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Thread: Does the slush pile still live? (old thread)

  1. #26
    Bottle's not empty, I'm not drunk. engmajor2005's Avatar
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    Speaking of green English majors, I only have a B.A. in English. So does that make me green, or an off-shade of mauve perhaps?
    I write about games and gaming for Library Journal.

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    Being a genre fiction writer's cool, because people either love you or hate you...or think you're okay.

  2. #27
    practical experience, FTW
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    2 cents

    Short answer: yes.

    Long and ambiguous answer: depends on where you want to get published.

    "nobody wants a series of books"
    That’s because, particularly from first-time authors, this is a bad risk. Go to Vegas with $50,000 in your pocket. Say that each $10,000 represents a book that you, an editor -- duly approached by an agent frothing at the mouth with “this is the best thing since sliced cheese!” -- could buy. Say the roulette wheel represents the market. Say that you put all $50,000 on one spin of the roulette wheel. If you win, you win big. But the odds are better that you’ll lose all $50,000. But if you spend only ten thousand, you’ve still got forty-thousand more that you can use to pick up books from four other authors in case that first one doesn’t work out, and maybe with one of those other authors you'll make back what you spent on giving them each a chance.

    “Thing that keep hitting me is...if I'm going to put up with airs, and with green English majors reading my stuff for somebody else; why not have it be for somebody who pays, rather than somebody who will try to sell?”
    Agents don’t get paid if they don’t sell. If they pick up your work, it’s because they think that they can make a buck. Consequently, you would then make a buck.

    "What I do hate is the querying process. It's unrealistic to expect a writer to condense their work into a few paragraphs in such a way that they will grab you right from the get go-"
    Isn’t that part of the writer’s job? That said, I certainly agree that I’d rather an agent or editor base a decision to represent or buy my work upon the work itself rather than a query. Except the query letter is part of the writer’s kit, too. Do that part right, you’ll convince an editor or agent that you can probably write a book, too.

  3. #28
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    First novel

    Quote Originally Posted by BruceJ
    Please forgive my naivete, but why? Is this a statistical sort of thing, or just an impression? No shots being taken here, I'm genuinely curious.
    It's statistics. On a percentage basis, not many first novels do very well at all.

  4. #29
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    I hate the query process too, I do wish they could take my MS and start reading, and toss and reject when they get bored, but I suppose this would take so much time that it would make their screening process a logistical nightmare.

    I don't think it hurts to outline a series, but the first should be a stand alone, and if you can't sell that one, you've spent time writing one, two, or several books which can't stand on their own without the first, and if you can't sell the first then you're screwed. I say, write book one of a series, and leave the door slightly open for a sequel, but don't do a total cliffhanger. And if you kill everyone off in book one, you can do a prequel.

    I could not sell my book myself, they would screw me if I tried. I'm not a negotiator or a salesman. I've gotten change back for a $10 when I gave a $20 and was too timid to say anything.

    I think the tough thing about agents is the time/waiting. You send queries to your top ten, then you wait. After several weeks, you send queries to your second top ten, etc. You get one or two who ask for synopsis/partial, then you wait for several weeks, they reject. You go to your third top three, same deal, you wait, you hear nothing but perhaps one agent interested, they ask for partial, then reject. After several months you get one agent who wants an exlusive and 1-2 months to read it. So you hold your breath, cross your fingers and wait until time's up, you follow up, hear nothing, you follow up again and they finally tell you 'no'. Next thing you know, a year has gone by and you're not any closer to getting it published, and you continue to go down your list of agents, submitting and waiting, submitting and waiting. Then you realize you are trying to get the attention of someone who doesn't actually publish your book if they do take you on. Their job is to get it to someone who can publish it, so once you do land an agent a new sort of waiting process begins, and there are no guarentees they will get you the deal. So you may spend another year waiting as they shop it around. No success, so you must dust off your query letter and start over.

    I think we all wish there was an easier, quicker way, but until someone comes up with one that will benefit all: the writer, the agent, the publisher, the book seller, the book buyer, the book reader, etc., then it's a process we just have to live with.
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  5. #30
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    I think that first novels tend to do badly not because people read them and don't like them, but because no one reads them. In other words, it's not that the books suck, it's that no one knows they exist.

