Monday, March 30, 2015

Query Question: I reached a small part of the audience, now I want more

My memoir was published in 2012, both as an ebook and in print (POD), by a small independent publisher. It's done quite well on Amazon, and also through my independent sales (via book signings, speaking appearances, etc.) I have many reviews on Amazon, most at 4-5 stars, in addition to very favorable editorial reviews.

Most of my readers have come from a niche market, which I have worked hard to cultivate and have a sizable following, but I believe that there are more readers in the general public who would appreciate and learn from my memoir. I've been unable to break into major bookstores because the book is POD.

My publisher is leaving the business and I retain all rights. Do you think it would make sense to pitch it to agents or larger publishers? As a second edition, for foreign, audio book or even movie rights? And how should I present it?

I think it makes a lot of sense to pitch it to agents or a larger press.

What they'll  want to know is who you have NOT been able to reach. The first thing you can mention is the library market. You've also missed most bookstores that won't order books on a one at a time basis from small presses.  

Bookstores like to order their inventory from reliable suppliers and a small press they've never heard of us doesn't really qualify as that.  I don't know what sales terms your old publisher offered but just the fact bookstores could only order that one book from them made it a less desirable item to stock.

When you query, you need to give your sales stats, and talk about the target audience you haven't reached. (I did a previous blog post on that topic)  Your Amazon reviews aren't going to be as helpful here as you think. Sales numbers are what will get you in the door. (That's the subject of a previous blog post)

It's also not going to be helpful to say "my book was POD" because print on demand is a technology not a method of sale.  The information that the editor/agent will need is whether the publisher sold on a returns allowed basis; what the discount was; what the catalog or retail price was; whether there was distribution of any kind. You may not know this information. If you can, find out. The bookstores where you sold books will know if you can't get the information from your publisher.

Lots of large publishers use print on demand technology to fulfill small orders so they don't have to carry inventory.  You'd never know it from just buying the book.

Don't mention foreign rights, audio or film rights in the query. You need a book deal before you get subsidiary rights (and for all you clever exceptionistas out there, yes there are exceptions to this, but you don't plan to be the exception in your query letter, now do you?)


Anonymous said...

What a great question and a topic I had no idea I wanted to learn more about!

As a follow up, I have an additional question. I'm fairly new to writing, but very familiar with the music side of things. In music, how many cd's or singles you've sold is irrelevant until you reach around 5-10k in a year. At that point, mentioning these numbers to entertainment lawyers (the music biz's form of agents) or labels is irrelevant.

So as a rule of thumb, about how many digital sales or physical copies does one need to sell in what generic time-period to make it worth mentioning?

I'm thinking this question is also applicable for those who bought into or were talked into the self-pub route at one point or another and then went on to seek an agent. Or maybe I'm mistaken in thinking that happens...

Thank you Janet and whomever submitted the question!

Colin Smith said...

First, congrats to our writer friend for the success you've found with your memoir in its current form! I hope that serves you well as you seek out a larger audience.

Janet: I found your passing comment about large publishers using POD for small print runs interesting. Has this always been the case, or has the industry's increasing comfort with less traditional forms of publishing contributed to this practice?

Good Q&A! :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I say bitching, ah pitching to an agent or larger press is absolutely the way to go. Like we’ve said here before, what have you got to lose? Great question.

And off-topic, I agree with Colin’s comment yesterday, (can’t remember which one, he hands out a lot of tasty cookies), we should visit each other’s blogs at the end of this week. I finally updated mine so drop by if you can. I’m comin’ on over to yours. If you can’t comment or don’t want to, that’s ok, just say hi or not. I’ll know you’ve been there anyway by the tracks in the dust.
Oh Colin, please leave out a plate of your best lima bean and kale appetizers, the ones with the gorgonzola wrapped liver sushi. Yum.

Unknown said...

When I handled special orders for an indie bookshop I remember placing a big order with Simon and Schuster for a POD title. A local business was hosting an event with the author. This was about 5 years ago. I'd occasionally have other orders for POD titles but we never carried these books in our inventory.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

What an opportunity for this writer to have. When the term "niche" is used, is it in reference to memoir? Or something more specific such as vocation or health issues or whatever?

