by Steve Laube
It happens. Despite all efforts and good intentions not every proposal we shop will end up being contracted by a major publisher. Of course our agency tries our best to keep that from happening. We carefully choose which projects and authors we represent. We work with our clients to create and develop top notch proposals. And our success rate is extremely high.
But that success rate is not 100%.
Here are a few examples of projects that I represented in years past that did not sell to a major publisher (and are ones that I still think are great projects):
The autobiography of a well-known former NFL coach who became a follower of Christ late in life. He now devotes considerable time to prison ministry. The story gave deep background into his time in the NFL.
An extraordinary graphic novel series. It was ahead of its time and no publisher was willing to take the obvious risk to produce and distribute the project. The author/artist later found his own backing and formed a company to create the material. They found a non-traditional distributor and ended ups selling over 250,000 units.
An already self-published book on the importance of character in a person’s life, what is it and how to cultivate it. The author was a judge and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in his state. His credentials were impeccable. He was “media-ready” and spoke regularly on the topic.
A supernatural fiction manuscript that caught my eye for its great storyline and wonderful storytelling. The combination of being a debut author and having a thinly veiled science-fiction thread caused it to rejected by everyone. The author shelved it and wrote another novel, which didn’t sell. The author shelved that one and began writing non-fiction where the author has become quite successful.
The above examples are from the past, but you may be wondering what happened last year. In 2012 my personal clients had seven projects that did not find a publisher. On the other hand my clients did secure sixty-three new book contracts. My clients and I have to live with that percentage, but I wish it were higher.
So what do you do if your project doesn’t capture a publisher’s attention?
See the fourth example above where the author did not give up. Even switched to a different discipline entirely and found the perfect outlet for his talent. This is the most common solution for professional writers. Tears of frustration may be shed, but they step back and come up with a new idea.
Let me reiterate that self-publishing is always an option a) If you have an audience to which to sell the idea b) you have the gumption to be an entrepreneur and sell your project and c) you have the money to invest in making it an excellent final product. The first example above is what this author did. He was well loved in his community, even did local TV commercials, and thus had a ready-made market for his story. This is a perfect example of where self-publishing makes a lot of sense.
Find Another Option
The second example above illustrates this. The author did not take no for an answer and ended up with a company behind his work.
The judge, example three above, retired from his position and continued to speak and influence those around him. He also continued to sell his self-published book to his listening audience. He was no worse off than before he approached me for representation. He gave it a shot and it didn’t work out.
Or do as one lady did at a writers conference. During her 15 minute writers conference appointment she asked me point-blank, “Do I have what it takes to be a successful writer?” I stammered a bit not wanting to hurt her feelings, “You have the foundation of a good story but it is going to take a lot of work to get it ready to be competitive. ” She thanked me and abruptly ended the meeting. Later that afternoon she came bounding up to me full of smiles. She proclaimed, “I quit! I called my husband and told him I’m quitting this writing stuff and I’m going to take up knitting instead. I’m so happy! Thank you for telling me how much work it was going to take. I’d rather spend that time doing something I know I will enjoy.” The moral of that story is to ask yourself the ultimate question of whether you are willing to continue to work hard in order to overcome any objections to your next idea.
Any stories you wish to share?