Saturday, April 02, 2016

I'm ready to be published under my own I have to tell you about those other books?

I’ve published two novellas via Amazon Kindle under a pseudonym. They’re not fantastic, not terrible, sold okay...but now I’m preparing to query traditionally and I plan on querying and (hopefully) getting published under my real name. Should I even bother bringing up the pseudonym-self-published books? 

You say just what you said to me here: "I've published two novellas under a pseudonym" and leave it at that. It's important to mention this only because your agent needs to know you've got some publishing history.  It won't mean the difference between yes or no on this new novel, but it can mean the difference between debut/not a debut. You don't want to discover the hard way that your agent has been pitching you as a debut if you're not.


Sam Hawke said...

Morning everyone.

Follow up question for Janet - since this issue comes up a fair bit, what sort of difference does it make trying to sell a strict debut vs a first novel by someone formerly self-publishing novellas, say? Are publishers more likely to be excited about a debut author? Does it affect the terms they offer?

Donnaeve said...

Good question, Sam. That was exactly what I was wondering...along with this other question.

If OP says "I've published two novellas under a pseudonym," and that's all they say to potential Agent, is this simply to set the stage for more questions - if potential Agent wants to ask? I have to think a query with that in it would prompt more questions, for sure.

***The entries for April Fools Fake Contest - IMO - were some of THE MOST CREATIVE I've ever read out here! My entry wouldn't go in because I was stringing all the words together. You'd have to read the story to get that, but Blogger kept thinking it was HTML code, so POO! on that, but it's just as well because everyone else was on the A Game!

Lisa Bodenheim said...

The Shark's comment to Opie about pitching him/her, or not, as a debut author triggers a related question. I have a published non-fiction book and other non-fiction articles, pieces in anthologies, etc, paid and unpaid. If I were to successfully acquire an agent and editor for my novel, would I be considered a debut?

And I'm interested, too, in the answer to Sam's question.

Donnaeve, I agree. Such a fun way to start April and welcome in spring.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I also am curious as to the answer to Sam's question. I definitely have no published novels. There are a handful of short stories but they were published thirty years ago (yes, I am no spring chicken), but I don't mention those in my query because that was another life time ago.

And I agree with Donna. The April's Fool Day entries were simply brilliant.

Julie Weathers said...

I was busy fighting my blog yesterday, so I didn't comment here much. My blog seems to think no one is allowed to comment including me. However, yes, the April Fool's entries were great.

I do wonder if there is a special magic to "debut" attached to a novel. I'm always amused by singers being touted as overnight sensations when they've been struggling for years to break through. Is there some extra excitement to being the latest debut?

Donnaeve said...

Julie said, "Is there some extra excitement to being the latest debut?"

IDK, but I sure as heck hope so. :)

nightsmusic said...

Julie, I had that same problem in the past. It was an update to an addon and the fact that the addon was incompatible with the old but oh-so-wonderful template I was using that I can't use anymore. Hope you got it fixed.

Yesterday's 'entries' were great! I needed the laughs. Thank you all :)

To the OP, I would think full disclosure is, as Janet says, absolutely imperative for a number of reasons, not the least of which, if you had what you call okay sales, that speaks to your writing. An unknown author having 'okay' sales is a good thing.

Panda in Chief said...

It took me 40 years to be an overnight sensation?

Colin Smith said...

It seems Sam has asked the question on everyone's mind: What benefit is there to being a debut author? Do you get special attention from publishers? Are agents more excited about you if you don't have those indie novels selling on Amazon? Or is it harder to get attention if you're debuting?

Hope y'all are having a great weekend! :)

Craig F said...

If you don't tell people will feel slighted when it is found out. It will be found out and readers remember slights more than a decent book. In fact they make some up. Look at how some liberals are castigating Robert Heinlein for being a Libertarian. That was how the world worked when he was writing.

If you do tell you might not be able to gain any awards for a debut book but you can prove readership. It seems that the more readers you can touch the bigger your advance might be.

In a choice between pissing people off or collecting money I'll take the money.

Off topic: I have gotten sick of the television weather pukes getting a gleam in their eyes when a weather event comes. Currently I am watching a squall line approach and had to give up on the gloom and doom predictions.

Craig F said...

In other news: Verizon surrendered their flag to Frontier here in Tampa yesterday. I think Frontier picked a bad day to do it. How dumb do you have be to take over a half-assed internet company and replace it with a quarter-assed internet company on April Fool's Day.

That not quite smooth as promised turnover seemed to create some sort of black hole in the internet. With luck they will figure out what they are doing soon and the interweb will get back up to speed.

mememe said...

OP here. I would definitely bring it up at some point (I'm certainly not ASHAMED of my old short stories/novellas, I just wasn't sure how much they counted since the longest is 60 pages.
When, though, should I bring it up? In my query, or later after I catch the eye of an agent?
Thanks guys, and thank you Janet!

Bethany Elizabeth said...

