4.21.2006

Two Roads Diverged near Elle Wood

Dear Miss Snark:
I've just fulfilled a two book deal at my long term publisher. I've already outlined my next novel (which is more commercial than my previous six). Usually, I would submit the outline to my editor, she'd make an offer and my agent and I would accept it. My last three advances have been for roughly the same amount. My sales haven't grown exponentially. They climb steadily book by book. I've earned royalties on three out of four (of the remaining two books, one is just out, and one comes out next year).

What to do? I could submit my new outline to my usual editor NOW and go with her predictable (decent) advance. Or I could I write the entire book first and send it to the handful of editors who have expressed interest in me in the past, and might be in the position to offer more (or nothing). I'd be writing without a net, as it were. I'd dearly miss the income. My agent is excellent at seeing the pros and cons of both scenarios, and not so good at definitive advice. How would you advise one of your writers? Go for the risk, or play it safe?
Thanks.



As an established author with a decent track record you don't have to write the entire novel to sell it. You really don't have to write it for your agent to get an idea if anyone is seriously interested in coughing up dough. Particularly if this is a "more commercial" novel, I'd be champing at the bit to move to a place with better money. Higher risks of course..you fall on your ass here and you're REALLY going to miss the income cause you won't have book next anywhere in this town.

Much of this depends on the specifics of numbers, and type of book. If you fall flat on your ass, your agent does too, so risk-averse choices sound mighty good some days.

I think someone once said "faint hearts ne'er won a fair maiden" but maybe you don't want to win a maiden-I hear the upkeep is a bitch.

12 comments:

just Joan said...

[i]I think someone once said "faint hearts ne'er won a fair maiden" but maybe you don't want to win a maiden-I hear the upkeep is a bitch.[/i]

Oh, that's good! Thanks for the laugh! :-)

I say if your ass is well padded, then take the risk. That way if you fall, it won't hurt as bad. If you don't have a lot of padding, please take some of mine! :-)

In all seriousness, it's a tough choice. I think I'd poke my toe in the water to see how warm it was before I plunged in.

My word verification says swaffuwx . . . and that says it all!

Snarkfan D. Salesrep said...

Yanno, it breaks my heart when an author with a number of books jumps ship. You have to factor in the enthusiasm the original house has for merchandising your backlist together with your new frontlist. We are less enthused when the new book is with someone else. We love to support authors across all their books, not one at a time. Most salesreps agree, the saddest thing is an author who is forever moving, and all his/her books are with different publishers. Forget about it as backlist!

Elektra said...

Have I ever mentioned just how much I love Miss Snark's post titles?

kitty said...

Elle Wood ... ha ha ha !!!

Carter said...

Maybe your agent can negotiate with your current editor for a major advance based on your track record and the possibility of a breakout with this one? Or maybe try an auction and see just how badly this house wants to keep you?

My word verification is "wihsbat". That could the sound of you hitting one out of the park. It could also be the sound of the egg hitting your face. How comfortable are you with rolling the dice?

Lisa Hunter said...

Well, if the book is a commercial success, won't you make a lot of money on the back end through royalties?

Catja (green_knight) said...

Am I the only person here who finds it strange that the _author_ would submit to publishers? Isn't that, like, the agent's job? And isn't it the agent's job to say, in effect: 'hello friendly editor, we like working with you, but my client is building a steady reputation, she's earning out on all her books, she's got this snazzy outline for her next book and it'll do well - and your advances don't reflect her growing success. We're thinking of taking this project elsewhere. What have you got to offer?'

Bernita said...

No, Catja, you're not.

a. m. burns said...

This is an excellent question so I'd like to throw in my $.02. As your advances increase the expectations increase. If you're itching for the challenge (and you have a contingency plan), then make your move.

But if you're safe and happy where you are and thinking you're a bit bored? I dunno. Maybe try writing something completely different before you risk what you have. Maybe pick up a publicist and doing the college lecture circuit. Write a how-to book or a script. Try bringing some spice into your writing marriage before you risk eveything with an affair. (Unless he's Italian. Then bring wine, pistachios, and a video camera.)

Mark said...

The agent knows it's "champing at the bit" as does the word wizard of the NYT. Make sure you do as a writer.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that you already have a track record that is easily accessed on Book Scan (known to my agency as the Work of the Devil because it doesn't necessarily tell the whole story but publishers treat it like the gospel). You say you have royalties, but your advances may have been small. Either way, the first thing a publisher will do is check your sales on Book Scan, and your present publisher already knows your record and is unlikely to pay you much more than it already has.

If your book is more commercial, my advice would be to go to pseudonym. That way Book Scan is out of the equation...

Beth said...

Your problem may be less with your publisher than with your agent. Why is s/he not going to bat on your behalf to get you more money and better positioning?