• U.S. members: The Federal Government is offering each household in the United States four (4) free at-home Covid-19 test kits. https://www.covidtests.gov/

Facing Facts

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

Unimportant

but appreciated anyway...
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 8, 2005
Messages
8,156
Reaction score
4,166
Location
Aotearoa
I haven't had a series fail yet, but the sales are influencing me. My first series and the one that's got the most books is a thriller/suspense. It sells okay, and I make well more than I spent on them, but they are dwarfed by the later two series (in immediate sales. The first book in my first series has sold the most books, but that's partly just because it's been out so long)

I wrote the first book in my second series and put it out in the summer, and it sold multiple times better than any of the thrillers, so I was starting to think when I finished up that series I might do 2 Romances (it's not really a romance, it's closer to a coming of age, but the Amazon tends to lump it together).

I didn't think my newest series would do great, because it's a smaller genre sales wise than Romance as well, but I managed to get in the best sellers, which made it become my best performing book out of the gate.

So I am thinking about other series and several stand alone stories, and taking the sales of the three I have into account before I decide what to do. If a series flopped I'd probably do 1 more to draw it to a conclusion, so that I didn't have something completely unsatisfying out there for the people that follow and buy all my stuff, but I probably wouldn't continue it past that.
That is interesting!

If you ever want to write up your numbers/experiences/advice in the SP subforum, I'm sure I'm not the only person who'd be grateful ;)
 

Carrie

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 16, 2019
Messages
193
Reaction score
178
For what it's worth...
I discovered that agents will almost never represent a book that has been previously published.
I absolutely do not believe those 10 agents did some sort of investigation, located your lost book, and rejected you based upon their investigation. Nor do I believe there will ever be an investigation, nor do I believe you are under any obligation to divulge your previous publishing indiscretion.
I've screwed myself. I'm in my forties
In your forties? Give me a break. I was loading up my pickup truck the summer I turned 50 to start my fully-funded MFA program in a state across the country, sight unseen. My memoir did not sell in New York when I was 55, but it came really close and sold to an indie publisher. My column was picked up for national syndication when I was 57. I am now in talks with a new agent about my first work of fiction. I turn 60 this summer. I am just getting started. Do not even suggest I am too old!
it seems that my dreams of becoming a published author (let alone a best seller) are dead in the water.
I think if you need to be talked into becoming a writer, you shouldn't do it. This is hard work and it's not for the faint of heart. It's a labor of love and you have to love the labor. I get that you are discouraged, and that comes with the territory. But the only way your failure is guaranteed is if you quit trying. And, if it matters, you're going to get old no matter what you do with your time. Why not do something that's important to you? Best.
 

Unimportant

but appreciated anyway...
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 8, 2005
Messages
8,156
Reaction score
4,166
Location
Aotearoa
As someone who's read slush, I'd suggest there are far more people who believe they can accomplish this than can actually accomplish this.
As someone who has written slush and gotten rejected, as well as who has (a decade later) read and rejected slush, I concur ;) It's a steep learning curve, and not everyone makes it up the slope.

But hey, this prompted me to do something miniscule-but-useful for another member who's been helpful on this thread, so it has served its purpose and made me feel better about myself. WOOT! Rock on AW.
 

lizmonster

Possibly A Mermaid Queen
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 5, 2012
Messages
9,625
Reaction score
5,894
Location
Massachusetts
Website
elizabethbonesteel.com
I'm not familiar with your process, so I could use a little context. Did the eight months consist of the steps I mentioned, or do you go through a different set of steps? And did you work exclusively on the one book during that time, or did you have other projects in the works?

Your steps don't describe my process at all. I cannot produce a book to a formula.

I'm not an outliner. About half of those eight months involved producing a beginning-to-end draft, full of inconsistencies and blind alleys. The other half was revisions, rewrites, replotting, and moving things around. I handed it in to my editors (I was working with two on that book), and there was a lot of back-and-forth with them, and some truly insane deadlines.

It was a ton of fun, and a ton of work, but it paid off.

Also, just out of curiosity, what was the starting word count vs the finished word count?

