Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The debut dance - do you have the energy? The time? The staying power?

'They' say that no-one is buying debut novels.

I saw a great post recently by Claire King which said 'No-one is buying debut novels these days. Publishers don’t want them. Agents don’t want to take on new writers because they can’t sell debuts. Booksellers are closing down and the way forward is 99cent ebooks. It’s all doom and gloom out there. So why bother? The chances are infinitesimally slim that you will ever get the book deal your heart is set on. Why not go to the pub, or get comfy and watch re-runs of Friends instead?'

Well, if this is true it is very despressing for those of us slogging away at the laptop day after day hoping to hit pay dirt. I read recently that even in little ole Oz, at any given time there are 10,000 mss languishing on agents/editor's desks. But is it necessarily true that you won't be optioned just because you're a debut author? Just remember that bad news sells. And a bit of sensationalism. The evidence shows that you are in with a chance even if you're a first timer. (Don't forget that some published authors are having trouble selling their second or third novels.) Uh, that's not necessarily encouraging is it? Sorry...

Claire tells of the success of ordinary writers, just lke you and me, debuting successfully.

Claire says: 'These people are not different from you and me. They are not better educated. They are not richer. They are not people with industry connections. They are people who sat down and wrote. A lot. And re-wrote. They have families and day jobs and they are busy too. These people are getting agents and they are getting book deals. Three cheers for these people:

Maria Duffy, who signed with Sheila Crowley at Curtis Brown last autumn and has just signed a two book deal with Hachette Ireland. Her debut novel, Any Dream Will Do, will be published November 2011

D.J. Kirkby, who writes fiction and non-fiction and after self publishing her first novel, Without Alice, has just signed up with Judith Murray at Greene & Heaton

Liz Fenwick recently signed with Carol Blake at Blake Friedman and signed with Orion for her debut – A Cornish House - and a second novel…

Claire LeGrand (Who is 24, by the way!) has just sold her debut novel to Simon & Schuster

Kate Brown who just signed with Jamie Coleman at Toby Eady Associates for her debut historical novel.

Mariam Kobras who just signed her contract with Buddhapuss Ink independent publishers for her debut contemporary romance The Distant Shore

Kerry Hudson whose debut novel TONY HOGAN BOUGHT ME AN ICE-CREAM FLOAT BEFORE HE STOLE MY MA comes out from Chatto & Windus in summer 2012

Claire McGowan whose debut novel sold in February to Headline and will be published in 2012. See her blog post about living the dream here.

Jonathan Pinnock whose debut Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens is out this September from Proxima Books

Rebecca Emin whose children’s novel New Beginnings will be published next year by Grimoire books.'

Now that's just for starters. You may have just broken through or you may know someone who has. Care to share? I could add Talli Roland to this list, who had a cracker of a debut with 'The Hating Game', sitting happily in the Amazon top seller list for months and currently doing revisions on her second novel 'Watching Willow Watts.' Now this little alliterative title makes me want to buy it already, so hurry up Talli. Less of the wine and more of the writing! And how about Ann Carbine Best with her memoir 'In the Mirror' (featured in next post)? Who said debut novelists didn't have a chance?

We know it's not all wine and roses. We all know the market is difficult and there are many brilliant writers who have got great agents and are still waiting for a publisher to buy their book. Or maybe they haven't even nabbed an agent. How frustrating. But what do you do while you're waiting? Write your next novel. You will succeed if you're determined (and the planets are aligned.)

So, write. Write today and every day. Check out the Twitter hashtag – #writegoodnews. Here you will make friends, watch others succeed and be encouraged, or drown your sorrows together.

Soon I will be posting one of the most inspirational posts ever about how one debut novelist succeeded in this writing this space...

Happy writing!

Oh, and don't forget, if you write any type of romance you can show off every Friday at Romantic Friday Writers. Just a little flash fiction to keep your creative juices flowing...or give us a little peek at your WIP...


  1. I know of one also: Elana Johnson, author of POSSESSION. It's gonna be big! Coming out this month.

  2. Michelle: Thanks for sharing. How could I forget Elana who is such an encouragement and has been slogging away. Congratulations Elana!

    Any more?


  3. Hi, Denise,

    Carol Riggs (ArtziCarol) just signed with Andrea Brown agency.

    Thanks for the hope and inspiration!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Marie Lu's debut YA Novel LEGEND is coming out in November.

    'They' said women would never vote, man would never walk on the moon and the Beatles would never have a hit. I don't listen to 'them'.

    Sorry about the above delete - just wanted to add that I think Marie's book is already in line to be made into a film too :)

  6. We read and hear so many negatives it's nice to see some positive stuff too.

  7. Hi Denise!
    My debut Harlequin Medical Romance WHEN ONE NIGHT ISN'T ENOUGH just came out in the UK and is up on Mills and Boon Aus/NZ. I sold in October 2010 and Mills and Boon has bought several new authors since me. Mills and Boon is buying. Check out their contests and pitches. It's well worth the effort.
    Good luck!

  8. Michael: Thanks for the news on Carol Riggs. Excellent!

    Sarah: That's awesome all round. A film deal in the offing too! Woo hoo!

    Holly: There's always positives but sometimes you have to dig a bit.

    Wendy: I've read that percentage wise it's much better odds getting a romance published. Great news for romance writers. Thanks for the heads up on Harlequin. I believe they have a fantastic forum too which I must have a look at.

