Wednesday, June 08, 2016

more on sales figures, cause you really need to obsess about this more

I have been working on a women’s fiction for a while and this is ultimately the genre I want to write in, however, I also have a stand alone MG that follows a group of kids as they discover the rich history they can learn from the veterans around them instead of just memorizing facts from a book. The news recently reported more than 100 WWII vets die every day so now I am feeling this needs to move up in priority. I have read a lot of posts about how important your debut work is and I am wondering if low sales in MG (if it ever gets published) would be a negative for me when querying the other work. Also, is it wrong to query two vastly different projects at the same time? 

Editors look at sales figures to try to predict how the next book will do. Propose a book on kale recipes and your previous book 101 Uses for Weird Vegetables, which appeals to the same audience, will be used as a predictor of interest in the new book.

You can see where this is going of course.

There is almost zero crossover between a middle grade non-fiction book and womens fiction. Even if an adult reads both, it's for very different purposes.

Also, middle grade is sold very differently than womens fiction. MG buyers generally aren't the readers, they're teachers, librarians and parents.

Thus, your mg sales figures won't be considered a reliable indicator for your womens fiction sales.

That said, nobody gets a pass on crappy sales figures these days.


Colin Smith said...

So, what about series? Does, say, the success of Jeff Somers' Avery Cates series help determine whether his publisher picks up the next series?

Speaking of Jeff Somers, I posted a review of TRICKSTER on my blog today. :)

OK... that was either a shameless plug, or a bit of careful promotion. I'm practicing my promotion skills. I found a way to plug Donna's forthcoming novel on the BookEnds blog the other day. Jessica happened to mention upcoming titles from Kensington. She was gracious enough to permit my comment, and I don't think I've been banned... yet... :)

Julie Weathers said...

Always query each project separately. Always. Plus, I would really wait a while before querying the second project to the same agent even if it is a very different genre.

Yes, we are losing our WWII vets at an alarming rate. It would be an interesting book if you can pull it off. That being said, most of these vets are going to be in a nursing home.

Good luck with your project. Their stories do need to be told, but it can have its drawbacks.

Colin Smith said...

It seems to me that there's a careful balance between art and career that needs to be considered with that first novel. On the one hand, you need to write what you're passionate about, regardless of whether it will sell. But when it comes to which book you query first, I think of that novel as the book that will, hopefully, launch my career. I'll be known, at least initially, for that debut. If my heart is in Historical Fiction, do I want my first novel to be in MG Fantasy? I might be thinking wrongly, but isn't it harder to switch from being an unknown MG Fantasy writer to a Hist Fic writer than it is to be an established Hist Fic writer who publishes an MG Fantasy as a one-off?

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Just because your first marriage bombed doesn't mean your second will be better or worse.

Anything of value in life takes faith.
Our currency, that which drives a publisher's motivations and decision making, says "In God We Trust", not good intentions, hard work or fulfilled dreams.

Good luck OP. Go where your heart leads and your mind will plot the way.

Donnaeve said...

Colin, will your wife be alarmed if I give you a virtual hug? Hold still. (((((HUG)))) I'm going to pop over to Jessica's site and check that out. Thank you so much!

OP's situation is interesting, and not unusual in that we've heard right here on this very site about a good chunk of us writing in different genres. Still, as QOTKU stated, no matter the genre - sales are sales.

Think of it like cooking. If you go to someone's house, and they serve a main course, and it tastes like Kale Krud, you're likely going to dread the dessert - Butterbean Cake. The point being, if you can't cook the main course and make it palatable, your dessert is going to be met with trepidation. A possible, "um, thanks but no thanks."

Still. It's not to say someone might not want a nibble of that Butterbean Cake. They might discover they love it. They might conclude, "well, okay, they can't cook a main course, but boy! They sure can bake!"

Either way, it's sort of a nice conundrum to be in right? I think so. Good luck OP!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I think Colin said it well- we as writers have to draw a careful balance between art and career. It seems to me, a one off book needs to be shopped later in career. It is likely to sell better anyhow if author has made a name for themselves. And the writer has a better chance of avoiding dismal sales on something they are writing one of anyhow. I think. Coffee?

Going to read Colin's review of Trickster. I love the title and Jeffrey cracks me up. At least on Twitter. To heck with day job. Coffee was not ready when I arrived at office with the dawn.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Oh, I forgot, for us...In QOTKU we trust.

Colin Smith said...

Ah! There you all are. I was beginning to wonder if maybe everyone was having a Wednesday lie-in, or perhaps actually working on their novels, or something...

Donna: You're very welcome! ((((HUG)))) back at ya. :D

I forgot to mention it in my review, but if you enjoy Jeff's tweets, you should sign up for his newsletter. And check out the videos on his blog. You've got nothing else to do today, right? ;)

Julie Weathers said...

