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Holly Lisle

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So. You're pounding the keyboard to pieces writing this story that just rips your heart out. It's the best thing you've ever written, and you know it. You've torn pages out of your own life, thrown in adventures you'd wished you had, wrapped it up with some paranormal scares you're glad you NEVER had, and it has all come together into one rich, compelling, page-turning feast.

A feast with a problem. Who, exactly, do you invite to dinner? Or, to toss that metaphor now that it's worn out its welcome, where are you going to sell this magnificent hybrid beast of yours? Where is the market for a paranormal romantic mystery fantasy adventure novel?

It's out there. That lumpy description above awkwardly describes most of the books I've written, and I've published them as science fiction (SF), high fantasy, crossover fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, paranormal suspense, and YA. And I could have taken the same books, changed a few elements, and sold the SF as romance, the paranormal romance as fantasy, and so on.

The trick with your beautiful hybrid is to understand what you've actually written. And you do this the same way you break down a chemical compound in chemistry class. You identify the individual elements, categorize them, and then figure out how you want to use them.

Elements first---what are they? They are the bits and pieces of your story that matter. You have a ghost? That's an element. So is your heroine's telepathy. And your hero's ability to travel through time. And the killer who follows him forward from the past---Ghengis Khan in LA, anyone?...(or would anyone notice?) The fact that your heroine falls in love with your hero is an element. The fact that Ghengis Khan falls in love with cars is an element.

Next, you figure out where each of these elements fits. The ghost and the telepathy are paranormal. Time travel is fantasy, as is the idea of Ghengis Khan in LA. (GK in LA can be further categorized as urban fantasy.) The love story is romance. The car story could very well be science fiction, if our buddy Ghengis decided to take the car and a gasoline supplier back to the steppes. And so on.

Then, once you have everything important in your story separated out into genre categories, you start seeing how the pieces fit together. Which are the most important elements the way you have the story written now? Your hero and Ghengis and LA? Figure your first market will be publishers of urban fantasy. If the ghost and the telepathic heroine are carrying the majority of the story, though, you're probably looking at paranormal. And if the romance is the BIG thing...well, look at roma

Finally, you create a fallback plan. If you cannot sell the book to your first set of markets, ask yourself, "How would this story be different if I took some of the elements away, or made them more important, if I deemphasized currently important elements. Could I change my urban fantasy into a paranormal romance with a bit of shifting and tinkering? Odds are good that you could, and by doing so, vastly expand the places to which you could market it.

This takes work. It takes the effort of studying and understanding more than one genre. But it can open up a career for you, save one that's failing, or just let you find a home for a book you really love but have, up until now, not known what to do with.

The markets are out there. And you can do this.

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Holly Lisle, full-time novelist and author of more than 30 published novels, teaches the writing course How To Think Sideways: Career Survival School For Writers. You can download three free course modules today and receive her free writing tips at
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MLA Style Citation:
Lisle, Holly "4 Steps To Finding Your Novel's Market." 4 Steps To Finding Your Novel's Market. 20 Feb. 2009 25 Jun. 2017 <>.
APA Style Citation:
Lisle, Holly (2009, February 20). 4 Steps To Finding Your Novel's Market. Retrieved June 25, 2017, from
Chicago Style Citation:
Lisle, Holly "4 Steps To Finding Your Novel's Market." 4 Steps To Finding Your Novel's Market
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