Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reading Debut Releases to Study the Market

Missy, here, with a recommendation for studying the publishing market. Read debut releases!! I know I've probably mentioned this before, but I've been thinking about it a lot lately because I'm reading two books right now (yes, at the same time!) by new Love Inspired authors.

Reading books by new authors is more telling than reading books by multi-published authors (of course I want you to read those as well! LOL). But if you're a writer and you'd like to know what editors are looking for, then study these first books. Here are some things to look for:

*Does she thank her editor in the acknowledgments? You might want to consider subbing to the same person, especially if your writing or story is similar.
*What is the theme/premise of the book?
*Is there something about the book that really stands out to you? For example, is she really good at characterization, or at setting a scene? Does she have humor or a heart-wrenching story?
*Can you see why the editor wanted to buy the book?
*Was the voice unique in some way?
*Was it a book you couldn't put down?

After you've read the book, go back and study it. Take a look at how she does pacing. At how she does dialogue. How did the plot go? How did the characters grow and change? Were there big turning points? How did the author handle conflict and keep it going? What kind of backstory did each character have? (And how did the author present this backstory?)

There's so much you can learn from studying these books! And I can highly recommend the two I'm reading right now--one in the car and one in the house. :)

Rocky Mountain Hero, by Audra Harders.

The Rancher's Reunion by Tina Radcliffe.

Check them out!

With a broken-down truck, miles to go and little money, single mother Melanie Hunter needs help. It comes in the handsome form of rancher Gabe Davidson. He'll pay for the three-week repair job and provide lodging for her and her boy—if she'll take coordinating the town barbecue off his busy hands. Melanie accepts, figuring she'll soon be on her way to her new life. But as she gets to know the kind townspeople—and the hardworking cowboy her son adores—she realizes she's found her home. Now if only her Rocky Mountain hero will ask her to stay.

Will Sullivan's reason for refusing marriage is his biggest secret. To Will, it's part of his legacy, like the family's ranch. But then the woman he has secretly loved since childhood returns home after two years. Abandoned as a child the way he was, Annie Harris understands him. But she doesn't know the real reason keeping him a bachelor. A missionary nurse, Annie is planning to leave soon. Especially when a senseless scandal involving her threatens the ranch—and Will's future. But can he trust in rekindled love to see that Annie just might be his future?


  1. Missy,
    I love reading debut authors. All the books we've been giving away on Mondays have been debut authors.
    Thanks for the great advice and questions.

  2. Hi Missy:

    I really enjoy reading debut books. I even look for them on the ACFW website under new releases. I’ve also read and reviewed both the books you mention here.

    I have a few observations about debut books.

    1. A book is much more than the sum of its parts. While looking at the parts may be helpful, it’s the total experience that makes the difference. (Indeed, some aspects of a very good book may be rather poorly done and should not be imitated.)

    2. A book does not really exist in a meaningful sense as ink on paper. A novel really only exists as a ‘reading experience’ as it is being ‘played’ in the mind of a reader. In this sense, no one really ‘reads’ the same book that others read. In a way, it’s like the saying that you cannot step into the same river twice.

    3. A debut novel may have taken years to write. It may not be typical of an author’s work. The first chapter may have passed through many writing contests changing each time. It may not even be a first book! (I remember reviewing a author's first three books over a year and a half and I wrote that each book was much better than the last one. “That’s bad news,” the author wrote me. “I wrote the books in reverse order. The publisher choose in which order to release them.” Ouch!

    4. There is so much competition to publish, at the big publishers, that I have found that a debut author probably does something better than any other author or at least most other authors. This is what I look for: what is this author doing that is so much better than normal that this difference sold the book.

    For example:

    In “Rocky Mountain Hero”, I felt that Audra Herders did the best job of making her location come alive and thus giving the reader the richest possible reading experience. (Tony Hillerman did a similarly powerful portrait of the southwest desert areas.)

    In “The Rancher’s Return”, I felt that Tina Radcliffe created one of the most powerful conflicts -- with an almost insurmountable problem -- keeping the hero and heroine apart. This problem was both credible and unexpectedly solved. This conflict was supported by an amazing attention to detail. This is not common in any event and certainly not in a debut novel.

    These are just my takes on the stories. To me these were totally different novels.

    My theory is this: A debut novel should do something perceivably better than almost anyone else is doing and then also do everything else reasonably well.

    I think this is why it is so important to be yourself. This is why bands try so hard to find their own sound. Excel in your own way.

    It’s more than the sum of the parts.


    P.S. I think your books best demonstrate a love of your characters and of your readers. How do you copy that? : )

  3. Hey, Lindi! Thanks for stopping in.

    Vince, excellent points! And you're right about not trying to imitate. I think the most important thing to investigate is: Why did this book stand out to that editor? Which I guess is what you're saying. But like you said, it can be helpful to figure out what that author does that sets it head and shoulders above the rest in the editor's pile. And to take that further, I think a writer should hone in on his own particular strength and try to highlight that.

    Great points about Audra's and Tina's books! I haven't read far enough into Tina's yet to know that. But I've definitely felt like I'm really on the ranch in Audra's. :)

    Thanks for your comment on my books. I do love my characters and want them to be happy! That's why it's hard to put them through the required conflict. LOL (Yes, one of my weaknesses, so I'll definitely be studying Tina's!). I also love my readers and like to make them laugh and cry. That's my goal anyway. :)

  4. Thanks for mentioning The Rancher's Reunion, Missy. BTW the book takes place on Sullivan Ranch and the hero has his own web page

    Vince, thanks for the kind words.

    I admit I use Vince's “Rewards-Per-Page” post in the editing stage. So thanks Vince for helping me write a satisfying debut book. :)

  5. Hey, Tina! Thanks for stopping by.

    That article Tina was talking about can be found here (I never can do links, so let's see what this does)...

  6. Missy, thanks for using Rocky Mountain Hero as an example debut book. Everything you suggested studying is what I tear apart books to learn. Hmm, our brains work the that's spooky, LOL!

    Vince, thanks for the kind assessment of my setting. Funny, I've lived in the Rockies most of my life, and trying to describe the setting of Hawk Ridge, CO was the most difficult part of the entire process.

    I appreciate your opinion! Thanks, Vince!

    Missy, thanks for having Rocky Mountain Hero in your blog today!

  7. Hey, Audra! See, we really are twins! More proof. :)

  8. Great post and great comments! Definitely will keep it all in mind.

  9. Excellent post! I think it is very telling to read debut authors as I believe editors really do want to find fresh new voices.

    For the author there is always the scary part, about not having as much time to complete and edit the next book releases as they have with that debut novel. I had 14 years to tweak Highland Blessings and no deadlines. I had one year to complete, edit and tweak Highland Sanctuary with deadlines. My next series will be released every 6 months--and I work a full-time job!

    That is bound to play in the author's work, don't you think? Those with lucrative careers with longevity will be the ones who can continue to bear under pressure and produce quality results regardless. I pray my years in the workforce has prepared me for this as I know it will take a lot of discipline.

  10. I enjoyed this discussion. Thanks for the post and all the comments.