If you prefer paperbacks, never fear: You can order signed copies from me for $1 off the usual price (ordering info here).
If you prefer paperbacks, never fear: You can order signed copies from me for $1 off the usual price (ordering info here).
The results are in from my New Publishing Connections survey, and I’m excited to share them with you! To sum up quickly, this survey was intended to discover to what extent authors need connections within the publishing world to get a first (fiction) book published.
To begin with, I’d like to thank the 257 authors who contributed their answers! Unfortunately, that number wasn’t quite enough to allowed for some of the more detailed analyses across genres and other answers. So I’m going to keep the survey open, and if I get at least 100 more responses, I’ll go back and reanalyze the data to see whether the patterns stay consistent and whether I can identify any new ones.
If you’d like to contribute data on your first (fiction) book sale to a traditional publisher and haven’t already, you can find the survey here. Much appreciated!
Now, on to the current results…
Of the first (fiction) books reported on in the survey, 49.6% were young adult, 22.3% middle grade, 13.3% adult genre (romance, SFF, mystery, etc.), 11.3% picture books, and 3.1% adult literary or mainstream. (Weighting toward YA and MG would be because of my specific reach when promoting the survey, not anything about the industry.) These books were sold between 1979 and 2015, with most of them having sold in the last five years (60.6%). 22.6% had sold between 2006 and 2010, 11.8% had sold between 2001 and 2005, and only 5.2% were sales before 2000. (There were no sales reported actually in 2000.) Most — 50.4% — were sales to Big Five publishers, while 16% were to other large presses, 19.5% to mid-sized presses, and 14.1% to small presses.
The Connections (or lack thereof)
68% of the books reported on had sold with an agent’s representation; 32% had sold directly to the publisher.
67% of the agented authors had gotten their agent through cold querying — i.e., they’d had no prior contact with the agent and no one acted as a middleman bringing them together. 11.5% had gotten their agent via a referral, 6.9% had met the agent at a conference, 5.2% had gotten a request from the agent due to a contest submission, 4% had gotten to know the agent via social media, and 4.8% had some other connection (e.g., materials requested because seen online).
96% of agented authors had no prior contact whatsoever with the editor their first book sold to. 3.4% had met the editor at a conference or workshop, and 1 author had gotten a referral to the editor.
Therefore, 44.8% of the total respondents sold their first novel via an agent they had no prior contact with to an editor they had no prior contact with.
Looking at the unagented authors, 41.7% had sold their book via a cold query or submission (no prior contact with or connections to the editor). 17.9% had met the editor a conference, workshop, or similar event. 16.7% had gotten a referral. 7.2% had gotten noticed via a contest. 6% had gotten to know the editor via social media. 3 authors were approached by the editor based on self published books. And a handful of “Other” responses were mainly authors who had previous interactions with the editor around past books on submission that hadn’t sold.
Therefore, 13.3% of the total respondents sold the book without an agent, to an editor they had no prior contact with.
Which brings the total of authors who sold their first books without any connections to the people involved in that sale up to 58.1%.
Past Credits (or lack thereof)
One point raised when I conducted my previous survey on this topic was that some authors might have gotten their foot in the door not via direct connections but on the strength of prior publication credits and/or social media presence. So I asked about that too this time around. 53.5% of the authors who responded had no prior credits or platform whatsoever. 10.9% had sold short stories in the same genre as their first (fiction) book. 16.6% had sold short stories and/or articles but none in the same genre. 6.6% had traditionally published nonfiction books. 3.9% had self published stories or books selling fewer than 1000 each; 2.3% had self published stories or books with at least one title selling over 1000 copies. 2.3% were known for their social media presence. A number of others were journalists (freelance or on staff), had worked for hire under pen names, had published poetry, and/or wrote academic texts.
Cross-referencing the authors without connections with authors without past credits/platform, we end up with:
28.7% of the total respondents sold their first novel via an agent they had no prior contact with to an editor they had no prior contact with, without having any prior publication credits or social media platform.
6.5% of the total respondents sold the book without an agent, to an editor they had no prior contact with, without having any prior publication credits or social media platform.
So, overall, 35.2% sold their first books without connections to the people involved in that sale, prior publication credits, or a platform with which to gain notice.
Agented vs. Not
Being agented for the first book sale was most common with young adult (78.7& agented), followed by middle grade (68.4%), and adult genre (58.8%). PB writers least likely at 31%. There wasn’t enough data on adult literary/mainstream to reveal patterns. Across all genres, authors had generally found their agent through cold querying (65-69.2%). Adult genre writers were more likely than others to have gotten a referral (25%); YA and MG saw fairly similar percentages for contests (around 6.8%) referals (10.6%), meeting at conference etc. (7.3%), and getting to know online (3.3%). There wasn’t enough PB data to reveal patterns at that level of detail.
