search the Internet. Check out web sites such as,, and

If the magazine route isnít your forte, then try contacting agents and publishers by networking with other writers who have been published or by joining writerís clubs, going to writerís conventions, attending signings/lectures, signing-up for workshops and writing programs, and entering fiction writerís contests.

On rare occasions just plain luck from writing about a hot subject at the right time, can miraculously get the job done.

But in the real world of publishing, the earmarks of a marketable book are: writing a real page turner, presenting life-like characters, having convincing details in the storyís plot and characters, creating dialogue with tempo, being almost flawless in grammar and punctuation, being able to show the story by letting readers experience scenes that become visual instead of just telling the story, and having all of the above in a 70,000 or 80,000 word manuscript.

Hellís bells, thatís not all. Itís incumbent upon the writer to provide a market search, which includes:

  • The estimated size of the bookís potential market.
  • Describe your potential market with statistics.
  • Is your book similar to others, and if it is, what makes yours different?
  • How will you help to promote the book?

Sound like a Herculean task? You betcha!

Thatís why the magazine route to being published is one of the best possibilities. With published articles, a writer has clips (proof of the articles) to add to their curriculum vitae. The more the merrier to convince an agent or publisher that you are a dedicated writer and have a readers' following.

Before closing let me point out, most good writers experience slow incremental growth, and through failure, will hopefully gain knowledge from rejection. This hard crust can become the survival outer coating that is needed on a writerís long, arduous journey to success.

No matter how you approach your literary journey to success in the "Fiction Market" it will take the ability to accept rejection time and time again.

I think best selling author Jodi Picoultís answer to rejection says it all, "When you first donít succeed, you have two options: slink back into ignominy or come at it again with a vengeance."


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