All my published novels drafted at about 180K. Published length is 128K-134K.
 

Fuchsia Groan

Becoming a laptop-human hybrid
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 27, 2008
Messages
2,611
Reaction score
715
Location
The windswept northern wastes
I was 48 when my first novel was published. And I agree with those who are saying that self-publication of a very different version of the book isn’t necessarily an issue for an agent. All agents are different, and it’s something that could come up as part of the “talk” after an agent offers. But it’s not a serious problem the way a book with a history of submission to and rejection by editors is (ask me how I know…).

This is where I seize the chance to boast, apropos of not much, that I’ve written 800k words over the past three and a half years. None of that is intended for commercial publication, unless I take the plunge and self-publish it someday. It’s a passion project that somehow, to my astonishment, has some readers. I did not give it to any CPs or betas or editors, and if I self-published, I’d probably continue to fly without a net. But I very much don’t recommend that to others.

During those same three and a half years, I drafted/revised two books for trade publication (one needs a lot more revision before I show it to my agent) and completely rewrote another book several times because my editor wasn’t happy with it. So now I know something about myself: I could certainly write and edit four books per year, but I could not sell those books to a trade publisher. In fact, I’d be lucky to sell one book every two or three years. Hell, I’d be lucky just to sell another book at this point.

My trade books are upmarket stand-alones and go through critique partners, though I rarely have betas (honestly, the distinction is fuzzy for me). They also go through a ton of layers of editing and proofreading. My for-fun books are genre and a series, and they take place in a world where I can invent many of the rules. That makes the drafting go a lot faster. (The real world is such a pesky thing! ;) It insists on being researched.)

I won’t get into the words I write for my actual job. If there were an award for maximizing the ratio of the number of words produced to the number of readers, I might be in the running. :)

And now, because I hear that TikTok is the only way to sell books, I’m doing that, too. Please help me, someone. ;)
 

mccardey

wear a mask
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 10, 2010
Messages
15,409
Reaction score
7,302
Location
Australia.
I'm not saying four trade-pubbed, I'm saying four ready to query.
Ready to query is a bit opaque. Everyone has their own idea of what constitutes ready. And also - OP has stated a preference for trade pub.
 

Nether

is not a Supervillain
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 23, 2021
Messages
913
Reaction score
751
Location
New England
Ready to query is a bit opaque. Everyone has their own idea of what constitutes ready. And also - OP has stated a preference for trade pub.

Querying is part of getting an agent which helps with trade-pubbing, unless you're suggesting he bypass agents entirely when trying to trade-pub.
 

Nether

is not a Supervillain
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 23, 2021
Messages
913
Reaction score
751
Location
New England

If you're not, then I'm not sure what you meant. But I had edited my post for clarity which must have gone through while you were looking at the old version.
 

lizmonster

Possibly A Mermaid Queen
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 5, 2012
Messages
9,625
Reaction score
5,894
Location
Massachusetts
Website
elizabethbonesteel.com
If you're not, then I'm not sure what you meant. But I had edited my post for clarity which must have gone through while you were looking at the old version.
A book is ready to query if it's in what you consider to be a publishable state. You should see no way in which you can improve it. Nobody should ever query a book thinking "Yeah, the agent/publisher will polish this for me."

Now, the agent will likely have notes of varying degrees. If they have a lot of notes, they may offer you a Revise and Resubmit, which means they won't sign you right away, but might if they like your changes, (This is not unusual.)

If they have a great many notes, they will reject you. Some agents, in this circumstance, will pass along their notes with the R. This is a gift.

A publisher who buys the book will also have notes. The general direction of these you should discuss with the acquiring editor before you sign the contract, because if their desired changes deviate too much with your vision of the book, you will be miserable with this publisher. IME editors are flexible about how their suggestions are handled, so what looks like an alarming ask at first glance may indeed be a very small change. It's worth listening with an open mind.

So yes, no matter how much you polish your book for querying, it will be changed moving forward to some degree. This is because of input from new people, and it can be a really wonderful experience.

But before you query, you must polish the book in every way you possibly can.
 

