PDA

View Full Version : Will agents take on previously published novels by e-pubs, or should I not bother to submit?



Pisco Sour
04-01-2015, 07:16 PM
As a newbie writer I sold the first book in a space opera trilogy to an erotic romance publisher. It sold very few copies, I believe, because the book is not an erotic romance and romance readers were annoyed by the 'no HEA' ending- plus the fact it's more of a women's fiction/adventure than a romance per se. It's a 3 books story arc so all threads aren't wrapped up until the end. Anyway, after three months I asked for my rights back and have those in hand, in writing. (I had to give up my royalties, but I was happy to do that since it meant no legal hassle). I'm wondering if I've burned my bridges with agents now, seeing as this book was already e-published. I hadn't considered seeking agent rep for this trilogy, but I'd like to try now that I've got it. Am I delusional?

whiporee
04-01-2015, 08:10 PM
Yeah, I'm sorry to say that you're pretty much done. I think the best course of action would be to re-edit it, make it as pretty as you can and then self-pub on Amazon or its ilk. You could spend some money on marketing and that might help make it profitable for you.

You have to remember that agents are just (I don't mean just. They are also a lot of wonderful awesome things, too) conduits to publishers, and publishers don't have much interest in publishing something that isn't gong to make them oodles of money. Since you've not shown a track record of making oodles of money, the chances are that publishers won't be interested. And if publishers aren't, agents aren't.

So write the next one, go through the querying hell process and if it's successful, then you've got these other three that might make the publishers drool. But you'll have to show it someplace else first.

Sorry for the bad news, and good luck.

Pisco Sour
04-01-2015, 08:18 PM
Yeah, I'm sorry to say that you're pretty much done. I think the best course of action would be to re-edit it, make it as pretty as you can and then self-pub on Amazon or its ilk. You could spend some money on marketing and that might help make it profitable for you.

You have to remember that agents are just (I don't mean just. They are also a lot of wonderful awesome things, too) conduits to publishers, and publishers don't have much interest in publishing something that isn't gong to make them oodles of money. Since you've not shown a track record of making oodles of money, the chances are that publishers won't be interested. And if publishers aren't, agents aren't.

So write the next one, go through the querying hell process and if it's successful, then you've got these other three that might make the publishers drool. But you'll have to show it someplace else first.

Sorry for the bad news, and good luck.

*Sighs* I suspected as much and could kick myself for my mistake. I was wondering about the 'making oodles of money part' since the book was only on the market for three months. It sold roughly one hundred copies, which I know isn't great, but I thought perhaps they might consider the time frame and that it was wrongly labeled an 'erotic romance'. Marketed at erotic romance readers etc. Oh well...The book is good (LOL, of course I would say that, but if I don't believe in it, who will?) and had several offers from top e-pubs at the time. Impatience and inexperience was my downfall. Oh, and stupidity. What I'll probably do now is either take your advice re self-pubbing, or shelve it for a while and write the next two books when I'm not feeling so down. Thank you so much for responding. I'm writing other books under a different pen-name for several publishers (different genre) so I have plenty to keep me busy. :)

Aggy B.
04-01-2015, 08:25 PM
It's possible an agent could sell it to a publisher, but it will be hard to hook an agent with a book that's already been published once. (Ebooks are still published, even if not in print format.) It might be a project that an agent would be willing to help you rework and sell, but it would be a big risk as a first project.

Unless, of course, it's just absolutely brilliant. You would probably be best off in querying something else, then when an agent is asking "What else do you have?" mention this trilogy.

Small publishers sometimes are not as picky about first publication rights, but usually approach that situation on a case by case basis. (And you may not be interested in a small publisher again.)

Pisco Sour
04-01-2015, 08:54 PM
Good advice, thanks, Aggy.
LOL. I don't think my book is brilliant. It is good, though sometimes I wish it wasn't. I have another few books in that genre on my 'to write' list so your advice seems like a good plan. Impatience was my error first time around, so I can sit on this trilogy and see if my next book in this genre merits an agent's attention. I don't mind publishing it with small e-publishers/POD with good sales, but I'd prefer to try another route first. It's just so depressing at the moment. I did so much research for this trilogy (it's based on the oral culture mythology of a Central American tribe) and am finding it hard to let it go. Ho-hum, must be done I suppose. Again, thanks you for your input. I appreciate it. :)

Old Hack
04-01-2015, 09:15 PM
I think it's worth querying, to see what happens.

Pisco Sour
04-01-2015, 09:57 PM
Hmmm. Thanks, Old Hack.
If I were to do that at some stage should I mention that the book was previously published., or wait and see if it got any bites and then mention it? Seems wrong not to. Decisions, decisions.

