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