Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What's the Worst That Can Happen?

I don't like to do too much self-promotion on here, but since my Hop! Plop! Amazon price just dropped from its highest ever ($15.95) to its lowest ever ($6.38), I feel like I ought to mention it.

Okay, moving on....

I had a bit of an eye-opening talk with my agent last week.  I have been with her for two years and I have shown her close to a dozen manuscripts.  She has subbed and sold two and has not wanted to sub any of the others.  My attitude was "Why not give one a shot?  What do we have to lose?" In my mind, the worst that could happen was that it doesn't sell.  But my agent explained to me that there is something worse.  It can sell to a house, but not do well with the public.  She said, "Early books with poor sales figures can hurt your career." 

Her philosophy is quality over quantity.   This actually works for me.

Beth Revis once asked (in early 2009, when she and I first started blogging):

If you could have one book published--but only one book--and that book would 100% for sure be published, and you would 100% for sure have moderate success (a good advance, book tour, signings and readings--but we're not talking JK Rowling here), BUT after this happened you would 100% for sure never publish again (you can write all you want--just not be published)...would you do that instead of staying in the rat race of publication and trying to break out with your own chops, knowing the chances? Which would be better--guaranteed one perfect slam dunk, or just the chance to stay in the game and hope the ball comes your way?

I still remember it well, because I was pretty much the ONLY person who responded that I would take the slam dunk!

I would rather have one -or a small handful of- very successful books, then 30-40 mediocre ones.

How 'bout you?

16 comments:

storyqueen said...

Come on! Can't we talk JK Rowling??

Except that her life as a writer probably isn't that easy either. I mean, she is obviously a true writer in her heart, yet she knows that anything else she writes will never live up to HP.

I wonder what she will do?

Karen Akins said...

That's a tough one. I think I'd go with you. But only if I knew going in that it was my one book. The worst would be always wondering.

Paul Michael Murphy said...

I've read this about a number of agents, and the cynic in me can't help but wonder whether it's partially their own career they're worried about. If an agent sells a handful of books that end up doing poorly, I imagine it's somewhat human nature for the publishers to pass the blame on to not only the writer, but also the agent who sold them on the books. They may look skeptically at books said agent pitches in the future, thereby hurting that agent's (and all her clients) chances of making money in the future.

Tere Kirkland said...

My agent is very upfront about how she negotiates for advances. She wants to make sure her debut authors get enough promotion and publicity, the kind that usually comes with a good sized advance, as long as there's no fear of the author not selling enough books to pay out the advance.

I'd rather have a smaller advance on my first book, than have publishers fear to sign my next book.

Great topic of conversation today, Corey.

Corey Schwartz said...

That's s interesting, Tere. I kind of feel the same way, but then again.. if the throw a lot of marketing money behind a book it is So much more likely to do well! Kind of a Catch 22.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

My initial reaction was similar to Paul's.

It's a tough question, Corey. Like you, I think I would take the slam dunk. Being like Harper Lee wouldn't be so bad, right? :-)

Laura Pauling said...

Doesn't a slam dunk usually mean that you'll get more contracts though? Several authors are well known for one book and others fade into the background. I think if I could write a book like that I'd consider myself blessed.

I've shelved books after 2 rejections b/c in my heart I knew a project wasn't debut material or would need rewrites down the road. My friends called my crazy but I'd rather publish well.

Lauren F. Boyd said...

Thanks, Corey, for giving us this insight into how a literary agent thinks and reasons when it comes to submitting!

MelissaPEA said...

At this point I'd take the one slam dunk. And then I'd try to become a painter.

Jeff King said...

Great post…I am looking for a career, but wouldn’t pass on a slam dunk either: if that slam dunk allowed me to never work again.

Travis Erwin said...

I have to keep writing, it's who I am, and knowing none of it would stick would be kind of masochistic so i am going with no.

Tess said...

this thought terrifies me ... terrifies, I tell you ;)

I'd say I would want the slam dunk but, really, I would love a couple of them. Is two or three too much to ask for?

Megan K. Bickel said...

Very interesting post, Corey. I think I'd go for the struggle (I mean, I'm doing it now anyway, right?). I enjoy the writing process too much. I love that feeling when you write a new manuscript and you think it might be "the one." I could live on that feeling for a long time.

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

I want both! (I know - greedy!) But I would really hate to choose. One of the difficulties with art of any kind is that it is so subjective - what one person hates, another person loves. So how can you really know whether a story is going to do well or not? It's a bit of a crapshoot...

Susanne Drazic said...

Tough question. I'll have to think about that one.

Christa said...

Oh, that's tricky. I don't know if I'd take the slam dunk, not because of wanting to slack on quality, but more because what if I actually had a better slam dunk after that and I didn't get the chance to try it.
But I do understand about bad books hurting your career. You must have a pretty smart agent:)