Filigree
04-02-2015, 12:36 AM
If you are determined to query this one be honest up front, Pisco. Mention in the query that the book was published by the specific e-publisher and marketed to the wrong audience, selling a specific number of copies in the three months it was on the market.

I suspect you won't get many nibbles, and I'm sorry for that. It may be best reserved for self-pub, or a back-burner project that an agent might take on after they market your newer work.

I'm not familiar with your book or your previous publisher, but they did you a disservice by accepting the book in the first place: women's fiction/space opera marketed as erotic romance, non-HEA ending, possibly too 'deep' for some small-press romance e-pub readers.* What were they thinking? Any competent agent might look at those mistakes and see possibilities for a massive revision to mainstream SFF space opera.

Good luck!

*Before the cavalry arrives, I'm not dissing all e-pub romance readers. I'm one, myself. But I have noticed that some small houses have particular niches and readers who are not comfortable straying outside those niches. That's all I meant.

Pisco Sour
04-02-2015, 09:16 AM
Yes, I'll tell a prospective agent, should I go that route. My former publisher waxed lyrical about the book, but more importantly, they did say no HEA until book three was a risk, but the writing was strong etc etc. Ha. I had other offers, but I went with them bc I didn't want to alter that part of the book and the other pubs wanted it changed. The romance readership knows what it wants, and the erotic romancers are equally demanding. I even had a reviewer complain there was "no PENETRATION!"--her exact words and caps. There is sexual content, but it's not an erotic romance. Not a romance either, though I didn't realise it at the time. Full stop and end of story, literally in this case!


Thanks for the weigh-in! I'll take the next few months to decide what to do--maybe longer. A part of me feels like it can't hurt to throw it out there and then a) self-pub if there are no takers, or b) shelve until I sell something new in that genre and then see if I bring it out. So depressing sometimes, but it's a good lesson to me, and I'll be patient this time and do my best by this book/trilogy. Off to eat tons of comfort chocolate.

Laer Carroll
04-02-2015, 12:23 PM
Self-publishing a book does not automatically mean no agent or editor will be interested in your book. It does mean (as some have explained) that it makes it more difficult to get agents and editors to take a chance on your book.

Stick around in publishing long enough and you'll hear of a number of exceptions. One that immediately comes to mind is that of the first two books written by John Scalzi. Both were placed complete on his web site. Both were bought by a trade publisher. Old Man's War was a best seller and was nominated for a Hugo (one of the more important sci-fi/fantasy awards). The book launched a series which has sold well.

Obviously his books are of well-written and commercial. Perhaps yours will be too.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Scalzi#Career

Pisco Sour
04-02-2015, 12:38 PM
Self-publishing a book does not automatically mean no agent or editor will be interested in your book. It does mean (as some have explained) that it makes it more difficult to get agents and editors to take a chance on your book.

Stick around in publishing long enough and you'll hear of a number of exceptions. One that immediately comes to mind is that of the first two books written by John Scalzi. Both were placed complete on his web site. Both were bought by a trade publisher. Old Man's War was a best seller and was nominated for a Hugo (one of the more important sci-fi/fantasy awards). The book launched a series which has sold well.

Obviously his books are of well-written and commercial. Perhaps yours will be too.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Scalzi#Career

Yes, but my book was not self-published. It was published by a small e-publisher in digital and POD. I don't know if that makes a difference, and in a way it might have been better had I self-pubbed this book. I don't know.

Jamesaritchie
04-02-2015, 04:42 PM
Yes, but my book was not self-published. It was published by a small e-publisher in digital and POD. I don't know if that makes a difference, and in a way it might have been better had I self-pubbed this book. I don't know.

How well did it sell? Many bestselling novels from large publishers began life at a tiny publisher. Tom Clancy's The Hunt For Red October began life at the Naval Institute Press.

It's always about the sales potential, which means it's always about the money.

It certainly won't hurt anything to query this book. It will hurt even less if you have another ready to go at the same time.

Pisco Sour
04-02-2015, 06:34 PM
How well did it sell? Many bestselling novels from large publishers began life at a tiny publisher. Tom Clancy's The Hunt For Red October began life at the Naval Institute Press.

It's always about the sales potential, which means it's always about the money.

It certainly won't hurt anything to query this book. It will hurt even less if you have another ready to go at the same time.

