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Why Voice Is Becoming More Important in Today's Market

Tuesday, October 22, 2013



By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

The explosion of self-publishing has revolutionized the book world. There are more books available now than ever in the history of the world. As I browsed articles about the numbers of books being published, I saw statements like:

• Bowker: "The number of self-published books is up 287% since 2006"

• Bowker: "Self-Publishing Sees Triple-Digit Growth in Just Five Years "

• Forbes: "There are somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books published every year in the US alone, depending on which stats you believe. Many of those – perhaps as many as half or even more – are self-published."

Obviously, the latest statistics for 2013 are yet to be determined. But I can only imagine that the growth has continued at a mind-blowing rate. At least it seems that way from my perspective. Everywhere I turn friends, acquaintances, and even complete strangers are promoting their newly released self-published books.

I've heard publishing professionals call this phenomena of growth a "glut of publishing." The glut isn't limited to just self-published books. The traditional market is swamped too.

All of us, no matter our publication venue, have experienced firsthand just how difficult it is to get our books noticed, stand out, or build a platform among the many others clamoring to do the same.

It's not enough to simply have a riveting, well-written, page-turning story. There are plenty of excellent books that end up getting lost in the myriad mountain of published books.

I mentioned in a previous blog post that I think being on the forefront of a new genre can help push an author from obscurity to stardom. But what about those of us who are content to stick to the genre we already love and know? Are we hopelessly doomed to drown in obscurity?

Is it possible to stand out within our genres of choice? Especially when the genre is already flooded with so many talented authors?

As I've pondered this "glut" and what it means for myself and all authors, I realized that VOICE is becoming more critical to the modern author. 

An author's narrative voice is our unique way of stringing words, sentences, and thoughts together that resembles (perhaps echoes) the qualities of our personality, inner being, and values. Some writers develop and hone their voices over time. Others seem to come into writing with a distinct voice already there.

Whatever the case, our individual style, unique spin, and special way of putting thoughts onto paper has always been important. But nowadays, in order to stand out among the masses, voice has become even more important.

Recently I chatted with a friend who shared concerns that aspects of her unpublished novel had similarities in setting and plot to my recent release, Rebellious Heart. When she wrote her book, mine hadn't yet been release. So she had no idea our stories would overlap. But then after she read mine, she spotted many similarities. She wondered if publishers or readers would now be interested in hers, or if they'd reject it because it's already been done.

I think that's a common concern for many of us. What if our stories, plot, characters inadvertently resemble something already in print or hitting shelves?

The fact is as hard as we try to find unique plots and characters, our stories may end up sharing common threads with other books. Readers don't seem to mind. After all, whole genres are born this way. Readers fall in love with a certain topic and want more books about that (think Amish or Vampire).

Sometimes we can't avoid the similarities. Maybe our book is the thousandth book set during the American Revolution involving the founding fathers. But, when we tell our stories in our VOICE, with our fresh flavor, we're still able to give our readers something new and different.

The more your VOICE shines through in its beautiful unique way, the easier it will be for your book to stand out from all the others that are like it.

If we don't spend time developing and practicing our voice, we're more likely to end up with a cookie-cutter book–one that sounds like too many others. As I said before, it's hard enough to stand out from other books even with a fresh voice, much less one that blends in.

My challenge to myself and to you, is that we cultivate our narrative voices, get to know who we really are, and then let our voice pour forth in the words we write on the page.

How about you? Are you discouraged with how hard it is to stand out in today's crowded book market? Do you think having a unique, fresh voice is one way to help books rise above the masses?

16 comments:

  1. It is so difficult to stand out these days, Jody. That's why it is so important that in addition to making our voices shine we do what we can to reach our audience and put out professional products to bring them back every time.

    Hope you're doing well!! Congrats on your latest release!

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    1. Thank you for stopping by today, Heather! It's always great to see your smiling face! It's incredibly difficult to stand out, regardless of what we do or how hard we work. But making sure our voice is truly fresh and not copycat is hopefully one way that we can slowly rise into public view. Hope you're well too!

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  2. Good point, Jody. I cou;d spot a Jody book through voice for sure. I have seen two stories just being published so similar to two of mine it's not funny, but hopefully that doesn't matter.

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    1. Aw, thank you, Catherine! It's nice to know my voice is distinct. I'm still working on it and hope I can continue to grow! And yes, sometimes I worry that my books will overlap someone else. But then I have to remind myself that we can still stand out and be different, even if we are the same! :-)

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  3. Interesting point. A similar premise can take two very different forms depending on the voices of the writers. One might tend toward sarcastic asides, another toward lyrical observation.

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    1. Exactly! Great way to put it, Laurel!

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  4. Thanks for the statistics and advice on voice. So important. Thanks.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by and for joining the discussion!

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  5. I think we each have a way of putting things in our writing, so each book is indivdual and special in how we would deal with the setting and circumstances therein. I believe that God can use each writers work for his glory and each voice is indeed fresh ! Well that is my thoughts IMHO... Love you Jody !
    Linda Finn
    Faithful Acres Books
    http://www.faithfulacresbooks.wordpress.com
    faithfulacresbooks@gmail.com

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    1. Excellent point, Linda. God has made us each unique. Hopefully we can reflect that in our stories! Hugs back to you! :-)

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  6. As a reader I am happy when I find other authors that have similar voices to the voices of authors whose work I already love. If I enjoy one kind of writing style I tend to latch on to books that follow in the same vein. I read faster than what one author can write, so if other authors write in a style I enjoy there will be enough great books to go around until a new novel comes out by my favorite author. Just finished a debut novel yesterday that reminded me of a favorite author's work. One reason I picked up the book (besides plot and cover) was that I knew from this debut author's Goodreads page that most of her favorite authors matched mine. For that reason alone I would have picked up her novel to read. I loved the book and plan to purchase it after having read the library copy.

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    1. What a great point, Sylvia! I'm the same way, when I find an author I love, I usually look at the suggestions of books that are similar in style. And then I cross my fingers that I'll like those other books/authors too. Because once I find a genre or style of book I really like, I want to read more like it!

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  7. Voice, plot, timing, editing...it's even more important to "have it all" to stand out.

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    1. True. Nowadays, we're wise to make sure we do everything we possibly can to help our stories stand out!

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  8. As a writer and a reader, voice is so important. I think of some of my favorite books and it's often voice that draws me in and keeping those pages turning. While plot and other elements are also key, I don't think that anything can outshine good author voice. It's also perhaps, or at least it seemed to me, one of the most challenging parts of those early writing years, discovering voice and our stride on the page that feels natural and also uniquely us.

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