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Why Voice Is Becoming More Important in Today's Market



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?



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