Thursday, February 13, 2020

When your past comes back to haunt you

I'm working through a backlog of queries this week and finding some really interesting projects. I've noticed however that some of you think I don't skulk around in your publishing past.

If you've been published previously, and tell me about it, I look up your book/s.

Which means if you self-published them, I know that and wonder why you didn't say that in the query.

Which means if your first book got six reviews, all of them bad, I see that too.

Which means if your last book was published ten years ago, and you don't have any social media presence, I see that too.

If you've got a less than stellar publishing history,


If that that first book with the terrible reviews isn't indicative of your work today,

Query Under a New Name. 
It's not lying.
It's not obfuscating.
It's not a violation of trust.

At some point you'll have to tell me, but it's ok that it's Not Now.

I am not actively looking for people who need career resuscitation.
I'm not sure any agent is.

Any questions?


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

But suppose the project is stellar and the writing superb. Do you inquire, guide and sign the author based on new and exciting instead of old and misguided?
At what point does project outweigh past?

Colin Smith said...

I agree with 2Ns. Would not a compelling query/story override these concerns? I understand you're looking at it from the POV of trying to sell the novel to a publisher, and the potential fall-out if the author's dubious back catalog comes to light.

But are there not ways you can mitigate that? Deleting back catalog and being open about having written stuff in the past that is not representative of who you are now as an author, for example. In other words, let the current work speak for itself while being open and honest about previous, less-than-stellar work. Or is cancel culture so pervasive that authors need to hide behind pseudonyms to distance themselves from their past? As if it's that easy these days...

Please explain, QOTKU! :)

Richelle Elberg said...

And, you can't get rid of an old paperback you self-published in CreateSpace for Amazon. I thought I had, more than a year ago, and recently went to check and discovered (after a lot of time spent trying to find the relevant info on Amazon's site) that if you sold even one paperback, the listing stays up forever, because third party sellers may have an old dog-eared copy. I was also bummed to see that where all my old reviews were 4-5 stars, someone read it last year (when I thought it wasn't even live) and gave it just 1 star and called it boring. This was very distressing to me--I can't get rid of it! So I guess Janet is saying use a pseudonym to query, but I just launched my new Richelle Elberg website! Like a week ago. AAAaaarrrrrggggghhhhh

Chris Desson said...

At the end, you said to query under a new name. What if you don't have any previously-published books but share the same name as an author who has been dead for a while and wrote a different genre than you? Do I indicate in the query that I am not that person or should I change my name entirely?

Janet Reid said...

Yes, you def. want to mention you are not the Other Chris when you query.

Adele said...

I don't really understand the deal-killer here. Surely it's just a matter of switching to a pen-name? What am I missing?

Chris Desson said...

Thank you, Janet

Linda Shantz said...

The name thing kind of gives me fits. I have a solid web presence - as an artist. If you google my name, the first page of rankings is me (though ironically, the photo a human that comes up is not!). I did just do a couple of little drawing prompt books which now show up as well. I always figured if I were to actually get a novel published, I'd use my initials, or a pseudonym, to differentiate writer me from artist me, but anyone I suggest that to says no, I should use my name as an artist (because I'm kind-of-sort-of well-known. I figured I'd cross that bridge if I come to it!

I did wonder if an agent might be confused if they googled my name, and thought it might make sense that the artist and I are the same person! I hope it's not a detrimental thing, though?

Mike Warner said...

Regarding self-published books — in one part of my draft CV I list my prior book and the publishing company. In another part of the CV, I say I own the publishing company. Is that a reasonable approach, or should I just plainly say, “this puppy is self-published”?