PPeterson

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 22, 2021
Messages
75
Reaction score
50
Website
pjpeterson.net
Wow, I step away for an evening and this post went bonkers. I have just a minute to respond, so I'll try to hit the highlights.

First, thank you for all the replies.

Second, I love writing. I love creating worlds. I've written books, programmed video games, designed tabletop RPGs, etc, etc. It's literally the one thing I've been put on this Earth to do. No matter what happens, I will continue to do this.

And I think most writers like to imagine a world in which they become "the next big thing", the next King, Rowling, Rice, Sanderson, etc. And yes, I know the odds of that are very near to zero. But if that is a goal, then it doesn't make a lot of sense to not work in that direction.

It's just rather disheartening when I see a massive roadblock in the way of that, virtually making that goal unreachable. Not for lack of skill or determination, but just a foolish and impatient mistake I made 10 years ago.

Either way, I will continue to write. I'll give a little more time to the idea of traditional publishing, but with very little hope. Worst case, I'll self-publish this series... again. Then maybe I'll try traditional publishing with a new book down the line.
 

lizmonster

Possibly A Mermaid Queen
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 5, 2012
Messages
9,625
Reaction score
5,894
Location
Massachusetts
Website
elizabethbonesteel.com
It's just rather disheartening when I see a massive roadblock in the way of that, virtually making that goal unreachable. Not for lack of skill or determination, but just a foolish and impatient mistake I made 10 years ago.

Please don't self-reject. From what you've written, it seems very possible your old self-published book isn't going to be an issue. Don't despair over it until someone says you must. I know I said it before, but 10 rejections, really and truly, is a tiny amount. Make sure your query letter is solid and your MS polished and gorgeous, and keep trying.

Also - if your series books can be read as standalones, you don't have to stop at querying the first one. If the first one doesn't snag you an agent you can query the second, and if you get nibbles on that one, you can talk to the agent about the first (and the subsequent).

There are a lot of paths available. Yes, they're hard, and odds are long. But I don't think your self-published book is the impediment you fear it is.
 

Woollybear

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 27, 2017
Messages
5,398
Reaction score
1,782
Location
USA
It's just rather disheartening when I see a massive roadblock in the way of that, virtually making that goal unreachable. Not for lack of skill or determination, but just a foolish and impatient mistake I made 10 years ago.
The ten rejections and the Pitch Wars guidelines (which is separate from PitMad but I think you meant Pitch Wars) in no way indicate that you can't land an agent for your existing novel. Your stats are pretty common among querying writers.

Yes, it's harder to get a previously published book represented. The argument is that people have already seen it. But you've revised it.

Ender's Game was a 15,000 word short story, published in Analog and everything. The author revised it into a novel and the rest is history. Heck, you can still find the original version online, which is not true for your self-published work, but the novel sells great.

IMO (as above, my opinion only), difficulty in finding representation for your project is likely down to other issues. It's a tough road, but you are still among friends. :)
 

TStarnes

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jun 10, 2017
Messages
149
Reaction score
165
Location
Houston, TX
Website
tstarnes.com
The ten rejections and the Pitch Wars guidelines (which is separate from PitMad but I think you meant Pitch Wars) in no way indicate that you can't land an agent for your existing novel. Your stats are pretty common among querying writers.

Yes, it's harder to get a previously published book represented. The argument is that people have already seen it. But you've revised it.

Ender's Game was a 15,000 word short story, published in Analog and everything. The author revised it into a novel and the rest is history. Heck, you can still find the original version online, which is not true for your self-published work, but the novel sells great.

IMO (as above, my opinion only), difficulty in finding representation for your project is likely down to other issues. It's a tough road, but you are still among friends. :)
If I remember, something similar is true of Andy Weirs's The Martian, which was self-published on his blog and only after it gained some popularity did it get traditionally published.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Woollybear

owlion

Absorbing inspiration from the moon
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 8, 2010
Messages
1,474
Reaction score
423
Location
United Kingdom
Either way, I will continue to write. I'll give a little more time to the idea of traditional publishing, but with very little hope. Worst case, I'll self-publish this series... again. Then maybe I'll try traditional publishing with a new book down the line.
I think it's good to allow yourself to dream, even if it feels like it might never happen, and having hope can be painful when you hit setbacks, but it's also important for driving you on. It's important to be realistic, but try not to give up! Like you say, there are always new books you can write if things don't work out.
 