Being agented seems to have become more common for first book sales over the years, with only 23.1% of those who sold their books prior to 2000 having agents, vs. 56.7% of those between 2001 and 2005, 70.7% in 2006-2010, and 72.9% after 2011. No patterns in regards to cold querying emerged other than none of the 13 responses from pre-2000 had cold queried (they’d mostly gotten referrals). Otherwise cold querying has been by far the most common route to getting an agent over the last 15 years (around 70% of those agented). Referrals as a route to agent decreased over the time periods from 17.6% in 2001-2005 to 12.2% in 2006-2010 to 9.7% after 2011 (not enough data prior to 2000). Meeting agents in person became more common, with no one reporting this prior to 2006, 2.4% in 2006-2010, and 9.7% after 2011; contest submissions only became a thing after 2011.
First book sales to Big Five houses were almost always agented (86%), while mid-sized and other large presses showed similar numbers around the middle (56% and 58.5%), and with small press it was least common to have been agented (30.8%). Coming at it from the other direction, agented writers mostly sold to the Big Five (63.8%) and rarely to small presses (6.3%) whereas unagented writers were least likely to sell to Big Five (22%) and most likely to sell to small press (30.5%).
Prior publication credits or other platform was less common for agented writers (77.4% had none) than for non-agented (57.1%). It’s impossible to determine cause and effect, but I’d wonder if writers who have some experience with publishing are more likely to feel comfortable going directly to editors, or if it’s that it’s more difficult to sell a book without those prior credits if you don’t have an agent, or perhaps a bit of both. Having no prior credits didn’t seem to make a difference in how people got agents, with 67.9% of those with none successful via cold querying, similar to 66.2% of those with some.
Authors who cold queried agents and sold to editors they’d had no prior contact with also had no prior credits or platform in 64% of cases. Most common credits for those who had some: 11.7% had sold at least some short stories in the same genre as the book, 12.6% had sold short stories and/or articles in other genres.
Authors who sold directly to editors via cold query/submission had no prior credits/platform in 48.6% of cases. 14.3% had sold at least some short stories in the same genre as the book, and 25.7% had sold short stories and/or articles in other genres.
There were not enough authors with prior credits to break down the data by type of credit or in comparison to genre etc. in any meaningful way at this time.
For anyone who feared that it’s impossible to sell a book without some sort of connection or publication history, I think these numbers should provide reassurance. More than a third of the responding authors published their first (fiction) book without any of that!
To anyone who would take this data as reason for doubt — “But the majority of the authors did have something helping them!” — I’d like to point out that just because an author had a connection or prior credits, that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have sold the book without that. We’re not looking at causal relationships here, only criteria that both happened to be present and may have had no impact on each other. This seems especially likely to be the case given that the most common “something” was having previously published short stories or articles that weren’t even in the same genre as the book sold, which seems unlikely to have mattered enough to any agent or editor to make the difference between wanting to represent or buy the book vs. not.
Speaking from my own experience: I queried agents with two earlier books before querying with the one that got me representation (and later sold as my debut). I had the exact same prior publishing credits in all of those cases (a handful of adult spec fic short stories). What made the difference was the book. The agent who did take my debut on didn’t care at all about those short stories, because they weren’t for the same audience as the book and they weren’t especially prominent. She didn’t even mention them to the editors she submitted the book to. So, I had “something,” but there’s no reason to believe my publishing journey with that book would have been any different if I hadn’t.
I’ve also gotten referrals to agents who decided not to represent me because my book wasn’t quite the right fit (and said book later sold via a different agent), and given referrals to authors who my agent decided not to take on for the same reason (and some of those books have since sold via different agents). A referral isn’t going to make someone take on your book if the book isn’t what they’re looking for — and being turned down on a referral doesn’t mean a book isn’t what someone else might be looking for.
In other words, the people who got their first book published without any of that are only the baseline number of people who 100% definitely didn’t need anything except the book and the willingness to put it out there. The people who got their first book published after having published short stories or working as a journalist or getting a referral to an agent or meeting an editor at a conference might have needed that extra stuff to get noticed… but I think there’s a good chance that many if not most of them would have gotten noticed regardless, if they hadn’t had those credits to mention, if they’d cold queried the agent or submitted to the editor without the meeting, because it was the right book at the right time.
