October 27, 2004

Starting at the top

A person asked on the Forward Motion site:

When, say, writing a query to an agent, do they take an eBook publishing as a previous credential seriously, or is it looked down upon as say self publishing may be? (getting published is like sex - don't brag about it if you had to pay ) I have been thinking about trying to get a novel published as an ebook. After all, since they don't have to worry as much about production cost etc they can afford to take more chances (well, at least that is what I have been thinking). I'm not too worried about money (well, i'd like and need some,but I'm not planning on becomming a millionaire), but my dream is to one day have my writing in print.

In all seriousness, why not start at the top?

If you've finished a novel, before you hand it over to the lowest rung on the ladder, try using it to get an agent.

The only -- ONLY -- time I would recommend going the ebook route is that you've had 100 agents tell you that it stinks and you don't want to do a major rewrite to make it better.

Three or four agents don't make a serious try. Agents are like readers -- they have likes and dislikes. Three or four attempts to get an agent might not mean the book is not a bestseller, but it didn't suit those four. Really, go there and hammer on agents until you've heard from dozens of them.

If dozens and dozens of them say "No" and then you're looking at possiblity ebook material. Still not to say that your writing is bad, or this book is bad, but the agents might be seeing that this is such a niche (like erotica) that isn't easily handled by them.

It doesn't make sense to do all the work on writing the book and then not putting in the work to try and sell it to the best possible market. The big publishers are the ones that are going to pay you an advance and royalties, give you advertising, get your books into bookstores, and get you in amazon/bn/walmart, etc. One of the reasons Harry Porter is such a HUGE success is that its publisher had the clout to push the first book big time.

If your book is finished, polished, and ready to be sold, then it doesn't matter you haven't sold elsewhere. Most of the novelists on this site who have books in bookstores had their first novel as their first professional sale. Agents are judging the book in hand first. Do they like THIS book? Only after they decide if they like THIS book, will they look to see who the author is and what they've sold. This is one reason why you might hear of well known SF short story writers who can't sell their novel -- because while they might be award winning SHORT STORY writers, their novels haven't been solid enough to sell. (Novels and short stories use a slightly different skill set, which is why this isn't as uncommon as you would think.)

P.S. Check out my blog entry on what to look for in an agent, on June 23, 2003

Posted by wen at October 27, 2004 03:00 PM