View Full Version : Ten Things To Improve Your Chances To Sell in 2006!

Cathy C
02-07-2006, 12:44 AM
Ladies and gents,

:hooray: I'm VERY excited that NY Times/USA Today best selling historical romance author Claire Delacroix (who also writes Chick-Lit as Claire Cross) has agreed to share an article she wrote with the members of AW! (It's nice for a Mod to have friends in high places! Heh...)

Claire has been writing romances for Warner, Berkley, and others for nearly two decades and her advice is GOLDEN! (Naturally, I promised to plug her two latest books at the end, so please take the time to go visit! :) )



Ten Things You Can Do To Improve Your Chances of Making Your First Sale in 2006!

by Claire Cross/Delacroix

Maybe you’ve made it a goal to sell a book by the end of this year. It sounds good, but think about it. We say that authors make sales, but who is really is charge of that part of the process? Publishers buy books - specifically editors working for publishers - while authors just get to write books. So, it’s not really up to you when your book is sold. This makes selling a poor goal, as the biggest part of it isn’t in the realm of your influence.

That said, there are a lot of awfully good goals that can put on the right path to making that sale, and - good news! - they are all within your powers.

1. Finish the (insert adjective of choice here) book manuscript. Most authors make their first sale on a complete manuscript, plain and simple. It’s the only way that any editor can know for certain that you know how to write a book. If you want to be published, you’re going to have to not just sit down and write, but finish what you started.

2. Follow your heart. Don’t write a book that you don’t particularly want to write, just because you think “that kind” of book will sell and get your foot in the publisher’s door. Most of the time, this doesn’t work. When an editor buys your first book, she or he will want a second book that shows similar characteristics - for example, another historical romance, or another funny mystery, or another romantic suspense. By marketing several books in succession that have strong similarities, the publisher can “brand” you and build your readership. This is a good thing. It means, however, that the first book that you write and send off to New York should be characteristic of the work you intend to do for the next five or six books. Following your historical romance with a cookbook is going to confuse the heck out of everybody. Figure out what you want to write for the next little while, and make sure your first book is of that type.

3. Define what you do. This is tough because it’s hard to be objective about your own creative output. Some defining characteristics of your work will be easy to label, so start with those. Do you write romances or mysteries? Do you write historicals or contemporaries? If you write historicals, do you focus on one particular period? Do you include other genre elements in your work, like suspense or mystery in a romance, or a touch of paranormal in a mystery? Is the tone of your work light and humorous, or dark and brooding? Is it literary or not? The really difficult qualifiers are ones that you may need help defining - does your work have scope? Is it fresh? Do you have a strong voice? Does your work belong in category or single title? Figuring out what you do right now - because it will change over your career - is the most valuable thing you can do beyond the writing itself. Once you know the defining characteristics of your work, you essentially know the shape of the piece that you need to fit into the puzzle of the market.

4. Research publishers. Different publishers specialize in different kinds of fiction. Different editors like different kinds of work. Examine the publication and author lists of different publishers and look for the patterns in what they buy. Listen to editors at conferences to get an idea of their tastes, and a glimpse of where the house is going. Figure out which half dozen authors do work that has some similarities to your work, then look at who publishes them. Find out the names of their editors, if you can - dedications are great sources for that. Using your list of what you do, make a list of potential “good fits” for your work.

5. Watch for the changes. When lines launch, there are new slots open for new authors. When editors change jobs, changes result in the list and there are often new slots for new authors. These are golden opportunities, especially if they happen at the houses you have targeted in the exercise above. To keep up to date, go to the library periodically and read Publishers’ Weekly, and read the announcements in RWA’s newsletters and magazines. Watch also for promotions - a promoted editor, especially one who was previously an assistant, has a low slush pile and a desire to make his or her mark on the list.

6. Research agents. If you want an agent or feel that you need one, do exactly the same analysis for agents that you’ve done for publishers. Find out who represents authors whose work has similarities with your own - again, those dedications can be helpful - and find out which of those agents will look at unpublished authors. Check the various resources available (including gossip) to find out who is reputable and who manages money without a whiff of controversy. Your agent will have a close relationship with any monies you earn, so spend the time to be dead sure. Remember that an agent relationship is more personal than a publisher relationship (and possibly more long term) so you’ll need to “click” with your agent. You should have similar perspectives or similar views of your career path, or be so opposite that you balance each other. You’re only going to know a lot of this by meeting a prospective agent in person, then following your gut. Make a list of five or six agents, at least, and make an effort to meet each of them face to face before making a decision. If you can’t afford to go to New York, try meeting agents at a conference.

7. Get a critique. Ideally, get a critique from someone who isn’t reliant upon you for the essentials of life (your significant other, your children), someone who won’t tell you bad news (your best pal) or someone who thinks everything you do is just fine (your mother). Get the opinion of somebody who knows something about what you’re trying to do. Ask the person at the local bookstore who recommends good reads to you, ask another member of your writing group, enter the manuscript in a contest judged by published authors and editors in your targeted genre. Get an informed opinion that you’re not utterly missing the mark. If you’re asking for the critique as a favor, thank the person and show them in some way that you appreciate their help. The kind of relationship you have will determine what’s appropriate.

8. Spellcheck. Check the spelling, check the grammar. Check not only that the words are spelled right but that they’re the right words in the right places. Make sure there are no words missing. You’re a writer - you’re not supposed to screw that part up. Check the format and the pagination. Check your margins. Check your phone number and your mailing address. (That isn’t a joke.) Check the manuscript and check it twice before you even think about sending it out. Make sure that you print a fresh copy for each submission, that the manuscript is neat and clean, and that the toner is nice and dark.

9. Submit the book manuscript. Maybe you’ve heard stories of frenzied editors breaking down the doors of unpublished authors in the wee hours of the morning, begging frantically for a manuscript, any manuscript. Sadly, these are urban myths. Editors, in fact, rarely leave their desks, which are almost all in New York. In order for an editor to read your manuscript, the manuscript will therefore have to be in New York. It will only get there if you or your agent sends it there - and your agent will only send it there if you’ve sent it to your agent first. You’re just going to have to put that thing in an envelope and push it out into the world if it’s ever going to be published. The good news is that you already know where to send it (see above) so there’s no need to waffle over decision-making.

10. Finish the (insert adjective of choice here) book manuscript. If you don’t finish it this year, you can’t sell it this year. It doesn’t get simpler than that, does it? ;)


Claire Delacroix
Claire Cross
http://www.delacroix.net (http://www.delacroix.net/)
The Snow White Bride (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0446614440/qid=1139258342/sr=1-3/ref=sr_1_3/104-4189594-1907908?s=books&v=glance&n=283155) (as Claire Delacroix), Warner, November, 2005
The Queen in Winter (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0425207722/qid=1139258153/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/104-4189594-1907908?s=books&v=glance&n=283155)(anthology as Claire Delacroix), Berkley, February, 2006
Double Trouble (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0425201791/sr=1-3/qid=1139257945/ref=pd_bbs_3/104-4189594-1907908?%5Fencoding=UTF8) (Claire Cross), Berkley, January, 2005
One More Time (Claire Cross), Berkley, coming in October, 2006

02-07-2006, 04:23 AM
This is great, thanks. I just want to add that someone :e2fairy: (and I hate that I can't remember the wonderful person's name or find the original post, but thank you) in one of the forums here gave a website with publishing industry moves. http://www.vistacomp.com/pub_moves/pub_moves.html

Good luck everyone with getting your novel published (or contracted, at least) this year!