It only sold roughly 100 e-copies and I think, 15 print in POD. That was between end of August and first week of December. The first glaring review on Amazon was about the book not having a HEA so 'don't buy it' in other words, and alsoa rant about the fact there was a second book, as yet unpublished. (I mean, didn't they see the cover said 'Book One'. Sorry, but I guess that still annoys me somewhat). As all series sci-fi and fantasy readers know, not all threads in the overall arc are tied up in the first book, just the main goal for that novel. Ah well... I have a lot to think about, a few new leads in terms of publisher who *might* look at it and maybe I will try an agent after I've written something new in the genre, probably only next year if I go that route. Thanks for the advice!

Laer Carroll
04-04-2015, 12:05 AM
[It's a good idea] if you have another [book] ready to go at the same time.

Good point. I've read about many authors who got a response back which said basically, "This book is not for me, but I liked what I saw and would like to look at other work."

I think we are too likely to put all our hopes on one book and are too desperate to see it in print. Writing is a life-long profession. Best to start thinking early in the long term.

Pisco Sour
04-04-2015, 12:40 AM
Good point. I've read about many authors who got a response back which said basically, "This book is not for me, but I liked what I saw and would like to look at other work."

I think we are too likely to put all our hopes on one book and are too desperate to see it in print. Writing is a life-long profession. Best to start thinking early in the long term.

This was certainly the case for me last year, but I'm much less impatient now. Oh, who am I kidding? I still want to see my books in print, asap, but after five published novels with e-houses and numerous short stories also published in digi-form, I'm learning to calm down. I do have another two sci-fi novels but they are in first-draft form and nowhere near ready to query. Part of having several pen names for different genres is not having the time to keep up with them. LOL.

WeaselFire
04-04-2015, 04:09 AM
I'm wondering if I've burned my bridges with agents now...

Agents will take on anything they believe they can sell. And, given your proven track record, they know they will be unable to sell this book or series. Best you can do is self publish.

Write a new book.

Jeff

Pisco Sour
04-04-2015, 12:12 PM
Agents will take on anything they believe they can sell. And, given your proven track record, they know they will be unable to sell this book or series. Best you can do is self publish.

Write a new book.

Jeff

Thanks, Jeff, it's sort of what I'm thinking. But there is a die-hard optimistic voice in my head saying, 'yeah, but the book sold so badly bc an 'erotic romance' label was stuck on it by a small digi-press and it wasn't marketed to the right audience. With the right publisher and audience...' LOL...and the months pass and I continue to do nothing either way bc I am busy, under contract, writing my contemporary books. Maybe I need to get knocked back by agents and or/publishers before I accept that I have to self-pub this trilogy. That would mean forking out for the editing and cover art and other incidentals for the next 2 books in the series and I'm trying to avoid that. If I go the agent route, what I've gleaned from this thread is to get my new sci-fi novel tip-top and submit that one to agents, then, if I get any nips and it sells, to bring out the re-release and see what happens. In the mean time, I'm scouting the markets for a dusty time-machine that will transport me back to the day I signed that contract.

Old Hack
04-04-2015, 12:39 PM
It was only on sale for three months, right?

I suspect that if asked, you could show that the marketing was not good for these books, and the publisher did not publish it well.

You've said it sold very few copies.

Bearing all that in mind I think that if the book is good enough, you have a good chance of finding an agent willing to give it a go.

If you want an agent, query it. What do you have to lose?

WeaselFire
04-04-2015, 06:00 PM
But there is a die-hard optimistic voice in my head saying, 'yeah, but the book sold so badly bc an 'erotic romance' label was stuck on it by a small digi-press and it wasn't marketed to the right audience.

If that's your belief, stop asking questions here and start querying.


Maybe I need to get knocked back by agents and or/publishers before I accept that I have to self-pub this trilogy. That would mean forking out for the editing and cover art and other incidentals for the next 2 books in the series and I'm trying to avoid that.

Knowing that, self publishing is a very bad choice for you. Start querying what you have and, while waiting for responses, start writing the new book that you'll query.

Having a failed book does not make you a bad writer and doesn't end your career by any means. I'd have stopped long ago if that were the case. I have one book that I got a $1,000 advance on in 2004. Since the publisher pays small royalties when they sell a subscription to all their books, even though nobody actually buys my book, I still get a few bucks each quarter. At my current rate, I'll earn out my advance in 2026. Then I only have to wait until 2034 to accumulate enough royalties that they will cut a check. :)

Good luck, and keep writing.

Jeff

Aggy B.
04-05-2015, 08:38 PM
I do think you might be better off using the trilogy as a "Here's what else I'm working on" while querying something else. But, as OH points out, you have little to lose by querying and seeing what shakes loose.

Even if agents reject the project now, it doesn't mean they might not consider later after signing you for something else. (Unlike publishers would.) And given the erroneous marketing, you'd be talking about pitching to a new publisher pool and different readership.