And adding my 2 cents worth to 2N's comment above (as I didn't get a chance to add in yesterday to Colin's comment), visiting one another's blogs is a wonderful idea. A good thing to do while the Shark takes a well-deserved break.

Karen McCoy said...

I'm so glad you posted about POD. I attended a workshop this weekend that had information about POD that sounded wrong, wrong, wrong. The presenter (who I think had a few screws loose) made it sound like the author pays up front. But this sounded like a vanity press to me, and I've always heard that "money goes to the author".

JulieWeathers said...

I cannot begin to express how much I despise Google+. Oh, you don't want me? No problem.

What? Get out of your bed too?

You didn't say I couldn't take a shower with you.

I'm just handing you the toilet paper so you don't have to stretch.

Why are you in the dog house? It's going to be kind of crowded for all of us here.

Someone vandalized your house and changed the locks, but it's all right. I had them changed again. Here's your new key. I had several duplicates made in case you lose it.

Did you know the light really does go out when you close the refrigerator door? It's dark in here. Are those chains I hear dragging around the refrigerator? Are we moving?

Someone stole your refrigerator. Don't worry, I'm all right. I saved you some cheese.

Some scammer set you back to blogger, but I saved you. You're back on Google+ again. Is that foam coming out of your mouth? I think you're supposed to take your teeth out before you use those tablets.

Sian said...

As a former supply chain manager for a big publisher and the daughter of independent bookstore owners, I can affirm that POD is indeed a method of printing, not a method of publishing. I believe one of the issues with the Amazon vs. Hachette situation was that Amazon wanted the right to POD titles that they had run out of stock on, instead of reordering from the publisher. Either way, authors have no control whether their book is printed POD or in larger runs.

I will, however, disagree with the suggestion you can't tell a book is POD from buying it. POD books look slightly different (the cover is often less vibrant) and there are far fewer bells and whistles in terms of production quality, like paper.

At my former employer, the books we printed POD fell under a certain sales threshold and didn't warrant even an 1000 book reprint.

Dena Pawling said...

Congrats on your memoir! I think if I wrote my own memoir, my mother might be my only buyer, possibly to help her fall asleep at night. Good luck with your future plans.

When Colin mentioned yesterday to visit fellow woodland creature blogs, I thought it was a great idea. I went to his right then, which was a mistake because in a fit of positive thinking aka insanity, I signed up for the A to Z blog challenge he has linked on his site. Woe is me.

Hopefully the rest of you have blogs which are much more benign and won't make me do something equally crazy.

Anonymous said...

Re: niche market - yes, I believe it meant something more specific than memoir. It almost sounds like the niche would have been a specific type of business, especially if it did that well and will appeal to a wider audience.

Re: paying for print on demand - I believe that you would pay up front. 'Print on demand' is basically getting a printer to print up your books. It's not a publisher, it's not a marketer - it's just a printing technology, as mentioned earlier. If you were to take your book to Joe the Printer and wanted him to print up 50 copies for your family, you would pay up front. And that is what print on demand is.

I wonder if it would create more work for Janet if she could post a mostly empty post Thursday morning (or Wednesday night), just so we could all put our website/blog links in the comments? This would make it easier for everyone to visit all the websites and blogs, having them all in one place with easily clickable links (although Colin may be busy making many links clickable...) Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

And I'd like to add my congratulations to this author, with everyone else's. That's the sort of success we all aspire to.

Colin Smith said...

Dena: I never knew my blog could be such a dangerous place. Though I'm glad you've signed up. I'll enjoy reading your posts. :)

bj: I like that idea. Of course, people will need to be sure they don't post links that--to paraphrase Janet--don't cause personal bank accounts or naughty bits to increase. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm actually intrigued by the questioner's set up and wish I knew more about their memoir - particularly the piece about general public, "who would appreciate and learn from my memoir."

