Friday, November 10, 2023

New Authors - Prepare For A Tough Road Ahead

I remember when I first started the agency. It seemed to feel like life was pretty dang good for authors. New authors could get pretty good contracts and fairly fast. I do remember one conference where an editor stood up to announce the winner of the division she had judged and, instead of saying who took 1st or 2nd, she proceeded to tell the authors to meet her in the other room because she had 3 book contracts for ALL of the finalist. I remember another author who got a 3 book contract after her book was passed on to a publisher from a random book seller who "just liked the book." One of my authors pitched a book to an editor when she had only 50% finished, and walked away with a 3 book deal. 

Don't we all love these stories?

But then around 2008 when the financial world took a down turn, publishers changed their approaches. In the past, there were three levels of authors. Your top rung with the BIG authors, the mid-listers and then the low hanging fruit who still got pretty good contacts. When the publishers saw money not flowing in the way it had, the low level group was cut and the mid-listers had to be better than mid-listers. 

And things really didn't improve much.

Then the E-book and self-publishing lines kicked in and suddenly people realized they could do this on their own. Conferences started shifting to "how to sell your book" and away from teaching people how to write a good book. The market was now saturated by a lot of authors. It became an issue of supply and demand. The supply was through the roof and the number of readers just did not change. 

And then Covid hit and now people had a ton of time on their hands. They sat in their homes and cranked out stories, which, unfortunately, were far from good. They just wrote. 

So now we sit here in 2023. Publishers are limited as to where they can sell books (thank you so much streaming services and the lack of reader). Stores that used to have books have not given up that space to the seasonal displays. Books stores that were there have down sized (yes, I know Barnes and Noble is trying to make a comeback but that will be a while before we see anything there). Companies like Harlequin that uses to have their dedicated endcap space have lost it. And that means that the number of author slots available for new authors has diminished.

When you talk to publishers, they will tell you they are booked out many years in advance. They are simply not going to take a risk on new authors when they have no track record and the publishers have no idea where the industry will be in 5 years (don't we wish we could make that prediction???)

So, where does that leave new authors? You have to not just be good but you have to be incredibly AMAZING! Mediocre is not going to cut it. Writing what is currently out there is not going to work. You have to bring something new and unique to the table. You have to show you can write AMAZING stories with characters that we just beg to read more of.

Yes, this is a huge task. Yes, this is probably an unfair burden. But, it is the reality of the world today.

Don't quit. Learn to write. Don't rush it and prove your story and you are worth the bet!

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Depth Doesn't Mean More Storylines

Too often, authors misinterpret the phrase "I need to see more" when they hear from editors and agents (and even critique partners). For these authors, they start dumping more "backstory" for their characters, more reasons for why the characters  a certain way, more random secondary characters and plots, or simply more scenes that are repetitive to things we have already read. Other authors may even do this to just increase a word count to get their story better positioned to submit to certain publishers. 

And all this does is ruin the story.

In fact, a frequent comment I have for submissions that come to me is "TOO MUCH." The author has just overwhelmed me with a lot of things that are not necessary. In the end, the great initial story idea is muddled with so much, we forget about the main character and what really mattered.

The idea of "I need to see more" is give us a chance to make that character more three-dimensional. Let us see other emotions. Let us see "how" the hero and heroine, in the case of a romance, get together. Show us falling for each other. If this is a suspense or romantic suspense, get us into the mind of the detective watching how he or she is figuring out the issues. SHOW us when and how he or she works through those regular roadblocks in the case. 

Take the time to go beyond simply the dialogue of the story. Think of it this way. Picture yourself sitting in a staff meeting. You are at a corner table and someone in the room brings up some idea. You listen to what this person says, You might disagree with the person, or agree but don't like the person. What is going on in your head? We don't need to see some scene that happened in college between you and the person. Go with the reactions in the room at that time.

So, your project today is to maybe get out there and start trimming before writing more stuff. 

Monday, November 6, 2023

Don't Limit Yourself With Your Story

I was recently talking to some authors at a conference and heard time and time again, authors who have limited their potential for getting their works published. In an effort to make their stories special, they have narrowed thing so much that now they are stuck in a niche market. 

I get that you might think a story set in the Pacific Northwest focusing on traditions in the Pacific Northwest sounds great! I am not going to deny it. HOWEVER, does anyone outside of the Pacific Northwest care? NOPE!

The same goes for the authors who want to write a Christmas story. Sure, it sounds good, but remember, there are only so many of those books coming out during that month. 

I also understand that these authors are thinking that they are going to have a hard time competing with the general fiction books from the other major authors during the rest of the year. Yes, you will. However, you will have more publishers to work with. 

Let me return to a couple of those authors I spoke to over the weekend. 

The author writing about the Pacific Northwest was not just writing about the region. This was also based on a real range war that happened so this was also a western (sort of). Heavy research into the book but the market is just not there. For this author, the best he can hope for is some independent publisher, and with them, they only release so many books a year. Bigger competition. 

For the other author, this person was writing about a group of people who were emigrating out of Quebec during one year in the middle of the 60's. Totally interesting story, however, if you are not familiar with the time, with the region, with Canada... you see what I mean? The market is just not there. 

Keep that in mind as you start thinking about that book you are now writing.l 

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Don't Send Multiple Projects At The Same Time

I fully get writers are trying to show us they are eager and have a lot to offer so they send multiple projects in the same email, or multiple different emails with different projects.

But there is a problem to this.

If you were to just wait and hear response from us, the odds are you can make sure the later projects are not making the same mistake. Too often, the mistakes you made in manuscript 1, will be the same in 2, 3, and 4. 

Wait for the letter. Make sure to make changes in the later stories and send that verison.

I would also add that it is too easy for us to just make a blanket rejection for all of the projects.

Just some words of advice.