lizmonster

Possibly A Mermaid Queen
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 5, 2012
Messages
9,625
Reaction score
5,894
Location
Massachusetts
Website
elizabethbonesteel.com
If I remember, something similar is true of Andy Weirs's The Martian, which was self-published on his blog and only after it gained some popularity did it get traditionally published.
Close. :) Weir worked on the book for 7 years, serialized it on his blog, and eventually self-published it on Amazon. (He charged a buck, because Amazon wouldn't let him make it free; Spouse read it at this stage.) From there it blew up, and now the book is with (IIRC) PRH.

Card's situation is a bit different. There was a period of time when it wasn't unusual for the big SFF short markets like Analog to publish novellas that were later turned into novels, or to serialize things that were later published as single books. (Bujold's Shards of Honor was apparently serialized first, which explains a lot about its narrative structure.) I don't see this much these days, and I think the conventional wisdom that writing short stories gives you a better crack at selling a novel (both Ender's Game and Shards of Honor are 36-year-old books) is no longer valid.
 

Lakey

professional dilettante
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Apr 20, 2017
Messages
1,564
Reaction score
942
Location
New England
One thing I’ve been trying to work on: Viewing even the work that doesn’t go anywhere, the blind alleys, the false starts, the scenes written and rewritten and then cut entirely, as time and effort well spent on improving, rather than a waste of time and effort.

:e2coffee:
 

Woollybear

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 27, 2017
Messages
5,398
Reaction score
1,782
Location
USA
Hmmm, the serialization thing does bring Kindle Vella to mind. A local writer (she's fabulous but also 'only' self published) is planning to try Kindle Vella with a new project.

I'm not sure how this ties in but I feel like it's all part of finding an audience, whether you are a publisher or an author. Writing a good book is important. Finding an audience is too! :)

(Oh, Lakey, I'm sure you know this but those cut scenes also positively impact other scenes that are kept. They sometimes feel like the scaffolding during construction.)
 

Introversion

Pie aren't squared, pie are round!
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Apr 17, 2013
Messages
6,475
Reaction score
3,384
Location
Massachusetts
I think the conventional wisdom that writing short stories gives you a better crack at selling a novel (both Ender's Game and Shards of Honor are 36-year-old books) is no longer valid.
It's a dirty shame. That, and how few open short markets there are.

I came to writing short stories (none of which I've yet sold) because I realized I desperately needed practice 1) finishing complete stories and 2) being crisp. The relatively puny word-budget that most short markets allow (over 10K words is unusual) certainly forces you to choose carefully.
 
  • Like
Reactions: lizmonster

lizmonster

Possibly A Mermaid Queen
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 5, 2012
Messages
9,625
Reaction score
5,894
Location
Massachusetts
Website
elizabethbonesteel.com
It's a dirty shame. That, and how few open short markets there are.

I came to writing short stories (none of which I've yet sold) because I realized I desperately needed practice 1) finishing complete stories and 2) being crisp. The relatively puny word-budget that most short markets allow (over 10K words is unusual) certainly forces you to choose carefully.
I think the short story market (in SFF, at least) is tighter than the novel market.

It wouldn't be so bad if they got rid of the no-simultaneous-subs convention.
 
  • Like
Reactions: P.K. Torrens

Unimportant

but appreciated anyway...
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 8, 2005
Messages
8,156
Reaction score
4,166
Location
Aotearoa
Ender's Game was a 15,000 word short story, published in Analog and everything. The author revised it into a novel and the rest is history. Heck, you can still find the original version online, which is not true for your self-published work, but the novel sells great.
The first of the Pern novels was originally pubbed in Analog (or one of those mags).

50 SoG was originally self published and got picked up by a major pub. Same for Eragon.

The OP hasn't noted the previous self pub in his queries, so that's not the reason for the FRs. It's just a matter of being persistent and finding the right agent on the right day with the right book.
 

Elizabeth George's book Write Away