That's true, Colin, but the OP has a point. If she's trying to reach out to a segment of society that is rapidly disappearing, she doesn't have the luxury of waiting.

Personally, if I were the author, I'd be reaching out to the vets myself. You never know what you're going to get with a 90-year-old person who may or may not have dementia, which would lead to a whole other experience. Of course, that could lead to another series like Goosebumps.

Karen McCoy said...

This of course begs the inevitable question of an agent representing two very different genres, which I'm pretty sure has been addressed before...but the Reef collective is right...follow your heart when writing, and circumstances will take care of themselves. Good luck, OP!

Dena Pawling said...

I could have been this OP – in reverse. I have a womens fiction ms which might end up as a duology. I queried that for a while until one of my awesome CPs suggested a revision that makes sense, so now I'm revising.

I have another ms that's MG. I'm currently revising that one [I back-burnered the WF] which is first in a series. The reason I'm working more on the MG now is because I sat down with myself and had a loooooooooong discussion [which was either boring or frustrating, depending on which of myselves you talk to], and I reviewed all the ideas I have for future ms. Me, myself, and I determined that most of my stuff will be MG, and the WF is not my primary focus.

Now I'm working on my MG and will query that one, because that's where most of my writing will fall, so that's the genre where I should concentrate my querying efforts.

I did find several agents who rep both MG and WF. I also found Meg Cabot, who writes both MG and WF. Oddly, so does James Patterson, altho maybe that's not so odd because his name is on books in pretty much every genre.

Good luck OP!

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I wish I were two different people - not only could I write twice as much, I could query two complete different genres without worrying how it will affect my future genre expectations (talk about putting the cart before the horse)!

If I just breathe slowly, I'll remember that not everything I write must be published. And certainly not right now.

I like food/cooking analogies. We should do more of those.

Querying is like mixing a martini...

Kate Higgins said...

Mornin' Colin...yawn...stretch...some of us live on the West coast. That's 3 hours difference...earlier...reach for coffee...darn, I actually have to get up and make it....

DLM said...

Colin, to a histfic author, lying-in means the period of labor and delivery for a pregnant lady. Allow me to assure you, I have not been having one of these; just had nothing constructive to add today.

Donna, I will bet you money there is a Southern Living type cookbook SOMEWHERE (or a church cookbook perhaps; those are good ones for this sort of thing) with a butterbean cake recipe. And a passionately partisan lover of butterbean cake to tout it. Somewhere.

Donnaeve said...

You're darn tootin' there is:

There's one for pinto beans too:

Have I sufficiently grossed out the non-bean loving folks out here?

Craig said...

Yes, Donna, ask your mother about alternate recipes from the war years (WWII). Butter bean flour has many, many uses. One of my favorites is a cake using butter bean flour (wheat substitute), mayo (eggs) and blackberry jelly (sugar and chocolate). The ingenuity of humans is amazing.

Back on topic:

It's all about the writing.

Colin Smith said...

Mornin' Kate! I didn't expect the West Coasters, but maybe some of our Oz/NZ friends... or even our Brit/European-resident friends? :)

Diane: Me neither. I don't think, anyway...! :D

Donna's recipe links: and

And I would eat both of these. They sound delicious! :)

DLM said...

I've said it before. Y'all ain't right.

Donnaeve said...

Craig - one of my mother's "chores" growing up was to mix yellow coloring into the lard to make it look like "butter" for the table.

I.e. this:

I'll ask her about the other. Now that I've successfully taken us WAY off topic, I'm outta here and on to editing!

Ya'll have a good day!

abnormalalien (Jamie A. Elias) said...

You know, I like various beans; I even like butter beans. But I was seriously hoping that was a fictional cake. I will note that the butter bean cake recipe uses lima beans not butter beans and sounds kind of like a fancy corn bread. The pinto bean recipe, on the other hand, sounds like a dessert cake so I'm back to being disturbed.

Ah well, I do find this topic interesting. I mostly write YA but have also started an adult mystery. I think I mostly agree though: I would worry about the off-beat mystery after gaining ground on my YA novels. But, I'm not losing part of my audience or research base by waiting.

Joseph Snoe said...

More on Dixie Dupree:

Goodreads sent another email announcing a giveaway for The Education of Dixie Dupree. I’ve got mine on back order, but if you haven’t ordered your copy here’s your chance for a free one. There’s also an attractive picture of Donna Everhart herself.
Here’s my first try at the hyperlink formula:

Dixie Dupree

In case the hyperlink didn’t work, cut and paste this:

Colin Smith said...

Your link worked, Joseph. Yay--congrats! :D (It's the little victories in life, you know.)

Donna's link:

I've had black bean cake before and it was really good. You wouldn't know you were eating a dessert made with beans.

Now, as for lard butter, that just makes my veggie skin crawl. To each their own... :)

Joseph Snoe said...

