ith more than 25 years of experience, Kathi Kamen Goldmark and Sam Barry have the inside scoop on writing and publishing. Together, they are the authors of Write That Book Already!: The Tough Love You Need to Get Published Now. Email them your questions (along with your name and hometown) about writing and publishing.
Dear Author Enablers,
I’ve written two novels. After completing my first book, it took me nine months to find an agent and I thought my troubles were over. Right. My agent asked if I had a second book. I didn’t, but said I did and started writing that day. She didn’t sell the first one. She loved the second one, but didn’t sell that one, either. . . . I liked her, and she liked me. Nevertheless, I ended the relationship.
I finally self-published the first book, Afterthought, [and] sent the second one out to a few publishers. Some response, no action. I am deep into a third novel. Any suggestions?
Los Angeles, CA
Fiction is hard to sell in the current market. We suggest that you not give up on working with an agent. You’ve only had one, and the result, while disappointing, is not unusual. Crackerjack agents in their prime can fail to sell a first novel. It’s a tough thing to do. Use your experience to find an agent who has an active track record of selling novels in your genre and try, try again.
LONG STORY SHORT
Dear Author Enablers,
I am a full-time freelance writer and have just written a short, perhaps semi-novelty book called 110 Reasons Why It’s Not Your Fault If You’re Fat. It’s based on five years of research I’ve done as the lead writer for the website CalorieLab, which deals with diet, obesity, fitness and exercise. The information in my book is all legit, documented and written in a humorous tone. But it’s only 20,000 words long, and no agent so far has been interested. Does this simply sound like a goofball concept with no likely takers?
San Francisco, CA
There is always a market for books on weight issues and health, and we think your idea sounds saleable. Short is not a bad thing—it can even work to your advantage—as long as the book is designed well and priced appropriately. Humor is also a selling point, although humor about weight can be tricky. (Just ask Sam about the last time Kathi asked, “Do these pants make me look fat?”)
You should continue to look for an agent, but if you have no luck, you might try selling this idea directly to publishers who specialize in either health and wellness or humor. If you go this route, you’ll need to create a formal nonfiction book proposal (if you haven’t done so already).
CRAFT OF WRITING SPOTLIGHT
From Roy Peter Clark, author of Writing Tools, The Glamour of Grammar and Help! For Writers:
“The best tip I ever received on how to become a successful author came from the late Donald Murray, one of America’s great writing teachers. He said, so simply, ‘Remember, a page a day equals a book a year.’ Now there aren’t too many writers around who create a book a year. My rate recently has been a book every two or three years. But it’s not the outcome that is most important, it’s the method: one page per day. The page doesn’t have to be good or interesting or worthy of publication. What that page (250 words, one double-spaced piece of paper) does is to feed your habit as a writer. You want writing to became a habit, not a job, not a chore, not a responsibility; not something you do every month or so, but something you do every day. If you exercise a half hour a day, you will be a very fit person. If you write every day (and forgive yourself those occasions when you don’t), you will become a very fit writer. Now get to writing!”