Journey to a Bestseller: August Catch-Up (Series #44)

Hey all. Time for a catch-up post.

The goal: write a bestseller is still on.

The WIP this series is about–The Clockwork Pen–is with two Top 5 publishers at the moment, and I’m waiting to hear back. But, the new WIP is coming along nicely and has a high-concept that I know a particular editor will love.

The thing is–like some authors–I have a tendency to have a passion for one book and can only work on that one, but when it’s finished, I tend to lose the love. It’s written, move on. That started because I would get a book written and realize, this isn’t going to be a bestseller, and I let it go. Maybe put it up unedited on Wattpad, first draft and all. Yikes. I really should edit those. But who has the time?

I planned to make Clockwork a bestseller. Don’t get me wrong, it could be, but it’s not as good as the one I’m writing. And, Clockwork (with editors) is the first of a traveling series of four adventure books. The other three books in the series have very vague outlines, but I have no idea what to write in them. The book I’m writing now is a standalone, but has unlimited series potential. (Say that in the voice of the genie from Aladdin. Lol.)

IF one of the editors takes Clockwork, I will have to write the next three books. I’m sure I could find the passion for it again, but right now, it’s gone. And I told everybody here that I was going to make something of the manuscript, so I feel kinda obligated to give it a good shot.

However, I believe this new one–called The Blood Match–is right up this editor’s alley. My passion has carried me on to something new. I don’t want to not give the first manuscript it’s chance to shine. But if neither of these editors end up being interested, I’d have to go the querying-agents route–which feels like square one on a project that’s past (in my mind).

I had someone ask me the other day, “Is it really easier to find an agent if you already have an offer?”

Absolutely. When an agent takes you on and you sign a contract, their main job for you is to pitch your book to editors (these are acquiring editors at Top 5 publishing houses), receive the responses, and communicate them with you. Then, when you get an offer from a publisher, the agent negotiates the deal. Those aren’t the only things the agent does for you, but all this work they do for free, hoping to get paid later with 15% of your sales. These are the things you really need an agent for: their connections to the Top 5 houses, and their ability to negotiate your complicated contract.

*As a side note, this is why you don’t need an agent for a small publisher: A. You can pitch your own book to small publishers for free with the same query you would use for an agent, and B. Most small publishers use a standard NON-negotiable contract, which means there are no negotiations. Everyone just signs. Then, the agent gets paid 15% of your small publisher earnings for the life of the book, for doing something you could do easily on your own at no cost–twice. If your dream is a small publisher, go get it. If your dream is the Top 5, you’ll need an agent and a great book. Not all agents have connections with Top 5 houses. Their agency can ONLY get you small publisher deals. Make sure that the agents you query come from agencies that are selling to the Top 5. How can you tell? Go to: www.publishersmarketplace.com. You can get subscriptions for one month at a time for $25. Once you subscribe, a button appears in the menu to the left called “dealmakers.” Click here and you can see every deal reported by every agent, agency, and publisher, in total; some with description of the plot.*

So, back to the original question: would finding an agent be easier if you already have an offer from a publisher? Of course. The majority of the work they do in the beginning is editing your manuscript, researching editors, drafting a pitch, looking up each editor and pitching, then waiting for responses–hoping to get a “yes.” Sometimes that doesn’t happen. But if you already have an offer, they don’t have to worry about any of that. All they have to do is negotiate the contract and collect 15%. You’ve taken the hard parts and the guesswork out of their equation. The reason agents don’t take books is because they aren’t certain they’ll be able to sell them to the Top 5.

Therefore, when Top 5 publishers occasionally accept unagented submissions, it would behoove you to give it a try, if you’re ready. Or to hurry up and get your manuscript ready to meet the deadline. For the most part, though, Top 5 and most of their imprints require an agent to submit.

And THE very best way to EVER get an agent is: to have a great book.

I’ve talked here about how to plan your book, research it, structure it, how to write with POV in one scene at a time, to write with active voice and build your world (with maps even!). We’ve covered some grammar and punctuation. It’s not like I’m going to stop talking every week, but you’ve got everything in these posts that you need to create a great book. Becoming a bestseller requires nothing less, but it is more of a marketing matter than a writing one.

