06 April 2011

Your letters look good, but how 'bout your numbers

As aspiring authors, many of us are focused on getting that first agent or picking up that first sale. We're sure that once we can "break through" then the fiction game will be so much easier. Not so, according to author Karen Dionne in a recent blog post. "[A]fter an author is published, they [sic] face an even greater challenge: getting published again," writes Dionne. Sales are not a matter of the quality of your next book, but the quantity of sales. Editors look up your numbers on a data provider called BookScan, a service of Neilsen (you know, the same company that rates TV shows). If your numbers are poor, you can probably kiss your next sale goodbye.

So, what is an aspiring author to do? IMHO, just keep writing. Most authors realize that becoming a professional writer is rarely a ticket to fame and riches. Writing despite knowing the odds against getting published (and getting a published again) means that you are writing for the right reasons.


lesleylsmith said...

You're bumming be out, dude. :(
If writing for publication, or publication again, is so difficult, why should writers write? What are the right reasons? Or is that write reaons? :)

Of course, short story writers have a good shot at getting published in ElectricSpec if their story is good! :)

Martin Willoughby said...

Getting noticed in any profession is hard. What makes writing harder is that you don't get paid until you have been noticed.

At least in a job you get paid whilst being ignored.

j.a. kazimer said...

Couldn't agree more. Getting that first deal is hard as hell, but selling enough books to get that second deal feels like an up hill battle. So yeah, we should do our jobs, and write a hell of a next book.

lesleylsmith said...

Ha, Martin! You said it! I've never thought about the paid/ignored dichotomy before. Thanks.

If j.a. is fighting an up-hill battle, I think we're all in trouble... :(
Now, I'm bummed again.

A.L. Sirois said...

It's an uphill battle. For me, the key is this: I love my brain and my capacity to think, plan and synthesize. These qualities are what make me creative. I feel that the best way to keep these facilities -- this software, if you will -- is to keep giving it something to do. And input, let's not forget input! Even though I've sold a small pile of stories, I am always seeking new ways of writing. I'm also always looking for input in the form of news stories. Just yesterday I saw a story about a 75-year-old Japanese man who's been trapped on his property since the earthquake. He doesn't know where his wife is. He's about out of food and water. He has no heat. This piqued my imagination, so I saved a link to the story. Who knows what will become of it down the road? But it's in my Idea File for use.

The same thing goes for background or reference information. That news item about the artificial "leaf" that was all over the place this week... I can use that in a story I am writing right now. Synchronicity perhaps. I never ignore those little messages.

Also, I try writing different things. I started out writing sf... a few years ago I branched out into YA, historical fiction, and mysteries. I won a contest with a YA historical mystery in fact... maybe it was the blend? :-) Anyway, the idea is: keep sharp. Don't dig a pit for yourself. Stay interested, stay involved, stay excited about how cool it is to have a brain that does all this stuff.

Sure I get depressed sometimes. For most of this past week I was in a state about my writing. But then, just yesterday, I got notice that I'd sold a 9600-word sf story, and for some reason all of a sudden I'm back to feeling hot again.

Which is to say, you don't know what is around the corner -- just that there is a corner.

lesleylsmith said...

Thanks for sharing, A.L. There's some really good advice here.
And congrats on the 9600-word sf story!
That rocks!