Those are my thoughts — I’d love to hear yours!
(And remember, if you’d like to contribute data for a broader analysis, you can still do so here. 🙂 )
A couple of years ago, I found out my debut novel, Give Up the Ghost, was going out of print. This was not entirely surprising, because not very many new readers were discovering the book, but it was also saddening, because there were so many new readers who now couldn’t discover the book.
Ghost had a bit of an awkward time of it from the start. While it got great feedback from fellow authors (Justine Larbalestier called it “a beautiful and moving debut”) and industry reviewers, it was also a paranormal YA novel that had no romance coming out on the heels of the Twilight series, and a ghost story that’s more about the emotional concerns of the living than supernatural hauntings. But I’m still very fond of it, and there are many readers who’ve connected with it, which makes me hope it’ll find more. So when I got the opportunity to re-release Ghost myself, I jumped on it.
And as part of that re-release, I have given the book a makeover.* 🙂 Check out the new cover (recently revealed at YABooksCentral, where you can go to enter to win a paperback copy):
Do you like the new look? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
The new edition of the book will be available for purchase on December 1st, with a new ebook price of just $3.99. You can pre-order the ebook here, and the new paperback is available here. I will be offering signed copies of the paperback at the same prices as Those Who Lived; if you’re interested, please email me.
*Note: The content of the book is completely unchanged — not because I think it’s perfect, but because I started writing that book more than ten years ago in a very different place in my life, and I think it should stand as the book I wrote then.
I just got back from an awesome not-quite-24 hours in Ottawa with fellow Penguin Random House YA authors Morgan Rhodes and Natale Ghent. Part of what made the trip awesome was the company of those two lovely women. The other parts?
The wonderful librarians of the Ottawa Public Library who organized and hosted the events (two of whom are pictured with us below):
The amazing sign and display that greeted us at the library:
And of course all of the enthusiastic teens who asked questions and shared their thoughts during our school visit, and hung out with us at the library event. Especially one reader named Artina who brought five of my books for me to sign (and would have had one more, except the bookseller on hand wasn’t selling the one she didn’t already have) and brought me a present, which was so sweet of her and I don’t think has ever happened to me before:
Also awesome? The hotel upgraded our rooms to “romantic luxury suites”, which included a huge “Roman” bathtub (I tried to take a picture but it didn’t really turn out, so let’s just say this thing must have held at least three times more water than my tub at home does), and very comfy bed, and some interesting decor…
Which is relevant to the new project I happened to be line editing during the trip’s occasional spare moments, in a way I will some day explain. 😀 I think I’ll take that as a good sign, anyway.
The Canadian edition of A Sky Unbroken is now out in all its shiny hardcover glory! Behold:
I’ll be talking about the series, writing in general, and in some cases reading from the book at a few events around Toronto and Ottawa in the next eight days. Stop by if you’d like to get your book signed, or if you just want to chat:
CANSCAIP Packing Your Imagination Conference
Humber College Lakeshore Campus (21 Colonel Samuel Smith Drive), Toronto, ON – Saturday November 14, 2015, 9am-4:45pm
YA fantasy & science fiction panel 11am-12pm and signing after the keynote
Teen Author Fest – Other Worlds author panel
Ottawa Public Library, Nepean Centrepointe branch (101 Centrepointe), Ottawa, ON – Monday November 16, 2015 – 7pm
(with Morgan Rhodes and Natale Ghent)
Round Venue (152A Augusta Ave, 2nd floor), Toronto, ON – Wednesday November 18, 2015 – 8pm
Please do say hi if you see me! 🙂
Exciting news: My Canadian publisher for the Earth & Sky trilogy has teamed up with local SF & fantasy bookstore Bakka-Phoenix to present a combined pre-order campaign and giveaway! This is for the Canadian editions of the books, and the offer and giveaway are open to readers throughout Canada.
Here’s how it works:
If you would like to get a copy of the hardcover edition of A Sky Unbroken, pre-order it from Bakka-Phoenix before November 10th (the Canadian release date) and you will receive a copy signed by me as well as swag for the trilogy! You will also be entered to win the grand prize.
If you would like to start or catch up with the trilogy, you can instead (or also) order the Canadian edition of Earth & Sky (paperback or hardcover) and/or the Canadian edition of The Clouded Sky (hardcover) before November 10th to be entered to win the grand prize.
The grand prize: A Traveler kit with everything you’ll need in case a time traveling alien sweeps into your life, and $100 in gift cards!
