Tuesday, December 19, 2006

That First Sale

My friend, Diana, turned me on to a survey that Science Fiction author, Tobias Buckell, ran on his blog asking writers how many books they wrote before they sold. It's interesting information, so check it out.

The books written until sold is a question not unlike how many years did you write before publication in that it's still all essentially bullshit. It's fun to know and interesting to play around with if you're a numbers geek like me, but the reality is that everyone's writing path is different and you can't compare yourself to another writer.

Someone might say - It took me a year to sell. Okay, and they might also be independently wealthy or otherwise not employed and don't need to be and have unlimited writing time. It doesn't necessarily mean they're a prodigy. Someone else might say - It took me ten years to sell. Guess what? It doesn't mean they're a slow learner. What if they simply had five small kids at home and were attending college part time to finish a degree?

So time isn't a good measurable factor because everyone has a different quantity and quality of time.

So lets look at number of books written before sale. Should be a better indicator, right? Wrong. Again, it depends on the author. I have two different friends who sold their first books, but they both worked on them for years. I have other friends who have written five to ten books before selling. And something else books to sale doesn't take into account is finding your genre and voice.

When I first sat down to write, I wanted to write a mystery series. My first book was the first of that series. I wrote it in six weeks, edited for about two months and managed to get an AAR recognized agent. Ultimately, the book didn't sell. Funny enough, the comment I received from one agent actually said "this book reads more like Bridget Jones Diary than a mystery." But at the time, the chick lit mystery had not been born. Of course, now I've missed that chick lit train completely, but what the hey. While the first book was out for submission I DID NOT STOP WRITING. That is a very important sentence - DO NOT STOP WRITING JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVE SOMETHING ON SUBMISSION!

In addition to mystery, I was an avid romance reader, so I decided to try my hand at a romance - sort of. It still ended up having embezzlement, kidnapping and at least one dead body, but it was definitely more romance than anything. Again, no sale but I garnered some good comments from editors about my voice that were encouraging. So on to book three. I definitely wanted to write single title, but I'd also been a long-time fan of Harlequin Intrigue and figured, hey, I should write two a year - one single title one category. So the Intrigue was written, queried, full requested, full sent, full rejected. Strike Three!

I was supposed to be out, right? So sorry but book four was where I decided to go where no man had gone before. I loved mystery, I loved romance and I couldn't think of a better blend than the two. So I sat down to write RUMBLE ON THE BAYOU with every intention that it be a true blended hybrid - the two genres so important to the story that the removal of either would cause the story to collapse. Now, I knew from the onset that RUMBLE would not be an easy sell. It didn't "fit." And that's exactly what happened at a couple of houses. Editors liked it, but I don't think they were exactly sure what to do with it.

Enter Dorchester Publishing! The one house that definitely knows what to do with something different - they create a new genre and launch a line of books to fill it. Trendsetting is a Dorchester favorite and many great new authors and genres have come from the chances they're willing to take on "out-of-the-box" writing. And I couldn't be more thrilled. The beginning of a new genre is definitely where you want to be as a writer and I got my manuscript in the door at the right time.

Some time/novels written is about learning craft. Some is about finding voice. Some is just about hitting the market at the right time since everything about book publishing is cylical. So while all the statistics are interesting to read, please remember that everyone has their own route to publication and yours is still the right one for you.


Kimber An said...

Good entry, Jana.

Why do I write? Because I breathe.

How long have I written stories? Since I was four and I'm NOT telling how many years it's been since then.

How many novels have I written? Dunno. Wrote my first when I was 11 and I'm not telling how many years it's been since then.

They say we should have these answers ready because we're going to be asked them over and over. I hope I don't look too much like a catfish when I repeat them.

Tori Lennox said...

I've started lots of books. Finished... not so much. Submitted? Hah! Try none. I plan to remedy that in 2007.

I've never really considered stopping writing, though I do take too many breaks from it. But I can't escape it altogether because the people in my head won't shut up. *g*

Jana DeLeon said...

LOL kimber on the age factor - but I'd tell you that before I told you my weight. :) And I'm sure you'd never look like a catfish.

Tori - NO SUBMISSIONS! What are you waiting on? I have an idea - maybe you could watch one less tv show (yes, I read your blog) and then you'd have time to finish a book for submission???? C'mon, you can do it. :)

Kelly Parra said...

Very well said, Jana! Yep, everyone makes their own path, and ultimately if you have the drive and determination to keep going, keep learning, until you have the right book at the right time, good things will happen. =D

Jana DeLeon said...

Kelly - you are the office 2006 poster child for drive and determination. I have never seen someone have so many setbacks on one book and still keep such a postive attitude. You are truly an act to follow!

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