The third installment to Writer to Agent Q&A with Talcott Notch will cover important questions about The Industry. You can view Part One (The Manuscript) here and Part Two (The Query) here.
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JN: Very few writers “make it big.” It’s not the norm in any way, shape or form. I mean, the reason you hear so much about those huge books is exactly because it’s so incredibly rare for a book to have such a phenomenal response from the public! I can’t source this, because I forgot where I got this figure from, but I think I read somewhere that the average writer makes less than $5000 per book. That’s not just advance, mind you. That’s the entire life of the book. Again, I forgot where I got this figure, so take it with a grain of salt because I can’t speak to its accuracy.
Books in Each Genre Published Each Year:
Q: How many books in a particular genre are published each year? (How many SF/Fantasy/Horror/Romance,etc.)
JN: The best way to keep up with this is to follow a lot of blogs of whatever genre you want to track and read about upcoming releases on a regular basis, visit bookstores/libraries on a regular basis to see what’s on the “new release” shelves, etc… There’s not really a genre report listing every new book ever released. It’s a matter of immersing yourself into the publishing community so that you’re always up to date. It’s a lot of work. If this interests you, paying for a Publishers Marketplace account might be something you can look into. It has a daily report of books bought by publishing houses (they won’t be released for another couple years because of the way publishing works, but this is very much how agents and editors keep track of what’s going to come out in the future). Even that report isn’t all-encompassing because not all agents report their sales
Q: Is there a quota or maximum number of books that must be met or may be published each year in a particular genre?
JN: There are quotas and they vary by house. You see this a lot in romance, especially, because of the volume of books these houses have to release in order to keep up with the market. They try to put out a certain number of books per month because their readers are so voracious. In other genres, it’s more about budget. Editors have a dollar amount they have to answer to when thinking about acquiring a book. They can’t just go forth and offer whatever they want. As is true in any industry, publishing books is a business and therefore a numbers game.
Reasons New Writers Fail:
Q: What are some common reasons new writers don’t make it? Or reasons they don’t snag an agent?
RD: Very complex, but a few: trying to please too many people, not educating themself on the process, not reading the genre they are trying to write, not taking advice, taking everybody’s advice, sending out work before it is ready, not having critique partners, giving up too easily, not being able to take criticism. As many reasons as writers, though! Just remember, you can always write another book! Just because you can’t sell your first one doesn’t mean you’re a terrible writer–it’s a process and you will evolve with time, as with any skill.
Q: How big of a factor has marketability become in an agent’s decision to pick up a novel? How long does a trending genre stay “trending”?
GP: It is a very big component. If an agent is hearing a genre is dead, she won’t be able to sell it. Trending is nice, but not everything. It’s more when the agent is getting negative reports about a genre that isn’t selling. That can make moving a new project difficult. Then sometimes it takes revisioning (not revising, ah-ha!) a book into something somewhat different to let it sell.
Multi Genre Author:
Q: Is it hard for a writer to be accepted if they write books in several different genres? Or as long as the content is great it doesn’t matter?
PM: It is easier to build a career focusing on one genre, at least in the beginning. (that said, it may take you awhile as a writer to find your niche.)