Sunday, January 18, 2009

How in the world did you sell your story?

While online visiting authors’ websites, hopping from one blog to the next, I saw at least three announcements about authors who sold their stories to NY publishers such as St. Martins, Berkley and Kensington. My first reaction was, “Dang, I want that.” Followed by a question, “How did they do it?”

Of course, the answer to the latter would be, “They wrote a spanking good story.”
I know that.:D

But after they wrote the story, which I am sure as polished as it could be, then what?

Most NY publishers don’t even have their submission guidelines added on their website. (Am I wrong?) So if guidelines aren’t even available how did these awesome authors manage to snag a contract from them?

While staring at my screen, I began to wonder if there are steps one must follow to sell a book to NY publishers. Okay, I know the first step. Write a great story. Can you tell me the next?

Perhaps some of you would say to do a bit of research to know the answers to my questions. Yeah, I could do that. However, if you have a piece of advice to share, I’d appreciate it if you post it here. Whether you are contracted with any of the NY pubs or not yet, I am sure pros, readers and readers like me would appreciate reading your comments as well.

Tierney O’Malley
Deadly Vixen

13 deadly screams:

Laurel Bradley said...

I'm not NY published--yet. I live in joyful hope. Sometimes the big NY publishers are looking for specific things and you can submit directly. RWA posts those in their magazine. I think PW does as well on occasion. Some of the independant NY publishers take submissions. The rest, you need an in or an agent.
Remember, you can always query.
Laurel Bradley
A Wish in Time
Creme Brulee Upset

Sierra Wolfe said...

I think for the most part, those who sell to NY publishers like that get agents who sub for them. Many of the NY pubs won't even accept submissions from unagented authors. I could be wrong, but that's how I think it usually happens.

Great post today! It was a good topic. I enjoyed reading it.

Monica Burns said...

Answer IMHO - LUCK, a good story, a little talent, an agent who's a great salesperson and good craft. And despite the contempt from some quarters, writing for a quality ePub/small press is an excellent stepping stone.

IMHO, and there are writers who will disagree, the first and foremost thing that helps you make that first sale to NY is LUCK.

Your good story has to land on the right editor's desk, on the right day, at the right time. You have to have an agent who knows when to push for that right time/day/editor.

I've come close to selling to NY on two other occasions, but they fell through not because the story wasn't good, there were other reasons, no slots open any time soon, a house author had an upcoming book that was too similar to mine, someone up the line thought it might not sell well. None of these things said the book was bad, it just wasn't right for the house.

I do know that having a really unique story line helps, but the editor has to love the voice too, and THAT is definitely LUCK.

But once you sell to NY you have to work even harder because competition for reader attention is tough. And LUCK will play a role there. I'm terrified to be quite honest. The final judgment on a good story is the reader.

One more thing, and this is something some people will diss others won't. I work hard to believe in myself, my story and my ability to sell up the career ladder. I didn't always keep the faith. I got frustrated, bitter sometimes and depressed. But through it all, I worked hard to follow my mantra. Dream it, Believe it, Achieve it. I dreamed it as a kid, and then six years ago, I started to believe it, and now I've achieved it. Believing in yourself is half the battle. There were times as recent as this past September when I was thinking of quitting. But I didn't, but I also got lucky.

Never surrender, Never give up. --Galaxy Quest is another good mantra. But it's also important to recognize that even if an author doesn't sell up to NY, the success of being published anywhere is a success. How many people have you met who've said, I'd like to write a book? If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.


Meagan Hatfield said...

Hi Tierney,

I don't think there is any specific formula to get into NYC. I've heard of it happening many different ways - from writing contests, from one-on-one pitches at conferences, or (like me) from a silent auction critique! In my case, I actually found the line I wanted to write for and tailored the story to fit it, so sometimes you don't write the story first - depends on which publisher you are targeting. (And I actually blogged about my call story awhile ago if you’re interested in seeing how that all happened: )

Anyway, IMHO the point is, you don't need an agent (although it would be nice. Heck, I still don't have one, lol!) You don't need to find the publishers submission guidelines and blindly send your query or your parital off to the slush pile and hope they don’t get recycled. Instead, try and find those other ways of getting inside the NY building and see if that works. I never had much luck with the contest route - judges either loved me or hated me. However I know many people who ended up selling as a direct result of one. Your local conference can be a great way to get your foot in the door as well. I always got requests when I did sit downs with editors/agents at conferences, and that enables you to put "requested material" on the outside of your submission package.

Like Monica said, I believe it’s a little bit of talent, a good story and a whole lotta luck. *grins* Just believe in yourself, keep all of those doors open and don’t give up!

Dragon Fire ~ Silhouette Nocturne, tbd

Sandy said...

Hi Tierney,

Great post. I'm an e-pub author, and I'm still trying to make it to NY.

All of the other authors have shared the ideas I would offer.

Best of luck,
http://www.forbidden - The Catalyst and Addiction

Tierney said...

Wow! Monica, thank you so much for the great post. You made me think, step back and see the bigger picture. I am somewhat getting antsy to write a novel and sub it to big NY pub. But after reading your post, I told myself I am doing the right thing by taking the route of establishing a good name through epubs.

"Slow and steady wins the race." :D


Tierney said...

"Sometimes the big NY publishers are looking for specific things and you can submit directly. RWA posts those in their magazine."


Thanks for this bit of info. And thank you for posting.


Tierney said...

Hey Sierra, Thanks for the comment. I'll try to catch you online.

Sandy, thanks for stopping by. You rock!!!


Nell Dixon said...

Hi Tierney, I write for Hodder's Little Black Dress line. I wrote a story that wouldn't leave me alone and pitched it at a conference in a ten minute slot to the acquiring editor - it wasn't finished. She requested it and I reminded her it wasn't finished but she said send it - she bought it on a partial as a two book contract. I think it was luck that I had the right story at the right time for the right person BUT my track record of working with quality e pubs stood in my favour, she'd looked me up and read some of my other work so she knew what I could deliver. Being professional in everything you do, keeping deadlines, a neat up to date blog or wensite, a willingness to learn, coupled with a good story and persistence.

Monica Burns said...

[["Slow and steady wins the race." :D]]

You know, this is so interesting that you posted this particular thought. When I saw other people, friends and people I knew from other places getting published, I'd get depressed, jealous (yes the green-eyed monster has struck me). After I got over the pity party and thought about it for a while, I just told myself I'm a turtle. I'll get there eventually, and then because I'm a turtle, I'll last a while. LOL I'm hoping that statement is true. ROFL

Tierney O'Malley said...

Hey Monica,

Look at you know, girl! 5 books sold to St. Martins. How cool is that? must be one speedy turtle. LOL


Monica Burns said...

Actually, it's Berkley *grin* and one is complete, one 3/4 finished and three to write in about a year.I'll be busy. LOL

Tierney said...

Gah! Yes, Berkley. Sorry. LOL Three books to write--I'm surprise you still have time answering questions and giving your advice on line. It's good though. Because we need you like a bright light at the end of the tunnel.