    I can see this at work all the time at the bookstore I work at. I'll be shelving the book of a new author, and it'll look like a pretty good book, just not quite my thing. But--uh oh!--the book doesn't fall remotely at eye-level. So no one's really going to casually spot it and take a look. And no one's going to be looking for it, since it's a new author and no one's heard of them before. And lo and behold, a couple of months later, I'll be doing the returns, and every single book I'd put up in the first place gets stripped down and destroyed.

    I feel really bad sometimes, because in some cases I know the book doesn't have a chance--for example, in our store, the sci-fi rack is huge, and the top shelf is a good two feet over my head (you need to use a stool to reach stuff). When a new author gets stuck up there, it's a death sentence--no one will ever know it existed. Whereas an already successful author can survive up there, because people are intentionally looking for the book, so they will find it.

    What editors like to see I believe is series potential--so that if that first book does miraculously do good, they can milk that cow again and get fans to buy another from the same author. If a book isn't self-contained though and has to be a series...well, if that first book sells bad, so will the next.

    After a couple of successful books, I think you can then start proposing series, because by then you'll hopefully have at least a small fanbase of readers who know you exist. But unless you've got a great marketing campaign going, the biggest hurdle a writer faces once the book is published is getting people to realize the book is even there.

  6. #31
    Dangerous with a Keyboard johnzakour's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Summonere
    Short answer: yes.

    Long and ambiguous answer: depends on where you want to get published.
    "nobody wants a series of books"
    That’s because, particularly from first-time authors, this is a bad risk. Go to Vegas with $50,000 in your pocket. Say that each $10,000 represents a book that you, an editor -- duly approached by an agent frothing at the mouth with “this is the best thing since sliced cheese!” -- could buy. Say the roulette wheel represents the market. Say that you put all $50,000 on one spin of the roulette wheel. If you win, you win big. But the odds are better that you’ll lose all $50,000. But if you spend only ten thousand, you’ve still got forty-thousand more that you can use to pick up books from four other authors in case that first one doesn’t work out, and maybe with one of those other authors you'll make back what you spent on giving them each a chance.
    Actually, one of the first things Daw told me when talking about why they bought my books is they were really attracted to the fact that they had the potential to make a fun series of stand alone stories.

    So I guess it's different for everybody.

  7. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnzakour
    Actually, one of the first things Daw told me when talking about why they bought my books is they were really attracted to the fact that they had the potential to make a fun series of stand alone stories.

    So I guess it's different for everybody.
    This always attracts editors. But guess what happens if no one buys your first standalone. All publishers want the potential of a series, but whether the series actually happens dpeends on how well your first book sells, though a publisher will sometimes give you a second or third chance.

    "Potential" doesn't cost publishers a dime. Agreeing to buy a whole series up front cots them a fortune.

  8. #33
    practical experience, FTW MicheleLee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Toothpaste

    As to the whole 'series' question, I think most agents AND publishers balk at when they are presented with them because often the author hasn't written a self contained book to begin with, and it is very difficult to sell something when it ends with a cliff hanger AND you are a new writer. Think of all the popular MG series: Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events, even Eragon. Self contained with the potential for more.

    Absolutely! Almost every series I know of aren't cliffhanger books, but a series of independant books that progress along a line. Some of it might also be in the presentation. Anyone querying with "This is my series of 12 books..." is setting themself up for trouble. Don't put the cart before the horse. Sell Book 1 before you start trying to sell books 2-12. It's impossible to sell them as a set.

    I made the decision to go after agents long ago because ultimately I'm lazy. Why should I take more time away from my family sending everything I write out to every probable market when I could land an agent and just send it to them and have them do the unpleasant side of the work? More time for me to write!

