Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I Was Published In The Past And Want To Be Published Now!

Every now and then, I receive a submission from a writer that, at one time in the past, was successful. They had projects sold to publishers and then, for some reason, the writing stopped and now they are back writing again. For many of these writers, there is a belief that because they had been successful in the past, they can somehow move up the hierarchy of writing quicker. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

We have to consider several things with this before we can talk about the present situation. First of all, it is crucial to understand why there is a gap in the writing. Sure, in some cases, a writer might have had real life get in the way of the writing. The time simply wasn't there to focus on their craft. Jobs, relationships, children, sickness - the list can go on and on. But there are also cases where the editor simply didn't acquire any more books. Maybe the writing fell flat. Maybe the publisher changed focus.

Whatever the case may be, as an agent, I have to really look at why this gap happened. If the person's writing quality died out, can we be certain it is still in bad shape? Sure, we'll look at the writing, but that trend might be too hard to overcome.

Regardless of the reason, a writer that has taken a break such as this needs to really take some additional steps to get going again. The first is to make sure the writing really is up to par with what is out there now. Writing changes, like everything else in life. Voices, tone, style, all change. While your writing might have been good then, is it good now? Sure the craft might be there but the voice might not be right.

At some level, these writers have to see themselves starting from ground zero again. What happened in the past really doesn't matter now.



  1. You are so right! I don't know if authors ever really believe this until they actually have a long gap in their publishing history. My one and only book came out in 1996 and I feel guilty even putting it in a query letter. I've had people (including an agent) tell me not to mention when the book came but I feel I'm misrepresenting myself if I leave out the year. About two years ago, I had an agent who haphazardly marketed my not-so-good ms. to Christian publishers but he didn't do either of us any good. I wish he'd pointed out my weaknesses ... that the entire first chapter looked like all backstory. ARGHGHGHH!
    So right now ... I'm just writing, writing and rewriting. As you say... trying to get going again. :) When I'm ready to approach an agent again, I want to have several completed projects to offer. :-) Prayers needed!

    Thanks Scott. Good post.

  2. I'm glad you've addressed this problem. I had two books published by a small press in 2003 and 2005 that went under in 2006. I'm now trying to market two more novels I've written in the interim, but I don't know if I'm hurting myself to mention the two books that were published previously with a dead company. I got great reviews, but sales were slim because the company had distribution problems. Would I be better off pretending to be a newbie?