Friday, September 9, 2011

The Problem With Working With Unfinished Projects - We Can't Predict The Future

Working with projects on proposal is really difficult, especially with newer authors. The simple truth is that we really don't know how the story is going to turn out in the end. We can make some guesses based on prior writing the author has done, but when it comes to the market, making a prediction on the book is just not something that can be done.

I am frequently asked by authors during pitch sessions, when I have passed on something that wasn't finished, whether or not they thought the story had potential. I simply don't know. There is a lot that can stand in the way of the success or failure of that book. What will the market be like at that time? Can the author actually finish the story in the way we think the story is heading, or will it get side-tracked? Will there be other authors that beat the author to the finish line and suck up the spot you were hoping for? In other words, no predictions.

I know there are a lot of agents out there that will sign on an author with a book that is far from ready to go to the publishers. They spend months working with this author. Editing, revising, editing revising and so forth. All in the hopes that the project "might" be reading and "might" sell. This is a tough gamble to take, especially for an agent. Remember, the only time an agent makes money is when the agent can sell the book. No sale, no income.

One of the best ways an author can determine if the book will sell is to take the time to know the market. There is nothing wrong with simply writing a story and hoping for the best, but to be successful takes a lot of dedication studying and learning the market you want to write for. Even as you are writing the story, you have to take time to keep studying the market.

As agents, we all wish we can predict the future. It would certainly make our life much easier. But the simple truth is we can't.


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