Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Publishing a Novel

I’ve written a couple of novels in the past (well, three, in fact, but I tore one of them up and binned it) and have ideas for writing another one, should my schedule ever make that possible. But chances of publication are remote, and according to this article in The Guardian, they are getting more remote by the second.

“…the idea of a novel quietly selling itself now, with no sense of the writer behind it, is far-fetched. Kate Saunders, one of the judges of this year's Orange Prize for fiction (the longlist, just announced, has half-a-dozen first novels on it), says: 'It is harder for first novelists to get noticed now. They will find, increasingly, that they are judged alongside their work - and are less likely to be taken on if they are not photogenic or newsworthy.'”

and:

“According to the latest edition of Private Eye, first novel The Thirteenth Tale by ex-teacher Diane Setterfield (author's advance £800,000) has sold 13,487 copies to date. Only 516,129 to go and the book's paid for itself...”

The average hardback first novel sells only 400 copies in the UK, and the average advance is only £12,000 for the first two novels . The subtext: Don't give up your day job.

6 comments:

Harry said...

"The average hardback first novel sells only 400 copies in the UK."

Serious question: can anyone think of any good reason why first novels are published as hardbacks anyway? Sure, for successful authors, a glossier, higher-quality premium edition might be a good way to maximise the profits; but for a novelist no one has heard of, why not just publish it in paperback, charge £8 less, and make it more likely people will pick it up on the off-chance that they'll enjoy it?

Colin Will said...

Most hardback copies are bought by public libraries - they get more wear out of them than paperbacks.

Rik said...

You're telling me this now?

Colin Will said...

I'll tell you something else Rik: most agents are only interested in authors who have the potential to write at least 4 good-selling novels. The odds are stacked in favour of young guns like you and Rob, and against BOFs like me.

Reading the Signs said...

Hello. I think it all sounds quite hopeful. You write the novel, do something "newsworthy" and then, if you are not photogenic, get a make-over or hire a model to stand in for you. Then, when your book is a best-seller, you can reveal yourself.

Rob said...

Reading the Signs - you gave me a good laugh with your reply, so thanks!

I think at the very least that a false age and touched-up photo is vital.

One positive thing is the agent saying she wants something distinctive, not the usual blah. So you've still got a chance, Rik.

Of course, that doesn't explain why so many novels are published that are the usual blah - family sagas featuring a dying granny and all the family secrets spilling out around her deathbed, middle-class couples in crisis, and attractive women in their early thirties having to choose between three devestatingly handsome and intelligent men while having also to make decisions on Prada or Gucci blouses.

My current idea is distinctive, but I've no time to write it.