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  1. #151
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Window Bar View Post
    Hey Kat--

    That last post (call it two posts) of yours equals a full essay -- like a full length New Yorker article. Good info there. I have no clue how you find the time to write that kind of post, but thanks.

    --WB

    It's called staying up when I should be sleeping.


    Quote Originally Posted by CC
    Having had three friends with legitimate agents fail to land publishing contracts, my assumption from the anecdotal evidence was that actually landing a contract was a major part of the agent's job.
    Well like I said, you can't really get stuff going without a sale of some sort, usually the book rights. But that sale is the start, not the end. And as much as they would like to, agents can't guarantee you that they will get you a sale. Their job is to try as hard as possible to get you as many shots as possible at a sale, and then to get the best terms possible if they attract offers, but they can't make publishers do a licensing offer. And if they don't sell the project, while you may have to reimburse them for some costs (a lot of these reduced thanks to the Internet,) all the labor they do trying to get the sale, they aren't charging you for, unlike a lawyer. This is why some agents don't represent first timers and have a closed list -- it's a lot of work, long odds, and they may not end up with a deal, a career for their author, and any money out of it. But a first timer can often generate more excitement than a mid-lister and publishers are willing to risk losses on new books in hopes of having them pop, so a lot of agents do take submissions and go through them and look for what they really like and feel they'll have the best shot with. So an author who has got an offer, that's not necessarily a bad thing, it's just not the optimum thing for them to do their job of negotiating the best deal.

    One question: What would be considered huge sales?
    For print self-publishing, 5,000-10,000 copies or higher would be good. In electronic self-publishing, the line is higher, and I'm not sure what level is grabbing their attention, but if you're pulling 20,000-30,000 downloads at least, that at least makes you attractive. If you're doing a lot over that, like Amanda Hocking who's a bestseller, you can probably get a reprint deal with any house you want.

    If you're selling that well, you may not want a deal with a publisher, or you may. Amanda Hocking wanted to be able to distribute print copies on a wide scale, especially as she's writing for teens, wanted to extend her international market, and she wanted a publisher to take over some of the stuff she'd had to do to be able to spend more time writing, less on business, so she contracted a new series. But remember, Hocking did her first e-books thinking she might sell a few hundred copies and get enough cash for a vacation trip, not that she'd be all the rage on the Net. J.K. Rowling's children's publisher believed in Harry Potter, but paid Rowling a low four figure advance because that's what they estimated she'd earn in royalties for the book. So again, nobody knows what will happen in the market. Trying to gauge your sales by others' sales is not going to help much and authors don't directly compete with each other.

  2. #152
    Was: "Virangelus" A. Lynn's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Don't Analyze Too Much

    I've been seeing a lot of questions being asked about "what do I do this to get published? Will the market accept this story? How do i guarantee my book will sell?" Etc.

    Seth Godin is a notable marketer, and he himself has written books (though grant it, they are not fiction). On his blog, he posted this very interesting thought:

    Scientists make predictions, and predicting the future is far more valuable than explaining the past.
    Ask a physicist what will happen if you fire a projectile like this in that direction, and she'll know. Ask a chemist what happens if you mix x and y, and you'll get the right answer. Even quantum mechanics mechanics can give you probabilities that work out in the long run.
    Analysts who come up with plausible explanations for what just happened don't help us as much, because it's not always easy to turn those explanations into useful action.
    Take the layout of Craigslist. Just about any competent online designer would have predicted that it would fail. Too clunky, undesigned, too many links, not slick or trustworthy... Or consider a new r&b artist, or a brand new beverage.
    After the fact, it's so easy to say, "of course it worked..." and then make up a reason for whatever it is that just succeeded.
    The practice, then, is to start making predictions. In writing. You don't have to share them in public, but the habit will push you to understand your instincts and to sharpen your ability to see what works (and what doesn't) without the easy out of having to explain what already happened.
    Look at startups or political campaigns or new products or ad campaigns... plenty of places to practice your predicting skills.
    I predict you'll learn two things:
    It's really difficult to make predictions, because success often appears to be random
    Based on #1, it's probably smart for you to initiate more projects that aren't guaranteed winners, because most winners aren't guaranteed.
    And a bonus... the more you practice your predictions, the better you'll get at discerning where the science is.

  3. #153
    Registered User Carlyle Clark's Avatar
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    What would be considered good sales for traditional publishing--e-book and/or print?

  4. #154
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    It depends on the publisher.

  5. #155
    Registered User Carlyle Clark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    It depends on the publisher.

