Because we had so many fun responses to the “First 5 Pages” blog, I’ll do a bit more on that before maybe expanding on Bait and Hook devices. So – why is a first book like no other?
Often, an unpublished writer (hereinafter referred to as UnPub) reads a bestseller by Author X, who has been writing for many years, and says to himself, “I can do better than that,” and sits down to write book. But what UnPub doesn’t know is that he has spoken truth in spades. Under ordinary circumstances, to get published as a first time novelist, UnPub *must* write a better book than Author X. Much better! Yet we often see less-than-stellar book on the market from a previously UnPub’d. Several questions arise from all this.
1. Why must UnPub write a better book than Author X?
2. Under what circumstances might UnPub’s less-than-stellar book be purchased and published?
3. What part does luck play in the circumstances of a sale?
4. Let’s say I don’t have mega-luck on my side. What can I do to make my chances of a sale better?
Let’s look at the questions. First: Why must UnPub write a better book than Author X? Author X has an agent, an editor, a publishing house, and a contract to produce something of worth on certain dates. Author X has an established audience. In some cases, Author X could publish a series of grocery lists and eighth-grade poetry and still get published at least through a three-book contract.
Second – Under what circumstances might UnPub’s less-than-stellar book be purchased and published? Scenario one: Author X and Author B missed deadlines. Author X had major surgery and Author B went through a breakdown. Now there are two slots opened up in 18 months and *nothing to stick in them???* Major editor and publisher panic. *Must* find two books. Quick look through agent slush pile. Quick decision to take six manuscripts home tonight for an all-nighter with coffee. Quick riffle through thoughts which produces memory of conversations with two different agents about possible books. Send off fast emails requesting manuscripts. And head home on the subway with a slightly settled panic. Books are quickly chosen and purchased, and they are less-than-stellar, but good.
Second scenario for question number two: New editor is hired. Takes over previous editor’s line. Has official permission to find four new authors for next year’s line, but must sign them all by next month due to budget restraints. Meets and greets with agents and quickly buys four manuscripts that she thinks she can make work.
Third scenario for question number two: Publishing house closes out mystery line and opens new paranormal-romance line. (It happened last year.) Several new paranormal-romance authors get signed, very quickly, ditto on the reasons from number two above.
Fourth scenario for question number two: A near-hit pass by a comet makes every editor salivate for a doomsday book about a comet hitting Earth. Or some other current event (or unexpected niche bestseller) sends editors off in a mad rush for a particular type of book.
We might see a dozen less-than-stellar books by UnPub published a month for the reasons above or a host of others. But it takes luck.
On to question number three. What part does luck play in the circumstances of a sale? A lot! It is the right product to the right person at the right time. Four or forty agents may pass on a manuscript before one buys it. And he *might* sell it to an editor on the first try. It happens. But not often unless the book is indeed stellar quality.
Next week I’ll offer some possibilities about question number four: Let’s say I don’t have mega-luck on my side. What can I do to make my chances of a sale better?
That is, I’ll write about that if I remember. The way my brain is going, who knows?