    I think perhap you're looking at agents the wrong way. They aren't so much a wall between you and publishers as they are little businesses that save the publishers money (on slush reader or time spent reading slush, much of which I hear is completely inappropriate even if it is good or bad). By only taking agented subs houses can take the money they would spend on time and manpower and spend it on, I don't know, maybe publishing more books?
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  9. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tallymark
    I feel really bad sometimes, because in some cases I know the book doesn't have a chance--for example, in our store, the sci-fi rack is huge, and the top shelf is a good two feet over my head (you need to use a stool to reach stuff). When a new author gets stuck up there, it's a death sentence--no one will ever know it existed. Whereas an already successful author can survive up there, because people are intentionally looking for the book, so they will find it.
    On the one hand, I'm grateful to have a last name that's smack-dab in the middle of the shelving unit. Er, alphabet.

    On the other hand, a new author could do worse than having a last name that comes right after, or near, Adams, Anthony, Asimov, or Asprin. A reader only knows he's seen all the Xanth novels on the shelf after he gets to the author shelved just to Piers's right.

    At least, that's how I found Lynn Abbey's Daughter of the Bright Moon when she was still unknown to me--I was looking for more Hitchhiker's Guide goodness in a used bookstore, and I scanned too far left.
    Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little (Niki)

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  10. #35
    Where's my tea, please...? PeeDee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NicoleJLeBoeuf
    On the other hand, a new author could do worse than having a last name that comes right after, or near, Adams, Anthony, Asimov, or Asprin. A reader only knows he's seen all the Xanth novels on the shelf after he gets to the author shelved just to Piers's right.
    On the other, OTHER hand, I don't know that I'd want to be shelved between "King" and "Koontz"

  11. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by PeeDee
    On the other, OTHER hand, I don't know that I'd want to be shelved between "King" and "Koontz"
    Ouch.

    On the fourth tentacle, Ms. Kitchener may say she'd hate to share fans with that talentless hack Koontz , but I doubt she'd say to the teller when she deposits the advance at the bank!

    (You may of course substitute "that talentless hack King" if you prefer.)
    Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little (Niki)

    Author, occasionally published. Watch this space for more, or visit the amazing actually writing blog. (It actually writes!)

  12. #37
    Where's my tea, please...? PeeDee's Avatar
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    They could happily put me with that talentless hack King. I hate his books so much, I done gone and bought almost all of them in hardcover first editions and read them.

    Except I'm "Tzinski," so lord knows who I'd wind up shelved with.

  13. #38
    pitchbitch
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    Sledding Down The Slush

    Oh yeah, the slush exists--just like dive bars and VFW wedding receptions exist.

    You want to know why we're the Untouchables in the increasing boutique world of publishing? Same reason you didn't go up to Nick the Jock at the cafeteria in 9th grade where he was holding court among his cheerleading courtiers. Listen kittens, there are ways to bypass the slush pile.

    (URL deleted for now. Spam's not nice.)
    Last edited by aka eraser; 01-22-2007 at 09:09 PM.

  14. #39
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    Shelved

    I don't think it matters much at all where you're shelved. Isaac Asimov did pretty well, and so did Roger Zelazny.

    It's word of mouth that sells books, not the location on the racks.

  15. #40
    Where's my tea, please...? PeeDee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie
    I don't think it matters much at all where you're shelved. Isaac Asimov did pretty well, and so did Roger Zelazny.

    It's word of mouth that sells books, not the location on the racks.
    Interesting name choice. I always told me mam that no matter what, I was shelved between Asimov and Zelazny, and so I was doing fine.

    Anyway, I'm not hugely worried about it (by which I mean, I really don't care).

  16. #41
    OUTCAST is out now!!!! Toothpaste's Avatar
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    Pitchbitch, you wanna share some of those techniques, I bet people would really like to read them!

    Oh and if you are going to refer to me as an animal, I prefer foxy or vixen. Just for future reference.

  17. #42
    Where's my tea, please...? PeeDee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Toothpaste
    Pitchbitch, you wanna share some of those techniques, I bet people would really like to read them!

    Oh and if you are going to refer to me as an animal, I prefer foxy or vixen. Just for future reference.
    Can I still call you Hobbes, though?