The only thing I would hesitate over is the time commitment. When I was in the query trenches it really did eat into my writing time. If I were working on something else, I would be careful about taking that time and putting it into querying something that is a harder sell. (Then again, you never know. The trilogy may be just the thing someone is looking for. Maybe browse the #MSWL and see if anyone obvious jumps out?)

Cathy C
04-05-2015, 09:23 PM
Three months and only a hundred copies sold? Pfft! Change the titles and put that litter of puppies back on the market! Really. Make sure it's not for sale anywhere, and do take down notices if anyone still has first run (not used) copies for sale.

If the trilogy is good, it still has plenty of life left in it to market to a large press. Honest. Just be sure you send it out as the ORIGINAL (not the edited) manuscript. That's important.

Pisco Sour
04-06-2015, 12:17 AM
Three months and only a hundred copies sold? Pfft! Change the titles and put that litter of puppies back on the market! Really. Make sure it's not for sale anywhere, and do take down notices if anyone still has first run (not used) copies for sale.

If the trilogy is good, it still has plenty of life left in it to market to a large press. Honest. Just be sure you send it out as the ORIGINAL (not the edited) manuscript. That's important.

Thanks for your input, Cathy. My brain is spinning. So, you think 100 copies means there's some traction for this first book? (The others haven't been published and those rights were also returned to me. The second book is in first draft form and the third is in synopsis form) But why change the titles? Wouldn't readers be upset if they bought the same book again? Damn, I love the original title. Re, it being for sale anywhere--it isn't. I've checked (of course, I'm not counting the pirates but there's little I can do about that!)

Why do you think I should send it out as the original, unedited ms? Since getting it back I've had another look at the book and altered a few things, re-edited etc. Does that matter at all? Sorry, lots of questions but trying to understand your message.

AND THANKS, AGGY! Querying this would be a time suck, sure, so I'm thinking carefully.

Aggy B.
04-06-2015, 12:27 AM
The copy-edits are sometimes the property of publisher. Even if you've had rights returned. (Just like the cover. They don't own the copyright on your MS, but you don't have a right to the copy-edited file. Use the original, or update your original file if you want to make changes.)

Also, chances are folks wouldn't accidentally buy the same book again just because it's not likely to be the same readership given the change in genre. Of course, if you're really worried about that you could consider adding content (if there's room and content that could be added) as well.

I have a novella I intend to rework and possibly retitle at some point that was previously published. (Publisher closed up and I got my rights back, but it had only sold about 49 copies in a little under a year so I'd like to try publishing it again at some point.)

Pisco Sour
04-06-2015, 12:41 AM
The copy-edits are sometimes the property of publisher. Even if you've had rights returned. (Just like the cover. They don't own the copyright on your MS, but you don't have a right to the copy-edited file. Use the original, or update your original file if you want to make changes.)

Also, chances are folks wouldn't accidentally buy the same book again just because it's not likely to be the same readership given the change in genre. Of course, if you're really worried about that you could consider adding content (if there's room and content that could be added) as well.

I have a novella I intend to rework and possibly retitle at some point that was previously published. (Publisher closed up and I got my rights back, but it had only sold about 49 copies in a little under a year so I'd like to try publishing it again at some point.)

Ok, that makes sense. I did buy the cover from the cover artist, just in case I wanted to self-pub at some stage and she said she'd do the other covers for me if I went that route. I really liked her cover and she took off the publisher logo etc. As for the copy-edited ms, there's nothing in the reversion letter or my contract regarding their ownership. I've changed things, and tweaked/added content which I believe has made the book stronger.

Good luck with your novella and thanks again for your input. I've only been writing for a few years, published for under one, and I still have a lot to learn!

Toothpaste
04-06-2015, 02:44 AM
Thanks for your input, Cathy. My brain is spinning. So, you think 100 copies means there's some traction for this first book? (The others haven't been published and those rights were also returned to me. The second book is in first draft form and the third is in synopsis form) But why change the titles? Wouldn't readers be upset if they bought the same book again? Damn, I love the original title. Re, it being for sale anywhere--it isn't. I've checked (of course, I'm not counting the pirates but there's little I can do about that!)


I think you misunderstand. 100 books is not great sales. That's not a value judgment on the work itself, there's a lot more that goes into selling a book than just a good book, including luck :) . Cathy's point is since your book sold so little no one really knows about it. If you change the title, then people might assume it's a book that's never been published before since so few people read it. And that might allow you to get away with landing an agent with it. I'm not sure if any of this is a good idea, and you certainly will have to explain your publishing history with the book to your agent, but that's what she is trying to say. In a weird way I guess if one is with a small press either one wants either really good sales so that a bigger publisher takes one on when they see dollar signs flash before their eyes, or one wants to sell so few that it's basically a brand new book. I imagine in the low thousands would make it a much harder sell to an agent/publisher. So you might actually have an advantage here.