Among other fears and anxieties is the fear a lukewarm (to be generous) reception to a debut novel would be the death knell to a potentially barnburner of a second novel.

I’m revising my multi-year WIP not knowing if I’m making it better or worse. Meanwhile, a new (episodic) series with more marketing appeal is percolating in my mind. I’d hate (scratch that) –The world would hate it if the new series never saw a library shelf.

Lennon Faris said...

I'm curious why OP thinks their MG would have low sales? Is it the genre (does MG usually sell less than women's fiction?), or is OP less confident about that particular manuscript and/ or their ability to write in that genre?

If the former, I would consider your priorities: do you want your MG book out there, possibly making a difference for a few targeted individuals (a worthy goal) but maybe making your career more of an uphill climb. If the latter, I would work on the skills you really want to hone and read widely and write and query in that category only for now.

Good luck!

And Donna - adding 'yellow' to lard to make it look more like butter, makes me want to vomit. I hate to think how close that is to a lot of our food processing!

SiSi said...

I remember my grandmothers slapping huge chunks of lard into the frying pan, but it was always white, never yellow. Put me right off most fried foods to this day. (Except, to be honest, fried chicken. Ummm, I love fried chicken.)

I have nothing to add on topic. I'm actually ignoring the topic since I am not currently adding new items to my list of things to obsess about.

Miles O'Neal said...

So what constitutes crappy, OK, and good sales figures?


BJ Muntain said...

Dear OP: You have no idea how either book is going to sell. As Janet says, they have very little to do with each other. Another way to put some distance between your MG and your women's fiction would be to use a pseudonym for the MG.

Then, whichever one gets published first, promote it with all you've got.

Don't base your decision on what-ifs. They're horribly uncertain things to base anything on, and you really need a more solid base than a what-if to make a solid decision.

julieweathers said...

I don't remember anyone mixing food coloring with lard to make it look like butter, but when oleo first came out it was white and came with a separate coloring to mix with it to make it look like butter. Of course, we had cows and made our own butter when I lived with my grandparents.

Hardship does spur creativity. Civil War and depression recipes are evidence of that. Vinegar pie, anyone? Beet cake, tomato soup cake, zucchini bread, sweet potato pie, of course.


I've never nor anyone I've known has colored lard. We cooked with it and it didn't matter what color it was.


You can't worry about how a book will be received. Just write the best book you can. That's the only thing you can control. Worrying about sales, future sales, second books, series, other genres, will drive you nuts.

I sometimes think writers walk into a restaurant and say, "Hello,I'd like an order of neuroses, with a side of crazy, and can I get I get a serving of bat crap insane to go?"

Julia said...

Thank you all for the advice and encouragement! To clarify, I wouldn’t send both MS to the same agents, as they are vastly different projects. Also, both WIPs are in very different stages so it’s not likely this will be a problem.
Lennon- it has more to do with MG vs WF
I have written as an outlet for a long time but only recently began to research ‘what comes next’ when you write something you want to share. I love this blog and community. Thanks again.

Lennon Faris said...

OK, totally off topic (though not from the blog). I never curse in 'real' life. I grew up with a super conservative family and that, for some reason, is something that stuck.

Yesterday I went to the library and picked up my first book from Patrick Lee (Signal), just to peek outside my normal genre. I read the first chapter last night and the 2nd and 3rd just now on my lunch break. At the end of the 3rd, I thought, I don't think I can do this. I'm too sad already. I can't read about real life! Then I started Chapter four and I said out loud, "Holy SHIT." My dog looked at me from her nap. And now I'm totally hooked and now I have to go back to work. Waaaaahhh.

Colin Smith said...

Lennon: You mean, Patrick Lee(nytba). :) I totally understand. I've read two of his books so far (THE BREACH and RUNNER), and I will definitely read more.

He's a really nice guy too. :D

Donnaeve said...

That's what happens when you make general comment and there are "factitions" at work. And history SME's. (subject matter experts)

Clarification is required. Lard = rendered pig fat, (and I use to fry chicken in - don't barf), while oleo, or oleomargarine is really emulsified oils, etc. This is what was used with the yellow coloring - as Julie pointed out. Either way, uncolored they both look the same/or at least similar. Think Crisco with yellow coloring. Yummy, no? No.

Anyway, the point was, my mother told me about doing this as a child.

Thank you Joe Snoe! I'll be obsessing about the #'s through June 27th.

OFF TOPIC: I just noticed the new sub-header and had a knee jerk reaction. Ann Patty read THE EDUCATION OF DIXIE DUPREE before it was titled that (Fun fact: original title - GRITS AND SUGAR) She suggested I change it, and I came up with the current one. ANYWAY, she read it, said it had a fatal flaw and after I fixed it...I went back to her and she was booked up for ms readings, and she put me in touch with Caroline Upcher. The rest is history! Ann Patty is in my Acknowledgements, although she doesn't know it - yet!

