Monday, February 10, 2014

Overcaution or Far-Sightedness

My first manuscript is finished.  It's been through four drafts with me and is out with "beta readers" looking for things I may have missed.  Last week I started the long process of researching literary agents and the querying process when I hit a roadblock.

Maybe I shouldn't be trying to publish this novel.

You see, the novel I wrote is a psychological thriller, and I think it's fantastic.  But...  I don't ever see myself writing another thriller.

When I first had the notion of becoming a novelist, I thought I would write the genre I love to read:  fantasy.  Every concept I've ever created revolves around some form of fantasy or another.  Magic.  Mythical realms.  Heroic battles.

I know that most people write their first book in the genre they tend to favor.  My first novel, Atrophy of the Soul, was the story I had in me to tell at the time.  It became lodged in my head and wouldn't leave, so I had to get it down on paper.

But what happens now?  Most people rush to find an agent and hope to have their book published.  Most serious writers start their next project - typically within the same genre as the first (and more often than not, a follow-up or sequel to the first project).  I think that's great!

Those people should have no problem beginning their careers.  They are going to stick with their same genre - the genre their agents represent - and they will create a brand with their work.

My work, however, cannot create a brand because I don't foresee writing in that same genre anytime soon.  So, if I were to follow the bright-eyed masses of literary hopefuls, I would rush out and find an agent, get my book under contract, and have it published.  But then what?

Most agents represent specific genres.  That isn't to say that if the agent I find to represent my psychological thriller doesn't represent fantasy as well he or she would refuse to represent my new fantasy novel, but whose to say?  What do I do then?  Find a second agent to represent my fantasy novel?  Never writing a thriller again would certainly put a damper on the business relationship I created with the first agent and the first book.

So, my instinct suggests that I not publish this first book at all.  My instinct suggests that I write the second book, in my genre of choice, and move forward from there.  Who knows, perhaps down the line I'll find a way to create a fantasy world around my psychological thriller and find a home for it within the brand I want to create.

The bottom line here is this.  Part of me feels that I'm being overly cautious in not seeking representation for my first novel simply because it's the "wrong" genre for me.  That part of me is also the part that yearns for the ability to say, "See!  Look!  I followed through.  I have a published book.  You can buy it in bookstores and find it in the library."  I yearn for the satisfaction of knowing the hard work I put into that first manuscript has finally paid off - even if that payment isn't monetary.

But, part of me understands that I am building a career, and in the world of book publishing, an author's brand is everything.  Am I paranoid that my fear of submitting a psychological thriller for publication as my first novel will somehow "lock" me into writing thrillers for the foreseeable future?  Perhaps.  Is it a safer bet to hold off until that second novel is written?  Absolutely.  Will it be worth it?  I don't know, and I guess that's question.

Am I being overly cautious, letting my fears decide my actions, or am I being far-sighted, letting my logical mind dictate the best business decisions I can make?