Saturday, January 26, 2013

How should I handle my sales history?

Hi Noah, My question is also about trying to publish again. My literary novel was published by a major house, but I did not earn back my advance. I simply do not now how to address (or ignore) this issue in my queries. I have two additional novels and would really like to get them out in the world. How tough is this going to be for me? Thanks for any help you can give.

There are two different issues here. The first is whether or not you earned back your advance. And the second is how many copies you sold, and in what format. For example, if you are paid a million dollar advance and only earned back $500,000 of it, you would still be in good shape, because that means you have sold a lot of books. So the issue here is really the number of copies sold, and in what format. 50,000 copies sold in hardcover is hugely significant, and would virtually guarantee you another deal. But 50,000 copies sold in mass-market is not impressive, and certainly would not guarantee you another deal.

Sales history is a major issue for most authors. Most authors who are lucky enough to break through and finally land a deal find themselves in the frustrating position of having had their first book published and not selling well. The only thing harder than trying to land a deal for an author who has never been published is trying to land a second deal for an author who has been published to a poor sales record. The problem is, there is n6o way to hide it. You need to let agents and editors know in your bio that you have indeed been published, especially if you plan on using your real name. They will know of your publishing history. And once they do, the first thing editors will do when they receive your submission is type your name into Bookscan, and it will tell them exactly how many copies you sold. There is no way to hide it. So there really is no dilemma of whether or not to tell them. They will know for themselves.

You are correct to think that this puts you in a very difficult position. It does. If you have scores of glowing reviews and awards, despite poor sales, that could help. If the genre is literary they may be more forgiving. But ultimately you just have to hope that you find that one editor who falls so much in love with your work that he is willing to give you another chance. It is not impossible. I've seen it happen, many times. But it is not easy.

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