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maestrowork
10-23-2004, 12:57 AM
This survey is for the published authors on this board...

Who were your first agents or publishers? I don't mean for you to name specific names or figures, but:

1. Did you go with a small agency, or a small publisher?
2. Did you get on with the big guys right off the start?
3. Did your very first book sell? Or did you have to try again?
4. What was your first success like? Small run but great sell through? Large run and great sell through? Large run and not so great sales...?
5. How long did it take you to come out of being an "entry level"?
6. How much marketing, promotion, etc. did you have to do when you first started out? Compared to now?

As we all know, being published once doesn't automatically mean you're going to have a successful career. Hopefully our authors' insights here may shed some light on the writers' career...

underthecity
10-23-2004, 01:25 AM
Since I'm trying to establish myself on this board, I'll go first.

1. My publisher is a small/medium size regional history publisher, Arcadia. They do the books with the sepia-toned covers you see in the local history section of the bookstore.

2. See above, no, I did not get on with the big guys right off.

3. My very first book did indeed sell. Of course it was a nonfiction historical piece. Should I be answering these questions or should I scuttle back to the Nonfiction forum?

4. This first success was at first a small run, but great sell-through. This publisher prints its titles in smaller amounts. The first run was 1200 copies, and they sold out in a month. After a year and a half, it's on its 4th printing at over 3200 copies sold. And rising.

5. I think that with the publication of the second book due on October 25 possibly qualifies me as no longer "entry level."

6. Marketing and promotion: I contacted a columnist at our local paper and told him about the book two months before its release date of May, 2003. He interviewed me and wrote a great article about it, which came out a week before the books came out. This created an instant demand for the title, and as I said in #4, it sold out in a month. I did a number of autographings over the months following its release. I have a bunch more autographings lined up in these coming months for my newest book.

As a result of these first two books, I have ideas for two more titles for this publisher, plus I'm researching a book about radio, and whenever I feel like it I write my horror novel. Plus I've been writing articles for a radio magazine.

And I'm working a full time job, too.

underthecity

James D Macdonald
10-23-2004, 02:03 AM
1. Did you go with a small agency, or a small publisher?

I'm assuming you mean novels, because this is the novel board. First novel was sold without an agent, to Ballantine (large publisher). Subsequently went with a small agency (one woman).

2. Did you get on with the big guys right off the start?

Absolutely. They're lovely to work with, and they need a lot of material. Plus they pay a lot better.

3. Did your very first book sell? Or did you have to try again?

All depends on what you mean by "very first." But no, the first book that I typed "The End" on still hasn't sold.

4. What was your first success like? Small run but great sell through? Large run and great sell through? Large run and not so great sales...?

$2K advance.

5. How long did it take you to come out of being an "entry level"?

I'm not 100% I'm sure I'm out of it yet.

6. How much marketing, promotion, etc. did you have to do when you first started out? Compared to now?

Did no promotion or marketing at all on the first book (I was an active duty sailor, deployed overseas). Still don't do much. (Most recently, aside from signings at conventions, a B&N called me to ask if I wanted to do a signing. I said sure, why not. Signed fifty. They bought me dinner, I had to get my own motel room. Don't know if it did more than break even. Oh, well, so it goes. I did a book tour once (seven cities, three states). Never again.)

cwfgal
10-23-2004, 02:42 AM
1. Did you go with a small agency, or a small publisher?

First agent was a one-woman show, now retired. First (and only) publisher was HarperCollins.

2. Did you get on with the big guys right off the start?

See above.

3. Did your very first book sell? Or did you have to try again?

First novel I finished writing still resides in the dark recesses of a closet. I didn't even try to sell it because I knew it was awful. I just wanted to see if I could do it. First book I shopped around got added to the closet after 50 rejections. It resides there still. First book I sold was rejected by 28 agents before someone took me on. She sold the ms 5 weeks later as part of a two-book contract. I received a $10K advance for the finished ms and a $10K advance for a second book, based on a hastily written synopsis.

4. What was your first success like? Small run but great sell through? Large run and great sell through? Large run and not so great sales...?

Had a first print run on my first book of 160,000 copies (mass market paperback). Had two more print runs of 10,000 each for a total of 180,000 copies. Actual numbers sold was just over 90,000 or right around 50%. (Publishers like sell-through numbers a bit higher than that.) Second and third books had print runs of 125,000 and 105,000 and sell through rates between 60% and 65%.

5. How long did it take you to come out of being an "entry level"?

Don't think I ever did make it out. While my third book got a much better advance ($35K), I was dropped by HC just before it came out. The reason I was dropped (so I was told anyway) was because HC was getting rid of their paperback division in preparation for buying Avon. All the existing paperback original authors with HC either had to be moved to hardcover or dumped. They apparently didn't feel my sales potential was strong enough to make the leap to hardcover.

6. How much marketing, promotion, etc. did you have to do when you first started out? Compared to now?

I did a few booksignings (almost all of them local), taught at a few workshops, and did a couple of radio and TV interviews. I had several nice newspaper write-ups and very good reviews from Publishers Weekly. For the most part, the books sold themselves. The first book was pushed pretty hard by HC as part of a promotional program they had at the time. The other two books didn't get the same attention so I did try to do a bit more with those than I did with the first one.

I recently came out with a self-published novel and I'm spending much more time promoting it than I ever spent on the HC books. Big difference in numbers, though. If it sells 100 copies total I'll be quite happy. A far cry from the 60,000 and up copies sold for the others.

Beth

vstrauss
10-23-2004, 07:48 AM
1. Did you go with a small agency, or a small publisher?

Yes to both. My agent was an editor at a publisher to which I'd submitted my manuscript; she was planning to go out on her own as an agent and offered to represent me. She was small then, but has since become big. She sold the ms. to Frederick Warne, a smallish then-independent publisher (it was Beatrix Potter's original publisher) that has since been gobbled up by the Penguin empire.

2. Did you get on with the big guys right off the start?

I've gotten on with most everyone I've worked with professionally. I don't really think of them as big or little, just as the people I work with.

3. Did your very first book sell? Or did you have to try again?

My first novel sold, though it took a long time--two years on my own, six with my agent. It was a very imperfect book, and probably today would have remained a trunk novel. The editor who eventually made an offer was willing to work with me very intensively to get it ready for publication.

4. What was your first success like? Small run but great sell through? Large run and great sell through? Large run and not so great sales...?

$2,500 advance. Small print run--around 5,000 (it was a YA novel from a smaller publisher, expected to sell mainly to libraries). Good sell-through--around 80%.

5. How long did it take you to come out of being an "entry level"?

I don't know if I ever have come out. I seem to be stuck quite firmly at the bottom of the midlist, and don't feel I've ever emerged into the wider world of career security.

6. How much marketing, promotion, etc. did you have to do when you first started out? Compared to now?

I did zero when I started out. That's what most people did. The current idea of self-promotion and self-marketing as a sort of universal authorial necessity was unheard-of when I first got published (in the early 1980's). The business of being a writer has changed a lot in the past three decades, and the pressure to self-promote is one of the most major changes. It's not something I'm comfortable with (it always seems kind of sleazy to me), or good at. Nor am I convinced it makes a lot of difference, unless you're really really diligent and focused about it. Nevertheless, I do what I can--maintaining a website, soliciting interviews when a new book comes out, trying to keep my name out there between books by writing articles and reviews.

As we all know, being published once doesn't automatically mean you're going to have a successful career.

This is another way in which the business of being a writer has changed. I don't think it's any more difficult to break in now than it ever was, but it's a whole lot harder to maintain a career.

- Victoria