Getting to Know Your-Shelf, by Kristen C. Strocchia

     Three pieces of writerly advice that I’ve heard most since starting on the road to publishing, are: 1) know the market; 2) know where your book will sit on the shelf; and 3) read your genre. At first, they sound deceptively similar. But while there are nuanced differences, the bottom line is that reading benefits writing—in craft as well as submission sense. Becoming more shelf-aware can help with finding just the right comp titles to include in a query and with discovering what makes your work distinctive within your genre in the market. Try this reading challenge to get to know your-shelf better!

Within the age group you write, read a book…

·        written in the same POV

·        with a MC the same race as yours

·         set in the same time period

·         with a character who shares the same name as one of your characters

·         in your same genre

·         with a MC who speaks the same first language as yours

·         that has a similar title, or shares an important title word

·         set in the same place

·         with a MC the same age as yours

·         that has a MC with a similar family situation

·         repped by an agent you’d like to query

And above all, read something that inspires you and have fun with it!


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6 Responses to Getting to Know Your-Shelf, by Kristen C. Strocchia

  1. anitanolan says:

    This is a good idea. Any suggestions on how to find books in some of these areas? (Character with same race/name/setting or family situation are ones that I am wondering about.) Thanks!

    • Kristen C.S. says:

      I know that my librarian is super helpful [and knowledgeable about what’s out there]. Also, our school library software [Destiny] allows search terms that tap into key words [like what used to be in the card catalog and what can be found in the colophon]. I have to think googling or keyword searching Amazon might have similar results. And then, sometimes I just ask if anyone knows a book that has… Good luck! =)

  2. Lori Ann Palma says:

    To find books with similarities, I usually check the lists on Goodreads first (some of them can get pretty specific), and follow that up with a Google search, such as “YA novels with XYZ” to find other lists put out by blogs. I hope those suggestions help!

  3. I like your challenge list! It’s a KidLit treasure hunt to find these books and then you get to read them. Lucky thing there are bookstores that let you browse all day!

  4. Thanks Kristen, great ideas. The treasure hunt is on!

  5. Melissa S says:

    I volunteer in our library’s Bookery–you know, the Friends of the Library bookshop full of donated books and media. We are fortunate because our (Carlisle, PA) Bookery is the entire 1897 original library, beautifully restored, with a continuous rotation of thousands of old standards and newest and hottest titles and trends for kids and teens.

    I go in nearly every day that it’s open to sit in the comfy chairs and write a little. And I get to see not only a variety to titles, characters and plots but I also get a pulse on what kids are reading by what transitions in and out.

    Here are my observations:

    BTW–big bad government and corporate agencies versus mythical-hybrid teens (i.e. Maximum Ride) are still going strong in Carlisle. Vampires, not so much. Moody, teen angst and rite of passage books are pretty slow, also. Apocalyptic (i.e. Maze Runner, Hunger Games) is so-so. Humor is up. Graphic novels for all ages fly off the shelves. We’re having a hard time filling the need for middle grade novels with a boy MC. Also, novels where the MC and SCs are all or mostly boys are requested. (“Do you have anything with boys that’s, like kinda real and like not in the old times like my parents times?” –12 year old boy, last week. “I don’t MIND the books with girls but do you have anything with boys?”)

    The best way to kill interest in a title is putting it on the school district mandatory summer reading list. Just saying. The kids only look at that shelf when the parents are watching. Even I don’t want to read the Poisonwood Bible and I lived in Africa.

    To be honest, this summer, the kids have put back the books with those coveted book honor and award stamps back on the shelf.

    Books with super cool covers are also hot! Visual sells.

    BTW and off topic–I love the little quilt blocks by our names!

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