OP (or do you prefer Unknown?): I would guess that the query letter would be the right place to say it, especially if you don't spend a paragraph elaborating. There's no need to tell your life story in a query (unless you're querying a memoir, I guess), but previous publications would probably fall in the bucket of introductions.

Just imagine what you'd want to know if you were an agent. Would you want to know if Author Awesome has 12 cats if she's querying a novel on, say, the criminal underside of ice cream manufacturing? Or would you want to know if she previously published a short story in an anthology on murders in the chocolate-covered toppings store? I think the latter would be more important.

Lennon Faris said...

I'm guessing a debut author is special only because no one knows him/ her. Their work *could* be the next Harry Potter. The possibilities are endless when you're ignorant!

I did enjoy the Spurtle entries as well.

Julie Weathers said...

"Or would you want to know if she previously published a short story in an anthology on murders in the chocolate-covered toppings store?"

Should I mention if I was involved, hypothetically of course, in chocolate topping murders or just if I write about them? Asking for a friend.

Julie Weathers said...

Lennon, I know. I'm going to order a spurtle to go with my ulu. I like being diverse.

The Sleepy One said...

One idea: don't mention the novellas in your query letter, but do bring them up either when sending the manuscript to the agent in response to a query request, or bring it up during the call with an agent before signing. This is all before the agent would start pitching you as a debut author.

John Frain said...

So this begs one more question.

I'm assuming one retains debut status if one has had short stories published. Would novella allow OP to retain debut status as well? Sounds like the longest is 60 pages, which barely encroaches on novella status.

Seems to my (usually unenlightened) mind that OP could pitch those as published short stories in a query.

Congrats on your current status, OP, and good luck moving to the next level. It's just over the horizon. Keep writing!

KariV said...

I agree with Janet's advice. It falls under "housekeeping" in Query 101. You mention your publishing history (if you have it). In OP's case, they have it. Even if the self-pubbed novellas didn't do great it's still an indication of how much skin you have in the game vs being a benchwarmer waiting for your big break.

Megan V said...

I self-pubbed a couple of short stories as a teenager, under a pseudonym, different genre and category than the manuscripts I now write. My classmates and I were encouraged to do so by a teacher. There's one novel too, same story, which self-pubbed after a college friend thought it'd be a great surprise. (It was a surprise all right...) I left it alone for a bit, then eventually got around to taking the book down. I never thought of these as publishing history and thus, never mentioned the above in my queries. I suppose I thought those old stories would always be more a part of the conversation rather than the immediate introduction, kind of like telling a significant other about a prior unsatisfactory relationship—best told AFTER the first date, and yet, long before the nuptials.

mememe said...

OP here again, and I think you, John, asked my question better than I did!
Let me elaborate a bit more: a little while ago I was desperate for even the barest amount of cash and I had written out some novelettes I was proud of. I hadn't even bothered with traditional publishing because they were the exact wrong length for any sort of traditional venue: too long for a lit mag and too short for a novel or even really a novella. As I said, the longest was 60 pages, that's double spaced, 10K words. I sold them for 99 cents and managed to do okay: much better than I had expected (though I had expected squat).
But now I have a fully-edited 100k novel with a polished query letter (thank you, Janet) ready to go. The novel I have is in the same genre as my old works, and I am proud of the works (pseudonym aside) so while I certainly wouldn't mind showing them to an agent, I still wonder if I have revoked the ever-treasured debut status.
My woodland critter mind is frazzled!

John Frain said...

me cubed, I'm good at questions. It's answers that provide the struggle. Also, be careful about stating your 100k novel is "fully edited." I've thought that a few times with mine. And you know what I'm doing on a Saturday night? EDITING! Cutting, cutting, cutting.

Aside to Megan V: I love your analogy to a first date. That's good stuff. You must be a writer or somethin'.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I have to echo John. I have thought I was done, done, done time and again. I was on the point of sending my R&R and full request, but no. It's Saturday night and I am editing like a crazy woman. And there's no beer. Tea. I have tea. And 6 more chapters to go. Brutal.

Julie Weathers said...

Mememe (I feel like I should be singing that.)

This is a conversation you'll need to have with your agent when you have one. However, and this is why I've been very careful about offers to help me self-pub, once you do it you're no longer a virgin. When that volcano is threatening to destroy the island and they need a virgin to sacrifice, you can't say, "That time with Auggie doesn't really count because it was so...wasn't very good." Refrains from stubby finger comment.

On the plus side, you're published!! Turn everything to your advantage.

“The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon.”
― Robert Cormier

Lennon Faris said...

Oh man. Off topic now but John and EM, I am there too. Every time I think it's done, I read through some passage from my WIP and realize that I took too long to get to the point. Or running an errand, I have an epiphany on how to make a scene more vivid and come running back to my laptop. It's either a chronic disease or an addiction that's impossible to shake. Editing feels eternal.

I wonder if, after you're published, that goes away?? Or do you read your story in print and think, 'shoot, I coulda made that part better.' I'm guessing writers will always find a way to drive themselves nuts, so I bet it's the latter.

