Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Expensive life lessons

A few years ago, I got picked up by an open call at a Big 5 imprint and accepted a three-book deal with no advance. In my limited (poor) wisdom, I hired an IP lawyer instead of trying to find an agent to negotiate the deal, which I regret in the long-term. Fast-forward to the option for the next book in the same series, and the publisher declined to publish due to lack of sales. It was a huge bummer, but ultimately, I understand that publishing is a business, and no matter who was responsible, low sales are low sales and there’s not much I can do about that.

So, here I am with the fourth book in a dropped series, no agent, and no idea what to do moving forward. The “no agent” bit is the most difficult part (and I am still kicking myself for that). So, my goals are to get agent representation for future work and finish out the rest of my original series.

Should I…

1) Query agents with this fourth book in a series, using my previous publishing record to try to land representation for future works?
(1) No
OR…

2) Self-publish the rest of this series, and write something new to query?
(2) Not now/YES
OR…

3) Request rights back from the publisher (they all meet contract requirements for rights reversion) and query agents with the series as a whole in the hopes of finding a new publishing home for it?
(3) Yes/no
As this is not a common knowledge type question, I was hoping you could help! (I feel the first one is probably a ‘no’, but I’m uncertain enough to ask advice about it.)


Getting your rights back is a good idea, if only for keeping things tidy.

Those rights don't have a lot of value just now; that's not to say they won't in the future, so you're better off getting them back now.

Shopping a fourth book in a series with lackluster sales is a recipe for despair. Avoid that.

BUT, writing something new is a good idea.

AND while you're writing this New Tome of Excellence, you work on building your platform. Make book friends.

Querying with "my last series didn't do so well, here's a new book" is nowhere near as appetizing as "yea, my last series didn't do so well, but I know now have a robust mailing list of 3000+ names, oh and here's the new book."


Any questions?

7 comments:

Adele said...

Good morning Janet - just housekeeping - autocorrect messed up your last sentence (know instead of now).

Brooke Johnson said...

This is immensely helpful, Janet! Thank you for answering my question. I've been stuck on what I should do for a while now (since last December), so this gives me a direction to aim for. (I have been writing other things in the meantime, of course!)

One additional question: for option #2, you say not to self-publish the rest of the series now. Does that mean you would suggest getting rights for the first books back first and then self-publish the series as a whole?

Thanks again!

Casey Karp said...

Brooke, not to put words in Janet's mouth--dangerous: watch out for the teeth!--but I suspect she's saying it's too soon to decide whether to self-publish the whole series.

Get the rights back and query the hell out of the new, unrelated work. Once you've got an agent, discuss what to do about the series with her. Maybe she can place it somewhere. Maybe self-publish. Maybe hold onto it while you build your name and brand with other works.

The point is that once you self-publish it, you're out of options for it. Whereas if you wait, more possibilities may open up.

Brooke Johnson said...

Thanks for your insight, Casey! Something to chew on. :)

Joseph S said...

I've been out of the loop dealing with a deadline project (I'm still on). Just wanted to say I've enjoyed catching up on the recent blog entries.

Craig F said...

Sage advice, my Queen.

Find another path to roll a story down, polish it up, and query it. I'm not sure I would even mention your previous work until the hook is set.

Then explain that this is your breakout book. Do get the rights for your other books back before this one gets published.

Best of lucj with it.

Jennifer Mugrage said...

Mailing list? Like an e-mailing list? I thought that was a way to annoy people, not build readership?