How cool is that???

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

A former coworker once made black bean brownies. Kind of bland, but otherwise, I was the only one who liked them. I've been thinking of finding a recipe to tool around with the spices a little, maybe cinnamon and chipotle. "oleo" is one of those oft-used crossword puzzle answers, along with "epee" and permutations of "Elie Wiesel". I watched a couple season of "A Chef's Life" on Amazon Prime, and the lard + self rising flour biscuits they made in one episode look amazing. I don't fear rendered fat (unless it's boiled and being poured off of battlements, and I guess that's where my genre fancies come into play...)

Not working on a novel, Colin, editing a novella for the novella call that opened on the 5th and closes on, I think, the 25th. They want time travel, cyberpunk, and I forget what else, 20k-40k words. Guess who's at 18k and change....

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Is this a job for pen names and Indie publishing?

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

To make our sleepy American friends feel better, I got up at 5:30am on a frosty Australian morning to read the blog (and take the daughter to Early Morning Seminary).

I did mention it's a frosty morning?

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Remind me sometime to tell y'all why American cheddar is orange. No, cheddar is not naturally that colour.

Has something to do with winter and marketing in the 19th Century.

Steve Stubbs said...

Here is an article I found by accident that adds specifics to this discussion:

Here is what I got out of it:

(1) According to agent Jane Dystel. "Even 15,000 would be a strong enough sale to get the publisher's attention for the author for a second book."

(2) A sale three orders of magnitude larger than that would work well, too. It might be embarrassing, but it worked for Stephen King and Nora Roberts. Dare to be embarrassed.

(3) “But if that second book doesn't sell, says [agent Jane] Dystel, odds are you won't get another chance.”

(4) If your sales are really sucky, all is not lost. You may never get published again, but you could win the Man Booker. Not much of a consolation prize, but....

There are also some things the article does not say:

(1) No matter how good your writing is, branding is everything If your book sells a sucky 2500 copies in hard cover, put the word out it was written by J.K. Rowling under a pseudonym. That worked for THE CUCKOO’S CALLING. The quality has to be there for this to work.
(2) If you work at the washateria and CARRIE, your sad coming-of-age memoir thinly disguised as a horror novel, sold a sucky 2500 copies in its original hard cover edition, don’t despair. It could be made into a major motion picture starring Sissy Spacek. You’ll never lack funds to buy laundry soap ever again.
(3) Get an agent who believes in you. John Grisham said in an interview he could not give A TIME TO KILL away, and, having read it, I can certainly understand why. Grisham’s agent believed in him. His agent is a smart businessman. Both of them are now rich.

Colin Smith said...

Steve's link:

Actually, as King tells it, he "arrived" financially when the paperback rights to CARRIE sold to Signet for $400,000, of which he got half (a lot of money today, and even more in 1973!). He bought his wife a hair-dryer to celebrate. And he was working as a teacher at the time. The story's in ON WRITING. :)

Timothy Lowe said...

I'm going to keep worrying about writing a good book. It's all I have time to worry about.

That, and meteors. Forgot about those for a minute.

Colin Smith said...

Timothy: And what can you do about meteors? Best stick with the book. :)

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Orange American Cheddar anyone?

Craig said...

Vegemite doesn't have all that good of a heritage either. It doesn't matter because either or both of them beat hell out of pasteurized, processed cheese food.

Better living through chemistry has never been one of my agendas.

AJ Blythe said...

Her Grace: the same goes for eggs. No idea outside Australia, but here in Oz they feed the chooks food with yellow/orange dyes in them to make the yolks a rich golden colour. Compare the yolks of supermarket eggs - golden orange, and chooks-in-the-backyard eggs - golden yellow.

Craig: Vegemite (YUM!) comes from beer... and the problem with that is?

Colin: See the book on the right column of Miss Janet's blog --> the nasty germ Jeckle shared has left me like that. So until I feel human again I'll be bringing up the rear here at the reef.

Mora Green said...

Going to come out of the woodwork (a little late). I'm curious why OP feels that there is a high priority for the MG. I love WW2 history as well, but those veterans are about 90 - it's unsurprising that they're dying fast, and there shouldn't be anything tragic about the end of a long life with a lot to be proud of. Do you hope that the MG book will teach kids to be respectful and appreciative of what the veterans have done for us? That's a great goal. There have been other, more recent wars, and other veterans. Vietnam or Iraq might not have had the sweep of WW2, but I don't doubt that they were equally important to those veterans. I'm not sure it's a great idea to write MG with an agenda to teach a lesson, but hey, MG is not my cup of noodles. If you do want to teach a lesson, it'll remain relevant even after there's not a single WW2 veteran left around. I'd focus on figuring out how to proceed with your career, having two novels in different genres, and not worry about priorities.