You can place your order with Bakka-Phoenix by stopping by the store at 84 Harbord if you’re in Toronto, or by calling them at 416-963-9993 if you’re elsewhere. They will be able to confirm book pricing and shipping costs for the books. If you prefer, you can also try the email form on their contact page, but they do not generally take orders this way.
Good luck to all who enter! And feel free to email me if you have any questions about the offer.
I’m in an investigative mood this month, and I’m hoping you all will help me out with an examination of two different areas of publishing.
1. Publishing Connections
Some of you may remember my original look at the publishing connections myth (i.e., the theory that you have to know someone to have a shot at getting published) which was, wow, more than six years ago now. The original data seemed to prove that the majority of published authors sold their first book with no connections necessary, but people pointed out a few concerns–that I hadn’t been able to break it down by genre, for example, or by what year people had sold their debut in. That myth/theory about needing connections still seems to be hanging on, possibly even more so with all the changes in the industry over the last six years, so I’ve been meaning to take another, more thorough run at the subject. So here we are! Let’s find out to what extent, even right now, for any given type of book, you’re likely to get published without knowing anyone in publishing at all. 🙂
If you have sold a book-length work of fiction (for any age group) to a traditional publishing house (of any size) at any time, whether with connections or without, I would greatly appreciate it if you took a few minutes to fill out my new Publishing Connections survey. By traditional publishing, I mean a publishing house that offered you an advance and/or royalties to publish your book and provided editorial guidance, cover and interior design, and some level of marketing and distribution at no cost to you. All individual responses are completely anonymous. I’ll keep the survey open until mid-November and then present the results. Please share widely with any traditionally published authors you know if you’re inclined to!
2. Self Publishing Numbers
A whole lot of traditionally published authors I know are starting to dip their toes into the self publishing world or are curious about doing so, with out of print backlist titles and/or new projects that don’t seem suited to traditional publishing for whatever reason. I’ve found in my own research (for Those Who Lived and the forthcoming re-release of Give Up the Ghost) that definite answers are hard to come by, especially when the self publishing landscape is shifting so regularly. So while I had my subscription to the survey site, I thought it’d be a great time to gather some data.
If you have self published at least one book-length work of fiction (for any age group), new work or re-release, I would greatly appreciate it if you took the time to fill out my Self Publishing Numbers survey. The survey collects data on sales numbers and income across genres, series vs. standalone books, price levels, promotional effort, and a variety of other factors, mostly within the past year. I hope it will reveal some patterns people will find useful in deciding whether to self publish a given book and what strategies to use if they do. All individual responses are completely anonymous, and if you are uncomfortable sharing any specific data, you may skip those questions without answering. This survey will be open until mid-November, after which I will present the results. Please share widely with any self publishing authors you know if you’re inclined to!
If you have any questions about either survey, feel free to ask in the comments on this post or to email me directly. And huge thanks to everyone who participates!
The Earth & Sky trilogy is complete today, with the release of the final book, A Sky Unbroken. It’s a little sad taking my leave of Skylar, Win, Jule, and all the other characters, but I’m also excited to be able to share the end of their story with you. So let’s party!
(For those in Canada, our edition isn’t out until November 10th, but you can still party along now!)
–All day you can post questions or share your thoughts by commenting on this blog post or on the Facebook event page. Remember, if you’re asking or talking about a key event from this book or earlier books in the trilogy, please mark your comment with a SPOILER note so others who haven’t read yet can skip over it.
–Comment and win! I will randomly select one person who comments on this post to win your choice of any book in the Earth & Sky trilogy in your preferred format (Canadian hardcover edition, US paperback edition, ebook, or audiobook), signed by me.
–Follow the Facebook event page and win! I will be posting questions on the FB wall throughout the day which you can answer to win books, so check back regularly!
All giveaways are open to readers around the world.
–Request a signed bookplate and bookmark to put in your copy of A Sky Unbroken over at the signing table.
–Join the launch party live chat from 8:30-9:30pm EST, during which I’ll be giving out a few more prizes. Link to be posted here shortly beforehand!
–Hear the music that helped inspire the story by listening to the unofficial soundtrack (scroll down past Earth & Sky and The Clouded Sky‘s).
–See images and quotes that I associated with the trilogy by browsing through my “sky” tag on Tumblr.
Enjoy the festivities!
Can’t wait to find out what awaits Skylar and the others in A Sky Unbroken? Well, now you can read the first chapter on my website. Note: this excerpt contains major spoilers for the rest of the trilogy, so I recommend reading only if you’ve read those books.
Just one week left until you can get your hands on the whole thing!
Welcome to the 11th YA Scavenger Hunt!