Being a bestseller requires an eye-catching cover, an irresistible sales description, and prior reviews. As well as, luck. You can do your absolute best at these and/or pay out the nose for someone to do it for you, and STILL not sell books. And getting organic sales is hard, people. You’ll find out when you get there. You’ve got to have the right keywords and categories–also things we’ve covered in these posts. It might help if you ran ads, and we talked about how to make them step by step as well as how they were progressing.

As of today, my ads are still running. I’ve lowered them to $0.21 per click, and get thousands and thousands of views–they say it takes someone an average of seven times seeing an ad before they click. That’s a lot of unclicked views. I have close to the right amount of clicks. And though I just bought new covers and changed the description again, the clicks aren’t turning into the sales I’d like. But I can’t help that. The books are free in KU, and the first is only $0.99, so I doubt price is an issue and I have varying reviews, albeit NOT from my audience. The teens in my audience are all surprised at how much they liked the first book. The adults end up loving or hating it. Well, no one’s been that mean. It is funny though, how wrong they can be in their assumptions. How should we deal with that as authors?

One reviewer commented on my first book, saying it was from the future–which it is not–and she says, the future seems a bit backward. Because it’s not the future. Actually, it’s an alternate history in the event that Pangea never separated–hence the name of the country is Algea. One big county on a world they didn’t call Earth. It wasn’t that creative, but I thought more people would get it. The reviewer actually brings it up twice. After noting that the sword fights–though accurate–made for dull reading, she ends by saying “magic is now an accepted part of our world.” The book has magic all throughout its history, but I guess that wasn’t clear?

Now my book does have its country split into cities that produce certain needs, and the girl does battle, but that’s about all my book has in common with the Hunger Games. It’s not a dystopia. The only city with a problem is the one we’re in, not a government issue or anything that involves more than the Industrial District. One other reviewer said it was so much like Hunger Games, she expect to see Katniss and her bow. I’m certain there’s not a bow or arrow in my book. Her advice? Turn it into an adult fantasy. Yikes. That’s just not my genre. She didn’t believe it was for a G-rated audience, but I’m glad because I was pitching it to a PG-13 audience. Lol.

So what’s my point? Am I nagging here? Nope. New authors need to know that no matter what you type, someone will have the opposite impression. And that’s what they’ll comment on in their review. How you fell short of their expectation, or how something didn’t make sense. And there’s nothing an author can do about it. You can’t reply and say, “It explained that in chapter seven!” No, the negative review goes up as is. Also, bloggers score in widely different ranges. What’s a four for one, is a three for another, and a two for someone else. I had a reviewer recently tell me that she’d left me a review. She was so excited and so sweet. She wanted me to go read it right away!

The review made me feel terrible. She gave me a three. Three. Now, to MOST bloggers, that’s not a bad score. But for me? It’s not good. In my mind, five equals you loved it, four means it was okay, three means you didn’t like it, two means it was terrible and one is a DNF (did not finish). I knew, though she made a criticism, she also said nice things and she didn’t mean to hurt my feelings.

But it hurt.

Of course when the reviewer catches us with our pants down and points out a mistake, it feels like chastisement. To me it’s especially hard when I’m judged on something they misunderstood, or just plain got wrong. You just smile. That’s my advice. Smile and wave like you’re Miss-freakin’-America. Because you are. You wrote a book–time, sweat, blood, tears, an ocean of coffee, an adored piece of art that’s an extension of you. Anything negative will hurt. Not being able to explain it will hurt. Lack of sales after you’ve done everything right will hurt.

You have to remember it’s not personal. Though the book is such a part of you, the reviewers are judging it, not you.

So wave and smile, and write something new. They say the best marketing for your book is another book. I can attest to that. Every time you release a new book, the sales go up on your other ones. And if you’re learning, your writing is improving with each book. You are honing your craft, becoming a master. Don’t give up when it starts to hurt–don’t even give up when you hate it.

Just keep writing.

~jenn

_____

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