Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
As I wait for the first response to a partial, from Amy Berkower of Writer’s House (an outfit that has rejected me many times over the years), I keep counseling myself not to get my hopes up. Because even though the invitation for the partial was jam-packed with enthusiasm and praise, I’ve been through this too often not to know that it doesn’t mean anything. I’ve had agents already talking about movie rights before they suddenly lose their excitement and wind up passing. Sometimes it’s a result of having shown the book to someone else who raises killer crits, but sometimes, I suspect, it’s because the agent makes a few feeler calls to editors and receives no encouragement.
Selling a book is difficult because there are so many layers of passion that have to be penetrated. Not only does the agent have to be passionate about your book, but the editor’s assistant does too (since she’ll probably be the first one to read it at the publisher), then the editor, and then the sales force. And I suspect that often an editor is thrilled but the head of sales goes, “I don’t know what you see in this, Cruella. It’s just warmed-over Bellow.”
What often happens, I’m afraid, is that the agent cuts off the whole process by guessing that the editors’ assistants and editors she’s closest to won’t go for it. And if she does submit it anyway, the editors’ assistants might abort by assuming their bosses won’t bite. Finally, the editor kills it because she thinks the sales force won’t support it.
In other words, you have to hit a grand slam.
Even then, selling the book to the reading public is almost more fraught than getting the contract in the first place.
I remember how over the moon I was when I learned my agent had sold Parts Unknown. Man, there’s nothing like that feeling. And the eighteen months between that and publication were a halcyon time, when all the publishing pros were working hard for me, helping me hammer out a revision, doing the preliminary marketing, editing the book, lining up author appearances. But as soon as it was clear that poor old PU, as I fondly called it, was going to tank, what support there was quickly fell away.
It’s a complicated business, selling books. Even if it seems like it should be fairly easy to get a good book into the hands of the public, the competition is unreal considering the number of books published each month. As I’ve said before, nobody can buy a book they don’t know exists. It has to get in front of their eyes somehow, and that requires the publisher to publicize it. Publisher/publicize.
You’d think they see it as their main responsibility after, you know, publication.
Suddenly I’m wondering why I want to go through all of this again at this late date …
[Photo by designaire at Pixabay.]