Monday, March 05, 2007

Reader Questions: Bad Numbers

What about writers who were able to sell a couple of books in the mid-1990s, then for some reason the next books didn't sell. Is it the style? The market? I've parted ways with my original agent. She didn't try all that hard after the option books were turned down. A couple houses, then nothing. But now I'm looking for a new agent for a new book, and I'm gun-shy. Do I use my name? Put those previous books down as a credit? Or do they work against me?

If every author who had a book that didn’t sell well never sold anything again, we’d be losing out on a lot of good books. Reinventing yourself can be a painful experience, but we’ve seen it happen over and again. And rejection is a basic part of the business that most of us have to deal with at some time or another. Take a good look at past mistakes and see if you can find any areas where you could have been stronger: writing, promotion, publicity, relationships (editor, agent, booksellers, etc.). Learn from past mistakes and keep ahead of the pack on current marketing tools. If your new book is very strong, showcases your best ideas and your best writing, and is in a category that editors are buying, you should be able to find your publishing feet again. Submit under your real name and consider the possibility of publishing under a pseudonym if necessary. And be up front with prospective agents and editors about your publishing past. They will find out about the numbers anyway. If you’re gun-shy, submit regardless. The surefire way to make sure you don’t get published again is to leave your novel in the drawer.



Anonymous said...

Are you supposed to be up front with your editor or agent about your publishing past before they take on a project?

If you have bad numbers under one name, shouldn't you try to sell the book before you try to sell yourself?


BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...


I don't think you need to let anyone know in a query letter that your numbers weren't great, but you should let people know you've been published. At the point representation or an offer is considered numbers will come up naturally, or they won't. There's no need for you to say you've had bad numbers, but there's no reason to hide a publishing history either.

Hope that helps.


Kate Douglas said... rejection history is a lot longer than my publishing history, proof that editors either have very short memories or really DO just look at the current piece of work.