A lot of people think that if you get a book deal with a publisher, that’s it, you’re done–you never have to go through a submission process again. And for some lucky few, that’s the case. Alan Bradley, for example, got a seven book deal for his Flavia series and I don’t doubt, given its extraordinary success, that there will be another deal if he chooses to continue with the series. Or write a new one.
But for most of us, we sell a book or two to a publisher and perhaps a few foreign rights sales, and then we’re right back into the submission process for the next one.
You’d like to think your publisher will keep you on, but that’s not always the case. I have a pal who had a two book deal in the US who’s been let go and is now looking for another publisher for her third book in the series. Her publisher said her sales weren’t quite good enough, but never told her what the magic number was.
I have another writer friend who ran into problems with her existing publisher (they ended up hiring lawyers to duke it out) and has not been able to find a pubisher since. The reason she’s been given is that the sales of the book weren’t enough to establish the track record that publishers want to see before they invest in an established author. Once again, she hasn’t been told what they needed to be, only that she hasn’t achieved them.
It’s ironic, but in these tough days of publishing, a debut author has a better shot of landing a contract than someone who’s managed to navigate the obstacle course of getting published. The debut author is all about promise; there are no hard statistics to get in the way.
Once you are published, however, book sales hold enormous sway — I think people sometimes forget that publishing is a business. An author who hasn’t managed to build a platform via sales may have a problem getting published again.