Say you have the next big vampire or dystopian novel, and you try to query it, but receive rejection letters stating that particular genre is bloated or when you go to look at agents’ manuscript wish lists they explicitly state NO vampires, werewolves, demons, angels and dystopian, then you are writing in a saturated market.
If every Hollywood movie and TV show has the same theme as your novel, then the topic you wrote about may have been hot for the past few years and now the fanfare is dying down so agents and publishers are looking for something new.
The Bar Is Higher
When there are so many novels out there with the same theme you’re writing, it is expected to supersede novels with the same theme that have come before it. Agents and publishers can’t continue to sell cloned novels.
What to do?
In my case, both my novels have paranormal themes. But one errs on the light side of paranormal because it might be demons or just the result of my main character’s hallucinations since he has a mental illness. The other however, explores worlds that have been written about for some time now -angels and demons. It can be a bummer when I see agents who want paranormal, high fantasy and urban fantasy stories, but then state NO angels or demons. Well, that blows, since one of my main characters is an evil fallen angel wanting to start the great tribulation. But I accept it and move on. There is no need to try to make an agent or publisher see my book is “different” from the rest if they are not open to the subject. If anything pestering them will only give my work and my name a bad rep.
Distinguish your novel from the others like it
If an agent or publisher does not say they aren’t open to it then give them a try after careful research. When I do go to summarize my novel in the query letter, I point to the areas in the plot where it is different. In my case, my novel follows the book of Enoch so rather than it being the typical girl falls in love with misunderstood fallen angel, the fallen angel is indeed evil and wants to destroy mankind. For some agents or publishers that isn’t enough to capture their interest, but maybe someday someone will want to read about a psychopathic angel rather than the anti hero kind who disguise themselves as attractive guys. The other challenge is it is an adult novel rather than a young adult novel. Most adult novels featuring angels are paranormal romance boarding on erotica. When I query, I have to go out of my way to clarify, I’m not trying to sell erotica or paranormal romance. There is definitely more bloodshed than the scarce sex in my novel.
Another option is to shelf it and wait until the market becomes less saturated and agents are ready to take more books in that department. If you have another project you can submit in the meantime, you can query that one instead or write something else.
Another piece of advice is to self publish it. This is my last resort if I have no success in the next six months and I’ve sent out over 100 queries and no agent or publisher is willing to take it on. Sometimes self publishing can do a novel more justice. Why? Sometimes the right audience is online and will download it digitally versus those who would go to a bookstore and buy it. It is something I never considered, but as millennial writing millennial characters with colorful language and personalities, it may not be quite what traditional publishers or their loyal reading audience are looking for. I also run a YouTube channel so it may be more accessible to my subscribers. Anyone with a bit of a platform on social media it may work better for.
Whatever you do, don’t give up. I know it can be difficult, especially when your subject matter is on a bulk of prospective agents NO list. Sometimes I wish I was writing back when the subject matter was popular like 2005-2010 so it wouldn’t be such a pain, but I do believe there is a time and a purpose for everything so I trust my writings are not in vain. For now I will query on and I encourage you to as well.