Julie Weathers said...


You never finish wanting to edit, but at some point you do say, "I have done the best I can for you, child."

Anonymous said...

I'm confused now too. I get the part about telling an agent at the query stage that you have previous pub credits (of any kind). But I'm a little less certain about the part where you say that won't make a difference between yes and no on the decision whether to offer to rep new work. I thought that past experience (and related sales history) DID matter to an agent. I could swear I remember you saying that a non-debut author with less-than-stellar sales would be less attractive to an agent (or editor/publisher) than one without that history. Hope you can clarify.

Lennon, at some point you just have to accept that you did the very best you could with a thing, given the ability you had at the time you did it. And let it go. If you're very lucky and work very hard, you will always see ways you could have made past work better. Which, frankly, is why I fail to see the intrinsic value of a debut author, as that "first" (ie, first published) book is likely to be not as good as future work. But what do I know.

Craig F said...

Me3x: I have considered this most of the day. Write a simple line in the housekeeping section. " I have self published several novellas as me3x."

If your query almost blows the doors off of you intended prey(agent) they might check and see that you already have a reader base. It can only help.

Edit3x: STOP IT. Your job as a writer is to fill out a plot with panache. Make sure you have a beginning, a middle that holds it together and and an ending.

Edit to make sure it all marches all the way through. Make sure conversations aren't too weird and check the punctuation. The query it. If you try too hard you edit the MAGIC OUT OF IT.

Megan V said...

John: Or somethin' is probably most accurate. Is there such a thing as an ism-er? I have a lot of isms.

Julie: What do you mean I can't be the sacrifice? And here I got all gussied up for nothin'

Julie Weathers said...

Julie: What do you mean I can't be the sacrifice? And here I got all gussied up for nothin'--

Megan, you're a writer. You've already sacrificed your heart and soul.

Julie Weathers said...


Techie son figured out JetPack is broken. He disabled some things on the blog, which changes the appearance, but at least the comments are working again.

Eldora said...

There are some great perks out there for debut authors. International Thriller Writers has a great program to help its debut authors network and promote their work. There are also quite a few awards specifically for debuts. And while Janet is correct--be upfront and honest about your pub history--marketing campaigns sometimes employ semantic wizardry. GIRL ON THE TRAIN is called a "debut psychological thriller" on Goodreads, and has been nominated for at least one debut award, though the author has published a non-fiction book and four romantic comedy novels (the novels used a pseudonym). It's technically true that GOTT is her "debut psychological thriller" even though it's not her debut novel or publishing debut.

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

This weekend I met an indie author who has thirty books out within the past three years(!). This year she said she was hoping to crack $100,000 in sales (!!).

I thought, is that even possible? Looked her up. Realised I'd met one of The Ten--the ten indie authors who make more than $10K a year. There are some crazy-fast folk who can turn out enough books that are good enough to attract enough readers to bring in a living wage. Alas, there are only ten of them in the world.

Got me to wondering about hybrid authors who start out indie. Most indie-published books are so-so, and the long tail of low sales tends to support that.

I can understand why an agent would cringe at seeing "I've got a few indie books published". While indie publishing has gained some respect and there's some good authors out there, one can still see the stroke lines of the Shame Brush on some indie books. (If one is to go indie/hybrid, one really needs to have one's work edited and good cover art. Otherwise, one just looks... amateur.)

The difference between a debut author and a non-debut author is that a debut author doesn't have a bad sales record.

Saying that, at what point do indie book sales start looking good to an agent, as in, this particular author has proven they can write saleable books, the books that people are willing to pay money for?

Would it be worth mentioning in Housekeeping, "I've indie published three novels and they're sitting at #99 on Amazon ever since they came out"?

roadkills-r-us said...


If you read the book again after it's published, and you are any sort of decent author, you will find things you want to change. Heck, if you open it to check something you will probably find things you want to change. I woke up one morning after I thought the book was ready, *without having reread it for at least a week*, with a glaring plot discrepancy staring me in the face. I thought I was going to have to rewrite entire chapters; thankfully there turned out to be an easy fix- a new paragraph here and two there, and move a paragraph or two. Whew!

Bonnie @ A Backwards Story said...

You get more than one "debut" if you genre-hop, though. As a YA blogger, I'm constantly seeing things such as, "VICIOUS is Victoria Schwab's adult debut" or "SUMMERLOST marks Ally Condie's middle-grade debut." It doesn't seem to matter if an author has a previous best-selling book/series/etc: As soon as you publish in a new genre, you're a debut!!!

When I first started seeing it, I was so confused. "But, wait, didn't that author previously purchase...???"

You also have a choice, imo. You didn't write those novellas under the name you'll use for your novels. If you don't talk about them, how will anyone know you wrote them? Or what about all the authors who wrote fanfic before they were published? They'll be like, "Oh, I wrote fanfic back in the day" and not say WHAT they wrote. Maybe you could do something like that, too!