Saturday, December 08, 2018

Is my brilliant idea going to shoot me in the foot?

I have a YA mystery that I plan to start querying early next year. While querying, the advice is to work on something else, but I know, from experience, that personally I find it really hard to be creative while querying, so my plan is to concentrate on building an email list.

Maybe it's a bit soon to start at this before even having an agent but, again, experience has taught me that all platform building takes longer than expected, with pitfalls along the way. So my thinking is, it's better to experiment and make mistakes when nobody is paying too much attention. I'd love your opinion on this but that's not the real question.

The brilliant plan is to offer a 10K novella to potential readers to persuade them to sign up. This novella (a work-in-progress) would be exclusive to my list, so not available anywhere else. It's a prequel to the ms I plan to query, but it's separate from it. The ms stands alone and it's absolutely not necessary for anyone to have read the prequel.

My question is this: The novella uses the same setting and features a number of key characters from the real ms and, of course, I'm hoping those who read it will be curious enough to want more. Is this the great idea I think it is, or could it potentially turn into a can of worms down the road, if a publishing deal is ever on the table?

Have been an avid follower of your blog for years and love the work you do to keep us all educated, entertained and, above all, optimistic!

First, you're incredibly savvy to understand that building platform takes a long time, cause it does. And that you understand a robust mailing list is a Very Good Thing.  The only thing that prevented me from showing up at your door with an agreement, a pen and sharkly smile is that your mystery is YA.

But, to your question:  what you're asking is, if in making this work in progress available now, will you unknowingly cause problems for a future publishing contract.


A publishing contract covers ONLY the book the publisher has acquired. They do not have a license for the character, the setting, the time period, nor can they claim Prequels, sequels, writing journals with plot outlines.  As long as the novel you send out on submission hasn't been published, you're fine.

Now, if you want to send a chapter from that novel to newsletter subscribers, keep it under 7500 words, and let prospective agents know.  Most likely that will be fine too.

What you need to remember is "you can't" is often a translation of "we don't want" and they are NOT the same.

A publishing contract is an agreement between two parties and can be modified by negotiations. Thus, a book that was previously published can be republished if both parties agree.

When you see "You can't query a book that's already been published" it's translate from the original which is "we don't want to publish a book that has only sold seven copies, all to your sainted mum who is now giving them as Christmas gifts."

If you've already given away the content of your book in a newsletter, I'm going to be much less interested in working with you because we've  you've squandered those precious readers and it's unlikely they'll shell out $25 for something they've already read for free.

BUT, whet their appetite, capture their contact info, and presto you've got the start of a mailing list of avid readers.

Any questions?


Steve Forti said...

Curious what kind of platform the writer has or could have to solicit for a mailing list. If they are just starting, I imagine they already have some kind of fan base from an existing platform or else there'd be no one with reason to be persuaded by a novella. Am I thinking wrong here?

Sherry Howard said...

This is so interesting to know! Well, to confirm. Sometimes I think I know something, but then the rodent wheel doubts that I have it right!

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Thank you for asking the question, OP. I have thought this same thing. I have written histories from different family member perspectives that did not serve the story as a whole and have cut them.

I had also thought to publish them on my website. Good to have an answer to a question I didn't realize I should be asking!

Adib Khorram said...

I'd suggest you consider holding onto that novella for use on a Patreon or eBook. There are so many other things you could offer in a newsletter that are harder to monetize.

There's been a great surge of authors working on Patreons this way, and it's a great tool for building platform (and revenue) right now. I would be wary of putting something that took so much work out for free.

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

Hi Adib, My local independent had copies of your book. Here in North Conway New Hampshire!

Mocha Von Bee said...

Hi everyone, I'm the OP. Thanks so much to Janet for such a clear answer.

Steve Forti:

No, unfortunately. No amazing platform yet, but trying to build one!

Lisa Bodenheim:

Yes, those are exactly the lines I'm thinking along. Not using cut scenes per se, but that's where the story-line comes from.

Adib Khorram:

Thanks so much for your comments. Darius sounds amazing. It's on my to-read-list and really looking forward to it.

Tales from Teesside said...

I'm considering doing the same thing but giving away individual short stories, possibly in PDF form, to build the mailing list.

Craig F said...

There are as many ways to be build a readers list as there are writers. Pick a way that fits you and doesn't take too much time. There are even some contests that will deliver your work to a large crowd.

I have a short story floating around on the web. It had won a spot in one of those short story collections that don't go anywhere. I didn't like the terms or the demographics of their readership, so I emailed to some friends and they passed it on. I have tracks to over 7K of those who read it and passed it on.

Hope everyone stays warm and dry this weekend. Enjoy.

Emilya Naymark said...

But... HOW do you get that list going? How do people even find out you have a blog and you’re giving away a short story? I have an idea for content that I believe might amuse people and at the same time tie in with novel, but how in the world do I spread the word to begin with?

Jennifer Mugrage said...

I have the same question as Emilya Naymark.

And also my question from the other day: Are e-mail newsletters a marketing tool that is still being used today? I thought that most people found them just as annoying as robotic sales calls.

I confess that I get e-mail newsletters from a couple of author web sites, but I certainly don't read every single e-mail that those sites send me. I just don't have time. Which creates guilt and annoyance.

Colin Smith said...

My only question: How on earth do you persuade people to read your free stuff? I've been trying for a long time and haven't had much success. I figure I'm asking the wrong people in the wrong venues at the wrong time. Or my writing really isn't worth even freebies. I hope it's the former, but there are days I wonder about the latter.

Anyway... you did ask. :)

BrendaLynn said...

Sounds like you’ve got a great plan, mocha. Good luck.

Beth Carpenter said...

There are those shared author promos, where the authors list giveaways in one spot and each sends out a newsletter about it. They get a lot of traffic. When someone downloads your freebie, they have to sign up for your newsletter. Many of them unsubscribe just as quickly, and since they're stuffing their kindles they may never get around to reading the story, but some will stay. It's important to be clear in the newsletter how to unsubscribe, so you're not stuck paying for a lot of people who have no interest in your books.

Tales from Teesside said...

One way of getting your message out there, and direct people to your blog/website/list, is to spend time connecting with other writers/readers using social media. I've found Twitter to be the easiest way of doing this - use writing hashtags like #amreading, #amwriting, #writingcommunity, #amquerying (there are dozens of others) and start making those connections. Then you can try to get others to engage with your content.