Get Your First Sale!
Nothing beats the joy of your first sale. You can plot, plan, market and dream all you want, but until you get that first sale, you’re not sure that you have a real business. It’s 25 years since I sold my first book to an international publisher. I walked on air for days. To my mind, because real writers wrote books, I was real writer at last.
Your first sale legitimizes what you’re doing to others, and not least to yourself. When you’ve got that sale, you get a lot more than money: you get confidence, feedback, and ideas on how you can make the next sale and the next.
How do you make that first sale? Here’s how:
=> One: Give yourself a deadline
Although I’d made writing sales I didn’t sell a book until I gave myself a deadline. I gave myself a long deadline, ten years. I didn’t need that long, it took a year. However setting a deadline turned selling a book from a dream into a goal. If I hadn’t given myself a deadline, I would have fudged for years: making outlines, doing research, writing a chapter here and there, and convincing myself that I was trying to sell a book, when I wasn’t doing anything of the sort.
Give yourself a deadline to make your first sale. You’ll know how long the deadline should be. Don’t make it ten years unless it’s something where you need to learn a lot of skills first before you can produce a product.
Your deadline must be serious. The ten years I gave myself was the absolute cut-off date. If I hadn’t sold a book by then, I intended giving up writing book-length material forever.
=> Two: Ask for the sale!
Once I’d set the ten-year deadline, I knew I had to ask for the sale. This meant submitting partials to publishers. A partial is a fiction proposal. It consists of a synopsis, a chapter outline, and the first chapters: around 50 to 100 pages of the novel. I wrote a partial every two months, and sent them out.
How will you ask for the sale? If you’re selling your writing, then send out novel and non-fiction proposals, or proposals for magazine articles.
Keep in mind that “Ask for the sale” means ask the person who can buy your product to buy it. I approached editors at publishing houses who could buy my work. I didn’t approach agents. As handy as literary agents are, an agent can’t buy.
No matter what product you’re selling, from apricots to zebras, you must ask the person and/or company with the cash to buy your
It’s worth mentioning here that you don’t need to follow any particular rules when you’re asking for the sale. For example, most writing books will tell you that to sell a novel you must write the complete novel, then write the partial, then get an agent and then wait while the agent sells the book. You can follow someone else’s rules if you want to. Or you can choose your own route. Do what you intuitively feel is right for you.
=> Three: If it’s not working, get feedback from others
You’ve set your deadline, you’ve asked for the sale repeatedly, but no one’s buying.
At this point, I need to tell you that everyone who’s ever followed this process for selling their writing has sold their writing before the deadline. So from long experience I know that this process works. If this process hasn’t worked for you it means that somewhere you’ve bumped into a wall, but don’t see that is a wall.
You need feedback. Find someone’s who’s doing what you want to do, and ask them for help. You may need to pay for it, but it will be money well spent, because they’ll be able to put you on the right track. Don’t ask for help from people who have never done what you want to do. If they haven’t done it, they may think they know how it’s done, but they don’t.
After you get your feedback, set yourself another deadline, and then ask for the sale until you make the sale. Try this simple process: it works.
Copyright 2003 by Angela Booth
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