    Okay, how about Tor, or Daw or Del Rey, Orbit, Nightshade, or any kind major publisher of speculative fiction in the US?


    What kind of sales are needed to make the NYT bestseller list?

  6. #156
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Well that depends on the format the book is in and what week it is. Some weeks you'd need more than others because of other books out there selling at whatever rates they're selling. It also depends on where on the NYTimes list you're aiming for. If you are trying to get on the lower rungs of the Times mass market paperback list for instance, you might in some weeks do so with 50,000. But to get higher on the list in mass market paperback, you might need to sell in the millions, depending on the week. To get on the top twenty slots of the hardcover list, you need about 100,000 copies sold in a fairly rapid time period. In the past, when we had the bigger wholesale market, it was 200,000 copies and it may be on some weeks, in spring or November especially, that you would need that also.

    But that's not the only factor involved in your success. There's how many books the publisher decided to invest in printing, and how many books the bookstores decided to order, "purchase" as copies shipped out of the amount the publisher printed. And there are how many of the books that were shipped that are then returned, at the publishers expense. (For mass market paperbacks, the copies aren't returned -- they rip off the front covers and return those for the full refund because it's not worth shipping them back and they can't really be returned to stock, so they're just pulped. That's why if you buy a paperback without a front cover, you're buying an illegal one that was supposed to be pulped.)

    So if you don't have a good sell-through from copies printed, shipped, low returns, that can still be a problem for publishers even if you landed briefly on the NYTimes bestseller list. There are also many other bestseller lists besides the New York Times -- Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, booksellers' association lists, etc. and if an author is popping up on those lists, selling to a growing audience, climbing the lower rungs of big ones, that author can be very valuable to publishers. In SFF, these are the category bestsellers. An author may be selling very well in chain stores and online, but not in the indies often used as main counters for bestseller lists. A smaller press is not necessarily expecting you to get on the bestseller lists. A larger imprint would like you to get on it, but isn't necessarily expecting you to do so either. Most bestsellers are slow burn bestsellers -- they build up an audience over several books, sometimes several series, and then get to that level. That's why there are no short-term returns in fiction publishing, that and the fact that it's the front list that lures in and the back list that brings in most of the profits.

    So it's complicated, it's unpredictable and there are too many factors that neither you nor your publisher can actually control. I know that people keep trying to weigh self-publishing against print publishing like they're shopping, but it really doesn't work that way.

  7. #157
    Registered User Scorpion's Avatar
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    Thank you, Kat, for your time and the detailed explanations.

  8. #158
    We Read for Light Window Bar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    So it's complicated, it's unpredictable and there are too many factors that neither you nor your publisher can actually control. I know that people keep trying to weigh self-publishing against print publishing like they're shopping, but it really doesn't work that way.
    Hi KatG--

    All of the info from your last post is interesting. Did you spend some time in the New York publishing houses?

    -- WB

  9. #159
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Long ago, and as an agent, and then a freelance editor. So I hope I don't seem too abrupt or derisive at times. It's just what seems understandably weird to a lot of authors dealing with the marketplace is perfectly logical to me. Publishing people screw up sometimes. It's not a high money business and it is not the music industry, the film industry, the game industry, even the stage industry. But there is a logic to the basic way things are run, in part because there's no other way to do fiction publishing because of how people buy fiction and because there is a strong interest in writing fiction.

    I think the e-book/POD self-publishing market is an excellent thing. It moves the old self-publishing standby of book festivals into a continuous online farmer's market of books which browsers can try and in which authors can experiment. I don't discourage anyone from trying it. But unfortunately, too many authors have had sold to them the notion or mistakenly believe that there is a war between self-publishing and publishing, that they are the exact same things with the same factors, and that agents should cough up time and expense and publishers pay them money in investment just because they want it and if these folks don't do that, they're evil.

    You cannot make people invest in you as an author and you cannot make people read or buy your work. You have to ask whoever is willing to listen and let them decide. And that's hard when you want it so badly. But that's what it always comes back to.

  10. #160
    We Read for Light Window Bar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    You cannot make people invest in you as an author and you cannot make people read or buy your work. You have to ask whoever is willing to listen and let them decide. And that's hard when you want it so badly. But that's what it always comes back to.
    It's true. Any other work I've done, the business sort of builds on itself. But here, we essentially wake up each day unemployed. We don't know, when we go to bed, whether or not we'll sleep soundly enough to awaken with enough brain to write anything worthwhile; and if we do, we don't know if anyone will want to read it. Then, even if they do, we don't know if they'll want to read the next one. Strange masochism.

