Hey, so you know how I published a book in two months and all that? Badass, right?
Well, unless it's a short story or something, I'm never gonna do that again. You deserve better.
Yes, Crushing on You (COY) has 4.9 stars on Amazon right now, and readers have really enjoyed the book! But if I could go back and fix parts of it, you'd do more than enjoy it; you'd bookgasm.
Unfortunately, I rushed it out the door in order to meet the self-imposed deadline of my 30th birthday. In its current form, it's not the best book that it could be, which honestly makes me sad. I might, however, go back and do a re-edit after book three is out.
But that brings me to book two, Falling for You (FFY). Although it pains me to say this, I'm going to delay the release of FFY by a month, or possibly longer, for two reasons:
1. I've been more ambitious with FFY, crafting characters who have a lot more going on in their lives. Early feedback has been positive (one reader: "Seriously Jen, this book bowled me over. From the high level plot nuances all the way through the punny details start to finish. 🔥I loved your first book and I like this one leaps and bounds more."), but in order to do justice to my vision, I'm going to need a little more time to add those special details that will really bring the story to life, and make it shine.
2. I'd like to find an agent for the series so that I can have access to a broader audience / a bigger marketing machine. For COY, I wasn't thinking about writing as a career; I simply wanted to spend my time off writing a book. But now that I've tasted the writer life, I know that I want to do it full-time. It really is my dream job.
I could self-publish and write full-time. There are plenty of self-published authors who do well for themselves, especially in genres like romance. So what would finding an agent mean for me?
Mostly, exposure. I believe in my books, and want to give them their best chances to succeed. But also, I don't just want to be able to make a living. I want to diversify the genre.
The romance genre is dominated by white female authors who primarily write about white protagonists. Some of them do try to write more diverse characters (for example, Casey McQuiston's mega-hit, Red, White, and Royal Blue), and there are plenty of white female authors whose books I love! But there's an ongoing battle for representation. In 2017, of books printed by leading publishers, only 6% of authors were nonwhite. I'd love for more people to read the stories of my lovingly-crafted, diverse characters, to feel like they've been seen and heard. And I'd love to inspire future writers (Hey you, Asian person! You don't have to be a doctor or an engineer! You can write smut, too!).
Romance is for everyone, and I want the genre to reflect that.
Maybe I won't be able to do it in a big way. Even if I find an agent, there's no guarantee that my books will blow up. But I'm still going to try, just for a month, before continuing on with my self-publishing journey.
The only problem with finding an agent now is that, with COY, I hit publish and then queried some agents. That was totally ass-backwards. Many agents won't even look at self-published books. Some of them might, but only if you have sales figures in the thousands or tens of thousands of copies.
Because I did that, I thought I'd just go forward with self-publishing, focus on driving up sales, and think about attracting an agent later. I thought I'd already squandered my opportunity. But after speaking with a professional editor and a professional agent, both of them told me that it's not impossible to get an agent at this stage. Yes, it will be hard, but it could happen. I just have to cast a wide net and see. Like, at least 100 agents, wide. So far, I've only shopped COY with six agents, two of whom have rejected me because they don't look at books that have already been self-published. But I've polished up my query letter and prepped a huge list of agents to reach out to. It's time to roll up my sleeves and query query query.
But I'll only give it until the end of May. If I can't find an agent by then, I'll just continue with my original plan of self-publishing all three books and driving up my sales numbers before querying again (or not).
Besides, my cover designer / husband needs more time to work on the cover. Slacker.
I'll keep you updated, but for now, the new release date for FFY is 6/1.
Some other things I've learned, for all you aspiring authors out there:
If you want to pursue traditional publishing (or even if you aren't 100% sure), I would suggest holding on to your manuscript and querying broadly. I've heard the following advice (from the internet, the editor, and the agent):
Query in batches (like 5-10 agents at a time), not all at once. If you're not getting any requests for your manuscript, that might mean that your query letter needs revision. Some agents will even provide feedback that you can use to improve your query! So don't squander their attention all at once; work to improve your query with time.
Based on the agents I've looked at, it can take one to eight weeks to hear back about your query. And if you're doing it in batches, it could take you a really long time to find an agent. But if you want a traditional deal, you have to be patient (something that I admittedly have a problem with. I'm a startup lady! I like to fail fast!). Like I mentioned above, some people don't find agents until they've sent out query letters in the triple digits.
If your book is part of a series, focus on the first book. The agent will only be interested if they think they can sell the whole series, but they will only want to hear about one book at a time. If they're interested in book one and they ask you about what else you're working on, then you can talk about the next books.
Let me know if you have any thoughts on this below!