    Pitchbitch, that's an interesting first post. I'm not sure if I agree with either you, or the article you've linked to (Nina Diamond's article). I don't think the article was wrong, I just think it was carefully picking its facts and thus avoiding being entirely right.

  18. #43
    wshhhhhshweshhhwwweshh gp101's Avatar
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    No need to hate on agents.

    I dread the query process but if agents didn't exist, we'd be doing the same thing with publishers, wouldn't we? If you think your book is good enough to blow away a publisher, then it's probably good enough to blow away an agent. You just have to find the right agent, same as you would have to find the right publisher.

    And that's where an agent really earns his/her keep. You may find five publishers of urban fantasy that accept unsolicited manuscripts/queries. But maybe only one of them has room on their list for a newbie (other newbies may have beat you to them with their urban fantasy). Or maybe a shakeup at that pub house has forced them to stop accepting unsolicited manny's; this info usually doesn't hit pubbing lists or the public in general very quickly, especially if you got the listing from a book. Or, maybe your urban fantasy is a subtle sub-genre that only one of those houses will handle. You'd be awful lucky to find the one publisher of those five that will at least read your manny.

    A good agent should know which of those five houses (and other houses) will be looking for material like yours. Think of all the time you'd waste going it alone, sending one submission at a time, waiting months on a pub house that has no intentions of reading you. An agent saves you that time and gets you the right pub house for your book, if you've found the right agent.

    This process isn't far removed from American Idol. We want to be published (be the next Idol), but in order to land the publishing contract (recording contract), we have a limited amount of time to show our talent by way of query and sample chap's (auditioning in front of judges). We have to impress the gatekeepers, known as agents (the judges--Simon, Paula, and Randy) and stand out from all the other contestants. Then we move on to the next round by way of sending in the entire manuscript, and you make the finals by way of the agent taking you on and shopping your manny around. Thank God there isn't just one, sole winner for us.

    Be grateful that we're not told just how horrendous our performance is like they do on Idol. If agents were brutally truthful, they would have had a field day with my first submissions when I queried my first stories years ago, and I may have been disuaded from trying again or sought therapy. And if an agent does tell you off, at least it's not on national TV so that the entire country can laugh. And more importantly, if singers don't quite cut it, there's not much they can do to improve. Either you can sing or you can't. Writers however can improve, so long as there is some talent to start with and a willingness to accept criticism and learn.

    Moral of the story... keep trying and improve either your writing or your query package. Things ain't so bad.
    Take the money and run!

  19. #44
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    johnzakour

    Actually, one of the first things Daw told me when talking about why they bought my books is they were really attracted to the fact that they had the potential to make a fun series of stand alone stories.

    So I guess it's different for everybody.
    Excellent news. May there be much rejoicing.

  20. #45
    Pack Leader miles's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie
    And like it or not, readers are much more likely to hate a first novel than to love it.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie
    It's statistics. On a percentage basis, not many first novels do very well at all.
    This is more of a name recognition thing rather than readers not liking the work. If you look at reviews of most first novels, they're usually very high. Readers love them. After all, there had to be something fresh about them to make a publisher take a chance on an unknown, whereas someone like King can take a break from originality for a year and still have a bestseller based on his name alone.

    Problem is, no one knows first novels exist unless they stumble into them. People generally go to stores to pick up the latest King or Rowling, not to find the debut novel of Jim Newauthor.
    Last edited by miles; 01-20-2007 at 08:04 AM.

  21. #46
    Where's my tea, please...? PeeDee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by miles
    This is more of a name recognition thing rather than readers not liking the work. If you look at reviews of most first novels, they're usually very high. Readers love them. Problem is, no one knows they exist unless they stumble into them. People generally go to stores to pick up the latest King or Rowling, not to find the debut novel of Jim Newauthor.
    It can be the work too. There are all sorts of authors who release their first book and it's sort of "eh..." Not bad, but not all that great.

    Steve King and Terry Pratchett are two that come to mind. Carrie is readable, and so is The Color of Magic, but I don't like either one. not just in reflection of thier later works, I disliked them when they were the first books by these authosr I'd read.

