Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Location: Books & Such Central Valley Office, CA
First published: February 12,2009
On Monday we talked about book advances and how important it is to “earn out” advances. Tuesday’s blog addressed the sometimes-depressing subject of sales numbers. Since we’ve been talking reality so far this week, let’s talk about what can be done if we’ve got a less-than-stellar sales track record.
1. Learn from our past. Don’t be afraid to perform a postmortem. Did you put 100% effort into author promotion? The easiest thing is to blame the publisher or the marketing department. “If they just put the same kind of effort into my book that they put into John Grisham’s last book, well. . .” or “The title and cover killed it.” Some of that may be true, but assigning blame doesn’t help you come up with a game plan for future books. Was it the right book? Did you rush the ending? Did it start out slow? Was it derivative? The more problems you uncover, the more solutions you can devise to make next time different.
2. Assess the possibilities. Okay, you may have bombed. Or if you didn’t actually bomb you may be stuck in ho-hum territory. The best possible scenario is that your editor and publisher still believe in you and are looking forward to your next book. If so, skip down to #3. Unfortunately, we are living in a nervous, knee-jerk climate right now so there’s always a chance that your publisher will have to pass on your next project. If that is the case, throw yourself into #3, work on #4 and focus on #5 as you seek to find a new publisher.
3. Dig deep and come up with that break-out book. This is no time to dust off a manuscript from your bottom drawer and put a little spit shine on it. You need to write the best book of your career. Publishers have reduced the number of slots for authors so they are looking for the perfect go-to person for each slot. Try to come up with the book only you can write. The book of your life. No pressure, of course. 🙂
4. Work on your platform and your connections. While you’re waiting to make that next sale you need to keep expanding your territory. Stay active online. Network. Go to writer’s conferences. Speak. Write articles. Become the kind of writer a publishing committee simply can’t turn down.
5. Trust your agent. As we present your next project, it’s up to us to try to put your numbers in context. We work hard in our presentations to balance reviews and the quality of writing with the fiscal aspects to help mitigate concern over numbers. While in a shrinking market everyone wants a sure thing, editors take great pride in discovering that break-out book.
6. Be realistic about advances and be willing to share the risk with the publisher. Once your agent has made your next sale, we’ll want to work hard to make sure this project is a success. That’s what career-building is all about.
7. Lean on the Lord. This strategy is first, last and in the middle. That’s the wonderful thing. We analyze, theorize, mitigate, justify and do cartwheels, but how many miracles have you seen in this business of ours?
I’ve only touched on a few strategies. What are some other strategies that might work?