Wednesday, August 26, 2009

START BUILDING YOUR CAREER NOW

By Deb Werksman

I recently added another criterion to my romance fiction submission guidelines (you can see them in detail here: www.sourcebooks.com).

Now, in addition to looking for:
  • a heroine the reader can relate to
  • a hero she can fall in love with
  • a world gets created
  • a hook I can sell the book with in 2-3 sentences
I'm also looking for:
The author has a career arc.

It has become more and more difficult to acquire just one book. That doesn't mean every contract will be a multi-book deal, but it does mean that I'm looking for authors who have ideas for further books beyond the one being submitted. It takes 3-4 books to build readership, and those books have to come out regularly, whether that be once a year, once a season (2 seasons per year), three per year, etc.

So as you submit your work, please be sure to include the ideas for the next couple of books (even if they're not part of a series). The better sense I have of how you see yourself growing in the category, the better pitch I can make at the editorial meeting.

Keep in mind, it's nearly impossible to build an author with books that are in different categories/subgenres. So, you need to decide which category/subgenre you want to start in (or stay in, or move to) and plan to be there for as long as it takes to build your readership.

I've been to a lot of conferences lately, and I run into authors who have a romantic suspense, and an historical fiction, and one YA and then there's a non-fiction manuscript. It may be an extreme example, but each one of those actually goes to a different buyer and a different section of the bookstore.

I tell these authors to pick one direction and plan to stick to it until they're well enough known to be able to make a leap to another subgenre or category. However, readers will not necessarily follow you from one subgenre to another. So it may be easier to branch out and add another subgenre/category, rather than move altogether.

At that point, and all along, you'll want to be thinking about your career and planning for it. People ask, but should I write in the most popular subgenre even if that's not the one I excel in? My answer is, you should write a book with a hook that so strong that no matter what the subgenre is doing, that book will break out!

In this publishing environment, it's tougher and tougher to succeed, but being career oriented--looking at the big picture and being in it for the long haul--are going to make a difference--at least when your submission hits my desk!

9 comments:

  1. Great post, Deb! The greatest advice ever given to group of us unpublished writers once was from a published author who said if the book isn't something you loved creating, and you don't want to keep writing in that vein, write something else. She found herself "stuck" writing several books in a series that she really didn't want to write. :) Sometimes writing in different areas can help us to find just the niche we belong in. :) But when you find that genre that suits you to a tea? Run with it! :)

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  2. Wonderful advice, Deb.

    I think a lot of new authors write all over the place to find their niche.

    I can't wait to complete that 'breakout' novel. And I will, too! (positive thinking here.)

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  3. I just had this discussion with someone who is submitting to you.

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  4. I think it's worth adding, too, that within the sub-genre you are writing, in my opinion you have to be creative. I like to read something that is just slightly different from what everyone else is doing in that sub-genre. Not so far off that it doesn't fit, but recognizably an author's own.

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  5. Hi Deb,

    Enlightning post for published authors and unpublished.

    Since I first started writing my motto has been. "I write what I love and I love what I write."

    Amelia

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  6. Definitely looking down the road. I think that's what's kept me going.

    Linda

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  7. I like your motto, Amelia. Indeed we must love what we write or it just will not work.

    Thanks for a great post Deb. I can't imagine switching around from genre to genre. It would make my head hurt! And think of all the work! Eek! I'll stick with my Regencies for now, thank you very much. I got that time zone fairly wired. :)

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  8. You're right on, Deb.

    I'm so glad I had the experience of e-publishing for a few years first. It allowed me to find my voice, build a platform and do some very helpful branding.

    I just got a review today that said, "This reviewer loves Ashlyn Chase's books."

    That's priceless! That means she'll look for them again and again. As long as I deliver my usual type of story, she won't be disappointed.

    Ash

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  9. Fabulous advice from our fabulous editor!

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