A guest blog by Pat Browning
I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Just when I was ready to write a few words on marketing, Vickie Britton’s new mini-ebook, Writing and Selling a Mystery Novel: A Simple Step-by-Step Plan, fell into my hands.
She also writes fiction. Vickie and her sister, Loretta Jackson, have co-authored more than 30 novels, most of them mysteries, mystery-romances, and westerns. Besides print editions, many are available on Kindle.
Vickie’s new mini e-book is a blueprint for writing a mystery from start to finish. Her segment on marketing sums up in three rules: Get it finished; get it out there, get it to the right market. Please note: The first rule is
GET IT FINISHED!
Here’s an excerpt from the marketing segment, reprinted with Vickie Britton’s permission.
Why Most Books Don’t Sell
Yes, being a writer is tough, and it is a competitive market. But there are three rules that will greatly increase your odds of success.
■ Get it Finished
Most people don’t sell their novel for one simple reason: they never get it finished. They attend writer’s conferences and critique groups, talk about their project incessantly, and maybe even jot down a few ideas or chapters. But when it comes down to the wire, they don’t have a finished product to offer.
Half a book will never sell. True, when you get established you may be able to sell on the basis of a synopsis and three sample chapters, but at some point in time the editor is going to ask for the completed manuscript. You had better be ready and able to produce one. Usually, editors want completed manuscripts from new authors so that they know the writer can finish what he started. Once you’ve written a completed manuscript you've already eliminated over half of the competition.
■ Get it Out There
No manuscript has ever sold sitting in the bottom of a filing cabinet. Once you feel you've written the book to the best of your ability, get it circulating – by either querying an agent or sending it directly to a publisher.
■ Get it to the Right Market
■ Finding an Agent
Not only do you have to get your manuscript out there, but targeting the right market greatly increases your chances of a sale. If you have a mystery, don’t send it to a romance market. If you've written a police procedural, don’t send it to a tea cozy market. You'll get nothing but rejection. Study the publisher’s book list. You'll find that all publishers have a certain image they project to target a certain type of reader. They can vary greatly. Even if you have written the great American novel, the publisher won't change his publishing list for you.
■ Finding an Agent
This is the question authors get asked the most. No, it isn't necessary to have an agent in order to sell a book. An agent can help you reach larger publishing houses that don't accept unsolicited material, and they can help you get a better book deal once you have reached the stage where you want to sign multiple contracts. They can handle foreign rights for you and do all the bookwork.
On the downside, they charge up to 15 percent. So yes, you should try to get an agent if you want one. There are plenty of legitimate agents listed in the Writer’s Market. Another way to find a good agent is through word of mouth. Never pay a reading fee. Agents who ask for money up front make their living by charging fees, not by selling books.
■ Going Solo
If you either can’t get an agent to take you on because you're a new author or you simply don’t want one, you can query the editors at publishing houses yourself. Read their submission guidelines carefully and don’t try to change rules.
Guidelines can be found in the Writer’s Market, or by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to a specific publisher. Most editors want to see a synopsis and three sample chapters. The synopsis shouldn't be more than three pages. People disagree whether the outcome of a mystery should be revealed in the synopsis. I believe when selling a book you should tell how the story unfolds so the editor can get an idea of the plot’s plausibility. The sample chapters should be the first three chapters and not picked randomly from the book. If a publisher will accept a completed manuscript, then send the entire book.
Writing and selling a Mystery Novel: A Simple Step-by-Step Plan by Vickie Britton is available for purchase at Smashwords: http://tinyurl.com/4y75bt9 . It’s available in ten e-book formats.
A veteran traveler, Pat Browning's.globetrotting of the 1970s led to her work as a travel agent and correspondent for TravelAge West, a trade journal published in San Francisco. During the 1990s, she served as a newspaper reporter and columnist. Her mystery novel, Full Circle, first of her Penny McKenzie mystery series, was later republished as Absinthe of Malice. She's currently hard at work on the second novel in the series.