But I don't know for sure.

Cathy C
04-06-2015, 03:44 AM
Correct. It was pubbed in the wrong genre with a publisher who sold very few copies. A Big 5 will try to sell a minimum of 1,000 on release, so you certainly haven't saturated your market. In the hands of a good publisher, the book will bear little relation to the one previously on the shelf because the publisher will pump up the correct genre in the edit phase.

Aggy B. is correct on the reason not to use the copy edits, or even the structural edits. The publisher (or editor, if freelance) doesn't have to state their rights. Rights to editorial revisions is inherent in the editor under copyright law, provided they actually touched the text--as opposed to writing an editorial letter, where you made (or didn't make) the changes at their direction.

But when re-marketing a manuscript, return to the original so a new publisher can get the clearest sense of what your intent was in the genre you'd planned for it to be. That intent can be stripped in editing to fit a particular house's style or imprint.

Pisco Sour
04-06-2015, 10:44 AM
I think you misunderstand. 100 books is not great sales. That's not a value judgment on the work itself, there's a lot more that goes into selling a book than just a good book, including luck :) . Cathy's point is since your book sold so little no one really knows about it. If you change the title, then people might assume it's a book that's never been published before since so few people read it. And that might allow you to get away with landing an agent with it. I'm not sure if any of this is a good idea, and you certainly will have to explain your publishing history with the book to your agent, but that's what she is trying to say. In a weird way I guess if one is with a small press either one wants either really good sales so that a bigger publisher takes one on when they see dollar signs flash before their eyes, or one wants to sell so few that it's basically a brand new book. I imagine in the low thousands would make it a much harder sell to an agent/publisher. So you might actually have an advantage here.

But I don't know for sure.

Gotcha, re Cathy's post, thanks. That's where my non-native English speaker confusion sometimes comes in. :)

In a weird way it's good the book sold so badly. Not surprising, since it's not a romance and was sold as such! Gotcha it re the title, also. Food for thought, since I'd need to disclose the previous history regardless of changing the name. Thanks.

Pisco Sour
04-06-2015, 11:01 AM
Correct. It was pubbed in the wrong genre with a publisher who sold very few copies. A Big 5 will try to sell a minimum of 1,000 on release, so you certainly haven't saturated your market. In the hands of a good publisher, the book will bear little relation to the one previously on the shelf because the publisher will pump up the correct genre in the edit phase.

Aggy B. is correct on the reason not to use the copy edits, or even the structural edits. The publisher (or editor, if freelance) doesn't have to state their rights. Rights to editorial revisions is inherent in the editor under copyright law, provided they actually touched the text--as opposed to writing an editorial letter, where you made (or didn't make) the changes at their direction.

But when re-marketing a manuscript, return to the original so a new publisher can get the clearest sense of what your intent was in the genre you'd planned for it to be. That intent can be stripped in editing to fit a particular house's style or imprint.

Bolding mine.

Crikey, I didn't know that re the editor copyright. Understood. Probably for the best, anyway, and I can add my new changes to that original ms. And re the section that I bolded, above, that has given me some hope. Everything I was obliged to do with this book--blurb, tagline, edits--was done to ratchet up the romance when this book is not that genre. So perhaps taking it back to it's original form will give it another chance. I'll come back and report, if it helps others in this situation, once the thing has been resolved! Thanks again for you help.

Living and learning!

Old Hack
04-06-2015, 12:55 PM
Note that a good agent will often insist that her author-clients retain the right to the edited versions of her books, and have that made part of the contract: it doesn't happen all the time, but I've seen it a lot (and have it in several of my contracts). Still, it's safest to assume one doesn't own those rights if one is not sure, and Cathy's comments regarding going back to the original ms because of genre and intent are spot-on here.

gingerwoman
05-01-2015, 07:21 AM
I've seen publishers and agents having completely different opinions about whether they will take previously published works.

Rules on this run the gamut, so it's just a matter of reading everyone's submission guidelines, and seeing individual agents' and publishers' rules on the matter.

namejohn
05-09-2015, 09:09 AM
Since the book is referred as like a women's fictional/adventure, the same story might be able to be written, with the romance left out, and as a women's fictional/adventure. If this could be, the fictional/adventure book is a new book, that never has been published. Also this could be a better area to be writing in then romance. Writers, often, can write much better when writing in one area compared to another.