Sunday, March 30, 2008

When Less is NOT More

1. When you query me and tell me this book is your third novel.
I assume you mean published novel. I look for you on Amazon. You're not there. I look at your website and books aren't there. I assume you either don't know what you're talking about, or you self published.

Here's the thing: Debut novels are easier to sell than third novels. DO NOT shoot yourself in the foot by letting me think this is your third published novel if it isn't.

I don't give a rat's ass how many novels are under your bed. How many have been published is what I want to know.

2. When you query me and tell me your publisher is going bankrupt, and don't mention the name. I work in publishing. Is it a big leap of logic to assume I might be VERY interested in knowing what publishers are going out of business?

The other thing: You may think all rights have reverted to you in case of a publisher going out of business, but that may not be so. Many an unhappy author has discovered that his/her book is considered an asset by the bankruptcy court, and thus disposal of said asset is a matter for the court to decide, not the publisher.

Some of this seems to be common sense to me, but I've been in publishing a long time. Is this stuff NOT in the Writers Guides books? Am I the only person yammering about it?


Margaret Yang said...

Believe it or not, some of your fellow agents advise writers to say upfront that they have two novels under the bed and this is their third (or fourth, or seventh...). Perhaps they think that it implies committment, and also implies that this novel won't suck quite as badly as a first attempt would.

So for this one, you can lay the blame on your peers. (Although you, of course, are peerless.)

I have drawer novels, but I only speak of them with other writers. My agent suspects I have some, but hasn't asked about them, and I'm not telling.

josh said...

Is there a definite reason third novels are harder to sell than debuts? I guess I could think of a few, but I'm not sure if any of these are the real reason:

1) New authors may get more "buzz"

2) Debut novels get a special shelf in the bookstore with other debuts

3) If you have two poorly selling novels behind you, you likely won't get many new readers on your third try.

Is there another, better reason for this though?

Janet Reid said...

absent some sort of market boost (Oprah loves you now!; you're the new president of the US; NBC selected you for Project Runaway Bestseller) editors are afraid they will not sell more than your last book did.

And debuts are much more likely to get review attention than a third book from someone "no one has ever heard of."

Sad but true.

Sandra Cormier said...

If an author is previously published by an e-publisher that released her novels in print, but they sold only a few copies, would she be considered a debut novelist if her third novel was picked up by a larger press?

Would it make sense for that author to publish that third novel under a different pen name?

ryan field said...

"Is this stuff NOT in the Writers Guides books? Am I the only person yammering about it?"

It's in the books, it's on the web, and WD has been writing about these things for many years. People don't pay attention, is all.

Bill Cameron said...

I don't know if I ever mentioned my first three "books" to you, but if not, be grateful. For example, novel one: "Moby Dick In Space." And it wasn't nearly as good as the title might suggest.