Do your research. Look at the books published in your genre by the various publishers you're considering. Which of these books have sold well? Which are labeled bestsellers, indicating that the publisher can successfully bring a book to the attention of the bookbuying public? Which are stocked well by chains, indicating that the publisher can successfully negotiate the hellish computerized chain ordering system? Which are on the shelves with other books by the same author, indicating that the publisher can keep his writers in print and support their backlists?
Only submit your book to those houses that have already proven they'll be able to support it. Don't be an experiment in an expanding list, don't be a shelf-filler at a house that prefers books of other sorts, don't be "the next big star" in a house full of one-book wonders and three-book sinkers.
MISTAKE NUMBER TWO - I wrote collaborations instead of focusing on my own work.
I was sitting at the dinner table at a nice restaurant with my publisher, and he said to me, "Next, I'd really like to see a collaboration from you."
I said, "I did one collaboration, but that was it. It was a lot of work for less money than what I can make on my own, and I don't want to do that again. I want to do another Arhel novel."
He looked hurt. "At this publishing house, we like our writers to be team players. We've found that collaborations help introduce new readers to a writers' work, and we would like to get your name out there."
I didn't want to be labeled "not a team player." I was young and dumb and I trusted that my publisher would want the same thing from my career that I did, and that he wouldn't make suggestions that would actively hurt me.
I was wrong. In almost every instance, a collaboration is a way for a publisher to get a book with a big name author on the cover without paying the big name author's price. The publisher gets some young, dumb, eager writer who wants to be a team player and he offers that writer and the big name author a sum of money that is less than the big name gets, but may be equal to or more than what the newbie gets. The big writer takes half to two thirds of the money, the newbie writes the book. There are variations on this theme, and I've tried most of them, and in only one instance has a collaboration earned out for me. I've done eight. If I'd done twenty, only one would have earned out for me, and that one earned out because the other writer is that rare exception in the field - someone whose name can sell a collaboration. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't touch collaborations. Not even the ones I had fun writing, not even the ones that introduced me to some great collaborators, not even the one that still nets me a couple hundred bucks in royalties every six months. The biggest thing collaborations have done for me is hurt my overall sales average, and anything that hurts the salability of your solo work is a bad thing.
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