    Thanks -- WB

  11. #161
    Kat, love your website. Full of fun and funny stuff! When do you find time to do it all? I think the world is a poorer place since you left the publishing biz. What new writers like me need is an agent like you. I've added your site to my favorites. I'm your new fan.

  12. #162

    Advise

    I am a newbie in more than a few ways.

    I have read the posts on this forum and in particular this thread. They have been a valuable resource. Thanks to all who have posted their professional and real-world experiences.

    Before I ask my question, I need to explain why I have reached this forum and thread. I am current in a 3-4th revision on my novel, and I have been writing since an early age, 'bout 12 or 13; although in the 2nd grade I wrote a one page story using a vocabulary list for the week that got my parents called to the school. It was a positive call, thankfully, and one memory that I'm fond of. Also, I am finishing a Master's of Arts and Sciences in Spanish, which by the way takes most of my time. I believe I have written more in Spanish in the last 2 years than in English. I am slowly but surely getting close to finishing my best manuscript, and need some advise.

    The story takes place in the rural mid-south (USA, where I am from), and in an alternate reality/world. The two main characters are 18 to 20 years old with many other characters of varying ages and walks of life. As my studies have included many linguistics, sociolinguistics, phonology and phonetics classes, I have created an 'in-story' language with at least 3 distinct dialects from the main tongue. In addition to the language and its offshoots, I have written down (in note and outline form) the mythology and legends of this alternate world. The language and mythos all play a part in the evolution of the story from Earth to the alternate plain of reality.

    With the brief explanation of the project out of the way, my question is: since my revisions have extended the story to the 50-60k range with the potential of 80+, and since the main characters are in the 18-20 year old range, and, let us not forget, I have never had a work published out side of a school paper, would it be more beneficial to look at submitting this work to agents/publishers that specialize in young adult works?

    I appreciate any comments and advise.

  13. #163
    We Read for Light Window Bar's Avatar
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    Hi djjaes--

    If your book remains in the 50k-60k range, it's probably closer to the young adult size. Up around 80k-85k it eases into adult length.

    Probably more important is theme. If it's all about finding a new boyfriend, then it's definitely teen, and if the themes are about death and dying, then it's adult.

    Of course, that leaves a whole lot in the middle. When you were writing the piece, what age group did you envision as readers?

    Welcome to the forum.

    -- WB

  14. #164
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Welcome new people!

    Djjaes: At 18-20 for the characters, you can market the work to YA. However, it's not mandated. YA has a lot of opportunities still because it expanded over the last ten years and because it is selling well. There are quite a few agents repping YA. There are also additional marketing opportunities with YA -- going to schools, libraries, etc.

    Dark, serious content is not necessarily a problem for YA. Even a sex scene, depending, may be workable. But you do need to look at the content with an eye for a reading audience that is roughly 11-16 years old. If the themes of the work and the main story illuminate teen coming of age issues, then YA might be a good fit if that's where you want to be. There is also the adult general fiction market which publishes fantasy titles. Being in that market does not cut you off from the category SFF market. So you have options.

    What you might want to do is start by going to agents who handle fiction, YA fiction and SFF fiction. Then if the agent likes the book and offers to rep you, you and the agent can discuss whether it would be best in the YA or adult markets, depending on your career goals, and if adult, whether it should be marketed to the category imprints or general fiction ones.

  15. #165
    Quote Originally Posted by Window Bar View Post
    Hi djjaes--

    If your book remains in the 50k-60k range, it's probably closer to the young adult size. Up around 80k-85k it eases into adult length.

    Probably more important is theme. If it's all about finding a new boyfriend, then it's definitely teen, and if the themes are about death and dying, then it's adult.

    Of course, that leaves a whole lot in the middle. When you were writing the piece, what age group did you envision as readers?

    Welcome to the forum.

    -- WB
    I would say that my audience that I have envisioned were a younger group of people in the 16 to 25 range. The themes seem to be, not just a type of coming of age, but the acknowledgment of truth and the impact that it has on the lives of the main and subordinate characters. The main character has lived a life that up to that point has been shrouded in lyes (well not exactly lyes, but the truth until now {current book timeline} would not be appropriate to tell a child). Some of the other characters have hidden the truth to protect the main character, however. In the alternate reality the main character gets to explore his true origins and eventually has to fight to save his own life and that of his new friends.

    Overall, the themes are exploring the truth of who you are, fighting for something just, friendship and loyalty. I believe that these are important themes for YA's and adults.

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