Ask the Agent: Having It Made
How about shedding some light on whether getting published and “having it made” are synonymous. It seems to be the feeling among writers that once you get a contract and have a book or two published, all you have to do is run up a decent proposal and your publisher will buy it. I hear rumors that some successfully published authors have had subsequent proposals turned down. Does this happen often? And when it does, what is the most common reason?
Hahahahaha….. I bet a number of our published Rants & Ramblings readers would LOVE to take on this question! Speak up, those of you who are published. Do you “have it made”?
Clearly the answer to this question depends on your definition of having it made. If you mean “my lifelong goal of being published has been realized” then yes, getting published is having it made. If you mean “I can quit my day job and support my family with my writing,” then no, you probably don’t have it made. (I’ll address making a living as a writer in another post.)
If you mean, “Now I have a free ticket to keep getting book after book published…” then you still might not be able to say you have it made.
Once you’re published, the standard wisdom is that the road to further publication is easier. But it’s generally true only if your first book does well in the eyes of the publisher. Did it live up to sales expectations? (This could be anywhere from 5,000 to 100,000 copies or more, depending on the book and the publisher.)
If your first book met or exceeded sales expectations, AND your second book proposal is good and the publisher likes it, then yes, getting that next book deal should be pretty easy.
If your first book met or exceeded sales expectations, BUT the publisher doesn’t like your second proposal, they’ll probably work with you to help you come up with one they like. In this case, it’s still going to be MUCH easier to get that second book deal than it was to get your first.
If your first book doesn’t live up to sales expectations or it truly tanks, then you definitely don’t have it made. It will be hard to get a second book published. In fact, many editors say that it’s easier for a first-time unpublished author to get published, than an author who has one or more books with poor sales.
(This is one of the reasons I’m always harping on platform. In these difficult publishing conditions, you really want to do everything you can to help your book sell. It’s much better to wait until you have a platform and give your book a good shot at strong sales, than to go out too soon, with no platform, and publish a book that tanks.)
If you’ve published a book, and it had average sales (the publisher isn’t ecstatic but neither do they feel they made a mistake) then the likelihood of getting subsequent books published is dependent on the market, the strength of your next book idea, the strength of your (hopefully growing) platform, and probably other hard-to-quantify factors. In these days of publishers “cutting back” their lists, the decision can rest on publisher circumstances that have nothing to do with you.
On a related subject, I notice that a number of authors have gone from one publisher to another. Failure of the original house to buy a subsequent work, or the result of an auction by their agent?
Very successful authors are often wooed by other publishers. Once you get to a certain level of success, if your agent has made sure that your contracts don’t lock you into one publisher for too long, you have the freedom to shop future projects elsewhere. However, authors who are treated well by their publishers and who are getting top dollar for their work rarely have the motivation to switch and will stay loyal to a publisher. But this isn’t always the case. Many factors play into an author’s decision to switch publishers, such as finances, marketing, editorial, distribution, and whether the author feels appreciated.
For “regular” authors, i.e. not bestselling, they often switch publishers because their original one declined to contract their subsequent projects, so they’re free to shop them elsewhere.
Whether you are “allowed” to shop projects at another publisher is determined by provisions in your current publishing contract.
So, what do you think? Does being published mean having it made?