    Then again, there's authors like Emma Bull who release a first novel that's simply stunning, depressingly stunning.

  22. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by miles
    This is more of a name recognition thing rather than readers not liking the work. If you look at reviews of most first novels, they're usually very high. Readers love them. After all, there had to be something fresh about them to make a publisher take a chance on an unknown, whereas someone like King can take a break from originality for a year and still have a bestseller based on his name alone.

    Problem is, no one knows first novels exist unless they stumble into them. People generally go to stores to pick up the latest King or Rowling, not to find the debut novel of Jim Newauthor.
    I don't think this is true at all. I don't think it's even remotely true. Most first novels just aren't very good, and the reason pubishers take chances on most of them is simply because they have slots to fill, and take the best they can find, which often means not very good.

    Readers know every bit as much about my first novel or your first novel as they did about Stephen King's first novel. But Stephen King's took off, and most die because not enough peope want to read them.

    In fact, publishers have tried over and over and over to promote first novels, to make certain a large number of readers had access to them, and certainly knew they were out there, and the novels still die on the vine. If teh only reason first novels didn't sell was because people don't know they exist, publishers would pour promotional dollars into every first novel, and all of them would be bestsellers.

    But it doesn't work. You can promote first novels to death, make sure darned near every reader in the country knows about them, and most of them still do not sell because readers do not like most of them enough to encourage others to buy them.

    In fact, most first novels aren't even considered good enough to review at all, and certainly don't get good reviews.

    But reviews are overrated anyway. It's word of mouth that matters most, and darned near every first novel out there has a chance to sell thorugh word of mouth. Problem is, people don't like them enough to tell their friends, and their friends don't like them enough to tell their friends.

    Name recognition is nice, and, yes, most people come into bookstores looking for famous writers, which means nothing. Big Name writers did not start off as Big Name writers. They wrote novels that caight the attention of enough people to matter. Word of mouth, friends telling friends telling friends telling friends is why most Big Name writers became Big Name writers.

    Stephen King receieved a $2,500 advance for Carrie, and no publicity. But one reader found it, told all his friends, who told all their friends, and word of mouth made it a very popular novel.

    Most readers simply do not love most first novels. They are not mostly good. That's just how it is.

  23. #48
    Pack Leader miles's Avatar
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    Interesting. I based my comments on my own experiences: picking up a couple first novels that I'd heard were good. And they did turn out to be good. Also, seems like when I hear Jim Newauthor mention that his book just came out through Random House, I go to Amazon and always see a ton of good reviews. Perhaps these authors are telling all their friends to give it five stars?

    Guess you're right though. These books usually don't turn into great sellers, and I hardly ever buy them (unless, as you said, one is recommended by someone I know).

  24. #49
    Dangerous with a Keyboard johnzakour's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PeeDee
    Interesting name choice. I always told me mam that no matter what, I was shelved between Asimov and Zelazny, and so I was doing fine.

    Anyway, I'm not hugely worried about it (by which I mean, I really don't care).
    Actually, I am almost always shelved next to Zelazny and it does seem that far more often than not, I have to bend down to find our book on one of the bottom bookshelves. I'm not saying this is a factor in sales, I'm just saying that would be nice to see my book shelved at eye level more often.

  25. #50
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pitchbitch
    Oh yeah, the slush exists--just like dive bars and VFW wedding receptions exist.

    You want to know why we're the Untouchables in the increasing boutique world of publishing? Same reason you didn't go up to Nick the Jock at the cafeteria in 9th grade where he was holding court among his cheerleading courtiers. Listen kittens, there are ways to bypass the slush pile.

    Take it from an Editor on the Inside

    http://pitchbitch.wordpress.com/
    Oh god. Another one of those "F*** you, you f***ing wannabe, if you sit at my feet I'll tell you how it really is, and guess what, it really sucks out there in publishingland" blogs.

    Hey. I think we already know it's tough out there. Do we really need someone else to tell us that we're jerks and probably doomed to failure?

    All I can say is, before you take one of these "insider" blogs too seriously, read the blogger's profile, and think about about how qualified they are to call you names.

    - Victoria

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