Similar Stories and Marketability (When to Set it Aside, When (and how) to Make it Marketable
When I “send” a new story to my agent, I usually feel a mix of excitement, hope, and worry. Excitement because I love this story. I spent so much time and energy getting it to a “ready” state, hoping that my agent will love it and tell that me it’s magical and marketable enough to submit to editors. But that brings worry, too.
Because what if it’s not?
OR…what if, recently after hitting “send,” I see promotion for a picture book coming out this year that has an almost identical title, similar concept, and same characters as the story I just sent my agent?
*could* we still submit this?
It’s NOT the first time this has happened. It’s not the last time it will happen. It happens for a lot of different reasons, and most of them...are out of my control.
So instead of wallowing (I allowed myself 5 minutes 😭), I will:
1-set this story aside for now. It is not the right time for this story.
2-focus my energy on different projects I can move forward with (I purposefully am always working on more than one thing at a time),
3-check out the upcoming comparative book when it comes out so that I can ask myself:
“HOW WILL THIS STORY STAND OUT FROM WHAT ELSE IS IN THE MARKET?”
“What value will my book add?”
“Why would a reader/buyer choose my book over the others?”
**these are questions an editor will ask, and have to answer when they present my manuscript to acquisitions**
4-develop/revise this story (and others), thinking further about it’s marketability. I’ll ask myself:
“What are the themes?”
“What are the hooks?”
“How will an editor pitch this?”
“What type of consumer will want to buy this? Which readers will love this?”
(Is that a wide-enough audience?)
“What element from this story can I highlight that will widen it’s audience and make it pop?”
And when I have the answers to those questions, my story will be stronger and more marketable for having gone through this process. And I’ll be a better writer. I know this. I’ve been through this (more than once).
When my debut picture book, ONE HUG (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books, 2019), was on submission, it got a pass from a couple of editors because they had a similar backlist “hug” book or forthcoming “lyrical” book. Yet, when it sold in 2017, there was interest from multiple editors because among other things, it felt fresh. But still... at a big bookstore, I saw a recent picture book release featuring hugs. It seems similar by title, but it’s completely different than ONE HUG. Am I worried? No. Am I excited? Yes! There is room for both these books (and other hug books!) in the world.
So if you’re in the same boat, don’t despair! There is room for all our stories. Your voice, your take, your YOU-NESS is what makes your story unique.
How can you best capture THAT in your story?
Trust that your story will find the right agent, editor, and publisher. In the meantime, keep learning about the market and improving your craft. Have patience, persistence, and perseverance. The time for you and your story will come.
Have hope. ✨✨
Katrina Moore writes for all, teaches many, and raises two young children. She holds an M.A. in elementary education. She's the author of ONE HUG, GRANDPA GRUMPS, SOMETIMES LOVE (Penguin/Dial, '22), and the forthcoming chapter book series, TEENY HOUDINI (HarperCollins/Tegen, '22), and more. Connect with her on twitter!