I mean, unless it's about living as a circus clown, the decision to become a nun, or a real account of "How I Exited The Mafia," my curiosity is up about the book.

Either way, congratulations on your successes thus far and hopefully, your approach to agents or a larger press will also go well.

Colin, great idea on visiting blogs! You know I've already been lurking around yours, as well as a few others out here, even if, like you said, I don't always comment, I still like to see what folks are saying outside of the QOTKU's environment.

Christina Seine said...

Hi gang! Just been lurking these last few days - life took one of those crazy turns where I'm so busy I can hardly breathe. It's always feast or famine, isn't it?

I love what Janet said about religion yesterday. Our Easter is coming up, but being (Russian) Orthodox Christian, our church follows the Old (Julian) Calendar so our Easter, or Pascha, is a week after yours. Thank God I've got an extra week to get ready (5 kids, are you kidding me?) because it always sneaks up on me. Of course these two weeks also have our school testing days (we homeschool but go through a state-run charter so we do testing too), taxes, seed planting for the garden, and our bees will arrive soon - and bees will happen when they happen; you don't put off 8,000-10,000 bees. At some point in there I need to finish editing this book of mine, because August 1 is going to be here before you know it, and that's when the conference in NYC happens.

One of the greatest things about Pascha (Easter) is that for 40 days prior we don't eat meat or dairy (Lent). The whole Easter basket tradition stems from bringing your meat and cheese goodies to the church to be blessed, and you dig in as soon as the midnight service is over around 3 am. There is nothing in the whole world that tastes better than a piece of ham or bacon when you haven't had meat for 40 days (well, unless you're a full-time vegan, of course). My kids all know exactly what they want in our basket. I'm trying to convince my son that a shredded moose taco that's been sitting in a basket for some four hours won't be nearly as tasty as he supposes, but you can’t argue with a 12-year-old.

Regarding today’s post, I think brianrschwarz nailed it – this was a fascinating topic “I had no idea I wanted to learn more about!” And Colin, I absolutely love your idea about linking all of our blogs. I’d love to link up and follow everyone here. In time, maybe we can post them all to the Carkoon Pinterest board too.

Janet, I hope you have a wonderful Holy Week!

Colin Smith said...

In the event Janet goes along with the "share your home" link event, might I suggest we don't just limit it to blogs? Some of you may already be assuming this, but just to state it: the idea is that you share your "home" link. This might be your blog, your Pintrest board, your Facebook page--whatever social media you inhabit that you consider your "home," where people can visit and get to know you better.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

I have a question for Jenny Chou, what, in numbers, is a big order? I imagine it was a book store.

Congratulations to the OP for their success. What niche is it?

Dena & Colin, I've done daily blog challenges but nothing like Janet's everyday since forever. It's time consuming and increases links but commenting regularly and not daily works for me. My clients seem to appreciate it more.

I've been lurking on other vommenters blogs. Julie, Perhaps I'm weird, but I love google +.

Discovering others through navigating and googling, without the quick link, is part of the fun. Should I flinch as you all virtually throw rotten eggs my way.

Christina, Spring and the orthodox Pascha in Alaska sound amazing. 8000 bees sounds scary. I bet the honey is good.

AJ Blythe said...

I also think Colin has a great idea in checking out the cyber home of y'all. As it's forecast to be wet and cold this weekend, it seems to be the perfect time for it :)

Unknown said...

Argh, Colin, you know what you've done, right? You've given me a time-limited window to actually post my first couple of articles on my website! I was counting on procrastinating for at least another month or two, you know.

Thanks for the kick in the... uh, the great idea ; )

Colin Smith said...

Kelsey: Glad to be of... uh... help? :)

Lilac said...

Colin, thank you so much for bringing up virtual homes which are not blogs. :-)

I invite all of you to visit me on FB. My FB name is Lilac Rose Shoshani. I added the name Rose in solidarity with a Syrian girl. But that's a long story. Here is the link to my timeline:

PS A friendly warning, I will probably write a speech for the holidays on FB: brace yourselves…;-)