Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Guest Midlister: Jennifer Cloud

Today we have a guest post from one of my fellow midlist authors at Damnation Books, publishers of my historical horror story. So without further ado. . .

My name is Jennifer Cloud. I’m a genre writer. I dabble in suspense, horror, and the paranormal. I’ve had more than a dozen short stories published, many novellas, and many novels. So far I’ve had two agents, both AAR members and successful. Neither was able to do much for me. Most of my work is in electronic format. My most recent title is Magic Rising, released by Damnation Books.

Writing is a difficult business. The marriage of art and business is not an easy one. To be a good writer, you have to write what you love but sometimes that isn't what sells.

The normal route for a writer is to write a novel. (Keep in mind this is write, rewrite, edit, trash it, start over, rewrite, bang your head against the desk, hope you've written something good, then start over again.) Next an author searches for an agent. Once they've bagged one, most authors relax expecting a book deal in the near future.

That isn't what always happens. Marketing departments decide what gets published. With large publishers, an acquisitions editor may fall in love with a work only to have marketing kill the proposal. It’s back to the business side. Is the genre oversaturated? How did the last novel perform that happened to be similar to yours? Who are you? What will make people buy your book over the dozen or so similar titles on the shelf? If you get the deal, will you sell enough copies to please your publisher or will you be dropped?

We've all heard the nightmares: acquisitions editors fired and books left in limbo, contracts canceled, major publishers becoming electronic only, authors not being picked up at box stores thus hurting their sales and chances of future book deals.

Of course this has also opened up the playing field for the smaller publisher. Smaller publishers can take a chance on an author or subject simply because they love the work. Technology has made it easier for the little guys to compete with the big publishers. Prices for ebook readers have dropped and people have become more accepting of the technological advances.

Do your homework before signing with any publisher. Small publishers generally have lower sales numbers, smaller marketing dollars, smaller staffs, and can fold without notice. Some publishers can actually be a mark against you. I won't mention names, but listing a credit from a known scam operation will not get you noticed.

I landed my first agent years ago. I won't go into the details but we parted ways. At the time, I didn't understand how my agent could love my work and not find a house for it. I ended up on my own again. Meanwhile, the publishing landscape was changing. I fell in love with ebooks. For me, there was a wider selection with plot lines that seemed to hold no limits. I strived to be published by one of the big boys but any chance of reaching a person would do. I went with a small electronic/POD house.

I found I wasn't alone. I did my homework, networked and met a wonderful woman who had been dropped by her major publishing house. Why? Midlist crunch and a strike had her novels sitting in boxes with no chance of being sold. On paper, she sold nothing and was gone. She's now a POD/electronic author. She isn't alone. Many talents would go unheard if it wasn't for the small press.

I've met authors who thought electronic/POD books were nothing more than an outlet for the talentless. Times change. Even the larger houses are using POD and electronic mediums. Acceptance still isn't complete but at least I know there are readers out there who enjoy my work.

1 comment:

Erin Aslin said...

It’s a wonderful post, Jennifer. I totally agree with you - getting yourself an agent doesn’t equal publishing your book. Getting your foot into a big NY publishing house – like winning jackpot: everyone wants it, but few get it :) Although, the whole publishing industry is undergoing a major makeover these days, so maybe this comparison is not as valid anymore. In the meantime, small reputable publishers sound like a great solution to me.

Erin Aslin, Author of THROUGH THE CLOUDS – evolving through dysfunctional relationship: women’s fiction, spiritual.

Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

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