The Grand Ball that is RWA Nationals has come and gone and what a fantastic time it was! Though Sharon Lynn Fisher and I had high hopes for bringing home a Golden Heart win for SFR, it was not to be. This year. We, as a community, need to keep fighting the good fight. The industry is changing dramatically and each new day brings opportunity for our subgenre.
I did a lot of mulling and brainstorming in the last week, and I have a few things I’d like to put on the table.
One of the mottos for the SFR Brigade/SFR Community is: "Conquering the Universe...One Story at a Time." I think that applies to the Publishing Universe as well, and possibly we should adopt it as a battle cry rather than just a motto.
During my pitch sessions--one with a well known agent who accepts SFR and one with a senior editor from a publishing house that accepts both SFR and SF--they asked if I had any questions for them. Oh, yes I did. I wanted their input on SFR: Did they think it was increasing in popularity, decreasing in popularity or staying about the same?
Their response (averaged and paraphrased) was that it's difficult to tell in the current lackluster market, however there is a bit of a buzz about SFR and with the waning interest in vampire romance the industry seems to be searching for a missile lock on what will be "the next big thing." They hinted that if the stars aligned just so, that "next big thing" might possibly be SFR.
My take? I think SFR may have a shot at that coveted "NBT" title and there's a few things we can do as a community to help get us there:
1. Step up our efforts as a community to raise the visibility of SFR and find greater numbers of potential readers.
I'm convinced "The audience is out there." The reading public is now made up of at least three generations who grew up on Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica and Avatar and that translates to millions who have an interest in SF/SFR. Can we find new ways to reach out to our potential audience? We may need to attack this objective from several different angles. While at Nationals, several Brigaders kicked around the idea of developing a SFR workshop for next year's Nationals and/or the RT Booklovers Convention. Should we found a companion community to the SFR Brigade for readers? Coordinate our efforts to attend the big cons? Work on joint book signing tours? Brainstorm a way for digital authors to do book signings? Hey, we're SFR authors. Innovation is our middle name.
2. Support our own subgenre by promoting SFR books.
The Brigade is approaching a membership of 200. If we were all to promote the SFR books we love, we'd create a huge impact. How do we do that? Write reviews and author interviews for our blogs, rate and review books on Amazon and Goodreads and other book-centered sites, tag, tag, tag!, and chime in on reader site discussions about good books to read. If we each devote an hour or so a week to advancing the subgenre, we're helping create a bigger market for our work.
3. Back a breakout SFR novel.
A huge-selling SFR novel could do wonders to open the doors for our subgenre. Recently, we've had a few books garner brilliant reviews and RT Top Picks, but if they don't have the sales to back that up, we've lost a launch window opportunity. It's not economically viable to personally buy 20 copies of your favorite SFR title, but what if you can convince 20 other people to purchase? This goes back to #2. Invest a bit of time to promote your subgenre--review, rate, blog, and discuss great SFR.
4. Work to establish SFR as a separate contest category from Paranormal.
I know this doesn't sound like a significant strategy point, but I believe it is. As long as SFR is pitted against Fantasy and Paranormal, it will struggle in contests against (currently) much more marketable subgenres. Often agent and/or editor judges are chosen for their interest in general Paranormal which doesn't necessarily included SFR, so our subgenre is sometimes a longshot to place well in the final round or be requested by the judge. If we, as a community, start with the smaller contests and convince them we'll submit X number of manuscripts if they break out a separate SFR/Futuristic/Steampunk/Apocalyptic category, they might take us seriously. This could also entail having to help locate a final judge who's an editor or agent, and that's where our published authors could help with their connections.
5. Pitch and query those SFR manuscripts.
The more editors and agents hear about imaginative stories with complex world-building and compelling characters, the more receptive they'll become to the idea of selling or publishing SFR, and the more likely they'll be to find that one "big story" they're all looking for.
This year we had three SFR manuscripts in the Golden Heart finals and one SFR novel that finaled in two RITA categories--ENEMY WITHIN by Marcella Burnard. That's progress! Here's a couple of other exciting tidbits:
--Popular author Zoe Archer has published a SFR titled COLLISION COURSE.
--At least two other 2011 Golden Heart finalists are also working on SFR manuscripts, including one who entered a previously shelved manuscript and "finished in the top third."
I think the environment is primed for SFR to make its move in the publishing world, but it will take a community effort to get us there.
What say you? Do you think the five-part plan will be effective? Do you have other ideas for things we can do as a community to promote SFR?
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