I’m Megan Crewe — author of YA fantasy, paranormal, and science fiction novels including the Earth & Sky trilogy, the Fallen World trilogy, and Give Up the Ghost — and I’m your host for this stop in the tour.
This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors…and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize–one lucky winner will receive one signed book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours!
There are EIGHT contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the BLUE TEAM–but there is also a red team, a gold team, an orange team, a green team, a teal team, a purple team, and a pink team for a chance to win a whole different set of signed books!
If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.
SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE
Directions: Somewhere on this page, I’ve listed my favorite number (hint: the number is highlighted in blue). Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the blue team, and then add them up (don’t worry, you can use a calculator!).
Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.
Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by April 5th, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.
The author I’m pleased to be hosting for the YA Scavenger Hunt today is… Austin Aslan!
Austin Aslan was inspired to write his young adult sci-fi survival eco-thrillers The Islands at the End of the World and The Girl at the Center of the World while living with his wife and two children on the Big Island of Hawai`i, where he earned a master’s degree in tropical conservation biology at the University of Hawai`i at Hilo. A National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, he can often be found exploring the wilds of northern Arizona in a tent on a punctured air mattress. In other lives, Austin drove ambulances way too fast, served as an ecotourism Peace Corps Volunteer in a Honduran cloud forest, and managed a variety of local, state, and federal issue campaigns. Austin loves to travel widely and photograph nature. Follow him on Twitter at @Laustinspace.
And this is his book, The Girl at the Center of the World — now that’s a striking cover! Great tagline too.
As sixteen-year-old Leilani and her family learn to live without electronics, farming the land as her ancestors did, she finds strength in her relatives, her friendships, and her strange connection to the Emerald Orchid–the force whose presence caused global devastation–but suffers regret over what she must do to survive.
An exciting and satisfying sequel that continues the thrilling ideas and adventure of THE ISLANDS AT THE END OF THE WORLD.
Oooh, that does sound thrilling! You can order the book here.
Here’s the exclusive bonus material! Readers of the Islands at the End of the World series will know that Leilani’s best friend, Tami, plays an important role in book two, The Girl at the Center of the World. We were only briefly introduced to her at the beginning of Islands, but did you know that she once made a deleted appearance at the end of Islands, also? During revisions, Austin was asked to try out a closing scene that included her, but everyone agreed that it distracted too much from the powerful ending that was coming on the next page. So, without further ado, here’s an (almost) forgotten—but interesting!—vestige of the revision process for the end of The Islands at the End of the World:
…Hilo has always been dark at night—dimly lit to assist the observatories in their endless safaris through the skies—but it was never this dark. Countless squares of candlelight seeping through kitchen windows hint that the town remains home to tens of thousands of people, but the streets seem deserted on this green, moonless night.
[[[We stop by Tami’s. “Five minutes. Not a second longer,” Dad warns.
He stays in the puttering van as I run up to the door. I knock. A flicker of light comes from the window, her mom steals a glance from behind the curtain. She gasps, and my stomach does a flip.
Tami opens the door.
We both scream.
After we pull apart, I study her. She looks thinner than ever, but otherwise same old. I wonder what I must look like to her.
“I thought I’d never see you again. How’d you get back?”
“Long story, but we’re here.”
She wipes tears from her eyes. So do I. We embrace again.
“Hey,” I say, pulling away. “I gotta go. Gotta get to the house. We still haven’t seen my family. Do you know if…?”
“Oh, man. They’re gonna be so happy. Your mom’s been by here twice a week, every week, on her way to the docks, the airport, you name it.”
Relief spills over me. I feel like I could blast off.
“I’ll be back.”
Tami nods, her curls bouncing.
“You guys okay?” I ask.
“It’s really bad here. But…we’re making it.”
“Lei, gas!” Dad calls.
“I’ll come back soon!”
“Yeah. Love you, Lei.”
“Love you, too.”
I rush to the van.
In the van, I sob, and tell Dad what Tami said. He takes a moment to calm down before we pull away.]]]
We retrieve the Civic as we retrace our path through town. Dad is so relieved to have his car back, as if that’s the thing that has been pressing on his mind most these past hours. I stifle a laugh…
What a lovely glimpse into the girls’ friendship — reminds me of my best friend when we were 8 years old.
CONTINUE THE HUNT
To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author, Livia Blackburne!
But before you go, I’m offering a bonus giveaway right here!
A lucky winner will receive a copy (in whatever format you prefer) of whichever book in the Earth & Sky trilogy you’d like, plus swag! Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter.