Wednesday, July 31, 2013

WANTED: Career Writers And Not "One-Hit-Wonders"

As an agent, one of the things I look for in an initial query is a sense of who the author is and whether or not the author has a sense of the future. In other words, is there more than simply this single project the person is submitting to me. This does not necessarily mean I am looking for a person to submit to me a ton of projects all at one time. I am simply looking to see if this author is going to be around for the long haul.

I think what a lot of writers don't understand is that, with the exception of a few cases, you will not be able to retire with the sale of your first book. Oh sure, we would all love for that to happen, and yes, it does happen. But, like so many other issues we discuss in publishing, these are the exceptions to the rule. The majority of the authors out there become successful instead from building a following of readers who can't wait for the next "John Smith novel." As the author becomes more and more popular and that following becomes larger, the sales increase. With this increase, the publishers are willing to invest a little more in that author.

And when this happens, everyone makes money.

But there is another side of this that I do think a lot of authors fail to realize. As an agent, submitting to an editor becomes a bit easier and more effective when we can sell a package or if we have a fall back position. Let's focus on that package element first.

Part of the reason a lot of editors offer multi-book contracts revolves around how much they have to pay for a book. Let's say they offer $5000.00 for a single book contact. What happens if that book immediately becomes a huge world-wide best seller? The publisher certainly doesn't want to lose that author, but now they have to pay huge for the next book. Now a multi-book contract might hit $10,000.00 a book (please note these are just numbers and not actual figures). Totals for this would now be:

$5000.00 Book 1
$30,000.00 Book 2, 3, & 4
TOTAL $35,000.00

But, if the publisher offered a 4 book contract instead, they would likely offer the initial $5000.00 for each book making the grand total only $20,000.00, and a saving of $15,000.00

The fall back element of all this deals with situations when the editor decides to pass on a project we send. With this rejection is often the comment, "but what else does this person have?" We need to have something else we can send to the person. Again, "one hit wonders" leave us with no other option.

But this all deals with simply the early stages of a person's career. As agents, we are really hoping to work with an author over an extended period of time. This is the career building element and yes, this also returns to the element of building a following. For agents, we are investing time and energy in the early stages of that person's career in the hopes that we see success for those later books. Besides, it is those later books that are often much stronger because the writer has learned more about the business side of publishing as well as what it takes to tell a great story. 

Remember, when you send those queries out, think about your future and what you have to offer. Demonstrate that you have more than the single book you are submitting.


1 comment:

  1. Twitter led me here. Interesting article... sorta made me sad. I have honestly never considered that there are writers out there with One Idea that they believe to the The Big One that will make them $$$$$$.
    I mean, I know personally that you don't spring fully formed from the ground, that there a delay, a period of idea gathering after that first spark hits and you "decide to write a novel" as so many people do.
    But I've always thought that choosing to write comes from a passion. A passion that will keep you writing... that won't allow you to stop after you've committed to that first idea.
    Am I wrong in my sparkly-eyed impression? Maybe.
    The post above -- very good to know. Sad. But good ... if only to reaffirm that I am telling stories for the right reasons.
    Fellow writers, you passionate crowd of dreamers: unite!