    Thanks everyone for all your good news. Let's hear some more...


  9. Great topic. I have heard the whole, no one is buying new authors and then I hear about and read books from different people who sold their first book recently and over the last couple of years. So, I just keep writing.

    JD Brown, one of the bloggers I blog with on the character cafe, sold a book to Muse It Up Publishing. That is one that I can think of off the top of my head.

  10. Yay for our girl, Talli!

    I think it's important to remain positive and not take in all of the naysaying. Naturally, it's a tough gig-- perhaps the toughest out there. But focusing on any news that reinforces what we all already know-- that it's essentially uphill all the way, even after publication-- is not what's going to fan the flame of tenacity and determination.

    There are a ton of us out their with honed skill, natural talent and truckloads of desire. But it's true, a serendipitous sort of fortune does seem to smile on some and not others. I think the secret to overnight success is to simply be ready for opportunity when it glides by your door. Then grab it by shirt collar and don't let go!

    Luck and optimism to you this day.


  11. Dawn: Thanks for visiting/sharing another success for a debut. Great news.

    Suze: Back to you.


  12. Thank you for all these encouraging stories of writers who DID break through the barriers that seem to be in our way. A timely reminder that it can be done!

  13. Hi,

    Yeah, but for every debut author and debut book think of the back-list author who has just been dropped to make way for new buzz factor.

    I know, bloody pessimist! ;)


  14. yeah, I was silly enough to give up a few years ago because of all the doom and gloom I'd heard for new authors. Well, I'm not going to give up again, that's for sure, even though the market is supposedly even harder to break into now. Thanks for a wonderfully positive post.

  15. Very inspirational! I just signed with Entangled Publishing, (new publisher) and I'm excited about that.

  16. You can always be mad like me and self publish.
    I just enjoy writing for its own sake, anything else would be a bonus.

  17. Gosh, so many debuts! One that comes to mind is the 600,000 (pound) advance Irish author Kathleen MacMahon just got for her debut, So This Is How it Ends. Not too shabby, eh?

  18. I made it! Yay!

    I think the publishing industry is in a terrible flux period where no body really knows what's going on, and no one can predict the future of publishing.

    Some say debut authors are dead. Others say the way to go is indie/self-pub. Others say wait five minutes, and the smoke will clear.

    I think really what we all really have to do is just sit down and right the best book we possibly can. All good things come to those who wait.

  19. Great post, Denise. Such an encouragement to all of us who are writing and hoping one day to get published. Thanks for this.

  20. Great post! I'm under no illusions that I've picked a tough business to crack, but then my first career as a dancer was tough too. I don't need to be a size zero for this one, though!

  21. Agreed. Debut authors are signed (and sold) every day.

  22. Great post, Denise! If you really want something, go out there and get it. All it takes is talent and determination! :o)

  23. Hi Denise, Thanks for the link to my blog and sharing the sentiments with a wider audience! Best wishes Claire

  24. I have often wondered why I couldn't get a deal for my fantasy novel. I finally know what it is. I have a YA voice, but my characters are in their twenties. A double whammy. I am not changing. These are my stories and I believe readers will love them once they find them.

    But hay, three thumbs up to anyone who breaks through. (I'm borrowing someone else's thumb just so you know. I still only have two.)

  25. Looks like we're agreed we have to just keep plugging along believing in ourselves and our work.


  26. I think there will probably always be doom and gloom foretellings about how it's never going to happen and we're just wasting our time, but that's just human nature. We seem to like being gloomy for some reason!

    Maybe it is harder in today's world of ebooks and instant gratification, and maybe it isn't. My question for fellow writers is, though... if it IS harder, is that going to stop you?

    If so, maybe publishing isn't for you. Because it's HARD. But if knowing it's hard doesn't change whether you want to write and strive for publication, then chances are you'll probably be pretty spectacular.

  27. My first book came out last fall! It can be done.

  28. This is all very inspiring to see names of fellow writers whose work I'm familiar with. It happens. Just like winning the lottery happens.

  29. Its posts like this that keep me going when I just want to leave it all behind :)


  30. I love posts like these that let people know that they don't have to give up and lay down and take it. Yes, people write, write, write. Keep going and don't stop! Great post!

  31. ...for those of us who simply love the art of storytelling, regardless of publication, or how, or with whom, the simple notion of giving it up is not an option. We write because we have to, because the urge to do so is an unexplained magnetism. For some, it's our first love.

    My recent release, "South of Charm," was published by WoosterBook, an indie house known for gambling on the little guys. The process was smooth, the staff was personable, the experience a hoot. And whether it sells like hot dogs at a ball game, or cabbage to kindergarten children, I'll keep writing.

    Great post, Denise:)


  32. Thanks to all of you who have been sharing your stories. I 'dips me lid' to those of you who have been given the chance we're all hoping to be given.

    Write on!

    And I'll be putting up a review of Elliot's 'South of Charm' on next week.


  33. Congratulations to all these writers! Posts like this help me keep the faith and keep writing.

  34. Hi Denise,

    So many new writers made it! Yay! Hope for us still!

  35. Denise,

    I just found out today that my friend, Liz Fichera just got a two book deal with Harlequin teen. GO LIZ!

  36. So much great news!

    Thank you loads for the shout-out, Denise! Must I'm afraid I must keep drinking wine. It's critical to revisions. :)


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