Sunday, April 29, 2007

What's Under the Covers?

There is a mossy old cliché that intimates that a book is known by its cover. If this is so, wouldn’t it follow that writers are known by what is between those covers, too? If we carry this one step further, wouldn’t it be true that if an author’s first book garners few readers that it could be considered, in the eyes and minds of the publishing industry, a failure?

What am I saying here? Just this: Don’t refer to your novel as a second book in your query if your first was self-published and didn’t sell well (has low sales numbers), was published a decade ago, was not in the same genre or category, or can in no way add strength to your present attempt. This should be a given, but invariably I still receive queries in which writers tell me about their first book and either give me no information about it (a dead give away), give me a title only, or, as one writer just did, give me all the particulars on the book, including its nontraditional or nonexistent publisher.

The title, author, and is all I need. It’s just that easy to find not only the book, but who published it, what format it was published in, whether any other publisher bought reprint rights, and an indication of its current standing in the market. In other words, there’s enough information to know that I don’t want to work with someone who is stretching the truth or giving me only enough information to make me believe that he/she has a relevant publishing credit at this early juncture in the agent/client relationship. I know there are articles out there where the author states writers should list all publishing credits, no matter what they are. This can, and has many times, worked against the writer.

So here’s some advice: If you’ve written a book that didn’t do well, forget you ever wrote it. It’s best to be judged by what you’ve presently written than by something you wish you hadn’t.


Bernita said...

My writing credits are non-fiction, not many and not recent.
Most important, they are not book. I barely mention them.

Timothy Carter said...

I see what you are trying to say - don't pretend you are a player in the game if your book was a self-published effort that few if any have heard about. I don't see how that rule applies to fully published novels that didn't sell well, however - wouldn't it be stretching the truth just as much if a writer didn't tell you that their last book was a complete disaster? You'd want to know exactly what (and who) you are dealing with. Hiding that low-selling book would be akin to applying for a driving job without revealing all your tickets for speeding.