Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Angela Benson's The Good & Bad

15 years, 12 books, 5 publishers, 3 agents, 4 genres – What kind of career is that?

Well, it's mine. It's been 15 years since my first book, Bands of Gold, was published. 15 long years. Despite the $2000 advance I got with my first contract, I knew that my debut on the New York Times bestseller list was right around the corner. Well, it's been 15 years and I still haven't turned that corner.

It's not all bad though. Actually, I was really popping for the first four years (1994-1997). During that time I wrote seven books--two for Silhouette and five for Arabesque--along with an Arabesque novella. I was "cooking with gas" as we say in the South.

The gas turned out to be carbon monoxide as I went off the publishing radar for three years and my next book, Awakening Mercy, didn't see the light of day until 2000. Now I wasn't gassed up for those three years. Instead, my career took a turn as I moved from writing general market romance to Christian romance. The change also resulted in a new agent and signing with a new publisher, Tyndale House.

Tyndale and I lasted for two books and then I went off-radar again until I came back with my first mainstream Christian novel, this one negotiated without an agent. The move from Christian romance to mainstream Christian fiction was relatively painless, but it took some time. My mainstream Christian fiction title, The Amen Sisters, didn't arrive in bookstores until 2005, a full four years after Tyndale published my second (and last) Christian romance, Abiding Hope.

My story doesn't end there. My next book, Up Pops the Devil Avon A, August 2008, $13.95), came out three years after The Amen Sisters. The deal with HarperCollins to publish Up Pops the Devil and Sins of the Father Avon A, September 2009, $13.95) was negotiated by my third, and hopefully, last agent.

So that's my story. Now let's evaluate it for the good and the bad.

The Bad

1) Every time I changed publishers, I experienced a gap in publication that effectively slammed the brakes on any momentum and name-recognition I was building in the marketplace. This was a big loss. As a result, my new publishers have had to re-launch me to some extent so that readers know that I'm back. It's much easier to build a reader base if you publish regularly. My goal now is to publish regularly and to keep in touch with readers between books.

2) Every time I changed agents, I lost some control over the books they sold for me. Old agents aren't really receptive to taking care of business for authors who are no longer on their roster. So forget about getting help with rights reversion.

3) I don't have a long history with either my agent or my publisher so there is no depth to our relationship--yet. Right now, I'm only as good as my current book.

The Good

1) Every time I changed publishers, I got a significant bump in advance, significant but fair. My advances tend to equal the royalties earned on my last book.

2) Every time I changed agents, I had more clarity about what I wanted from my writing career so I did better with agent selection. An agent is only as good as your books and your vision for your career.

3) I have been able to follow my muse by moving from genre to genre. As a result, I feel I've found my niche, or voice, as a writer. My stories can now be characterized as inspirational family drama.

4) Readers have stuck with me despite the publication gaps and the genre changes. Many of the folks who read me today also read my first book, Bands of Gold.

5) The back-to-back publication of Up Pops the Devil and Sins of the Father marks the first time since 2000/2001 that I've had books come out in consecutive years. I'm really excited about that accomplishment. I hope to keep it up in the coming years.

15 years, 12 books, 5 publishers, 3 agents, 4 genres -- what kind of career is that?

It's mine and, right now, I don't think I'd change it. I'm not sure I'd recommend my path to anyone else though. What do you think?

About the Book – Sins of the Father

Successful media mogul Abraham Martin has great wealth, an elegant wife, Saralyn, and a rebellious son, Isaac. He also has a secret: a second family that no one knows about. Now, after thirty years—driven by the urging of his long dormant conscience—Abraham is determined to do the right thing by finally bringing his illegitimate children into the light…and into the family fold.

But beautiful, manipulative Saralyn will never accept the proof of her husband’s indiscretions. Isaac the heir, shaken by his father’s revelations, will fight mercilessly when his world is threatened, and may lose everything that matters as a result. And while Abraham’s forgotten daughter Deborah is open to the undreamed-of possibilities suddenly awaiting her, son Michael cannot forgive the man who cruelly abandoned them to near poverty. And he’s driven by only one desire: revenge!

Angela Benson’s ">Sins of the Father is a powerful story of a house bitterly divided—a rich, multilayered family saga of betrayal and redemption, rage and compassion, faith, forgiveness, and ultimately, of love.

Follow the blog tour at http://bitly.com/SinsoftheFather.

For more information about Angela, visit her at AngelaBenson.com.

14 comments:

Ty said...

Dee, thanks for introducing your blog readers to Angela Benson today.

Angela, thanks for sharing your story. Your longevity in the publishing industry is truly inspiring. Looking forward to your continued success.

Angela Benson said...

Hi, Ty!

Thanks for hosting me today, Dee. I look forward to interacting with your readers.

Anonymous said...

Awesome to read and know. There is hope for other authors out there with large gaps in their publications that make them fall off the radar. Very inspiring.

Dee S. said...

Angela, you are a treasure. That is one of the best posts I've seen on this blog. Shoot I need take notes, because you can't be outdoing me on here. lol.

Thanks so much for being so candid about your writing career. Very good post.

I do have a question. if an author starts out with one genre, should the commit themselves to the genre for a while? i've written a mystery, but i also write romance and i want to write both my goals maybe too lofty or maybe i should self-pub one. i don't know...lol...what do you think?

Angela Benson said...

Dee, I don't have the answer to your questions but I can give you some things to think about. Is there anyone you can merge the two and write romantic mystery? Romantic suspense is a big seller but I don't know much about romantic mystery. To be honest, I get suspense and mystery confused. If you could make it work, it could be a winner for you.

As for sticking with a genre for a while, I'd say if you want to change genres do it sooner rather than later. That way, you don't build up a readership only to switch up on them. That said, you could build up a readership in one and then write the other using another name. I've seen that done. Ask me a follow-up question and I'll try to be a bit clearer.

Anonymous, there's always hope. Just write a good story and don't get sidetracked looking at other folks' careers.

LaShaunda said...

Angela,

It is always nice to learn more about you. I've been a fan since the Band Of Gold and now that I'm thinking about it. Did you come to St. Louis when RWA was here? It was the first intro to the Arabesque line.

I've enjoyed all your genres.

Thanks for sharing your wisdom. I've learned a lot from you this week.

Linda Hargrove said...

Dee, thanks for having Angela on today. I'm printing this one out and grabbing the highlighter. Thank you, Angela, for not candy coating your journey--the good and the bad.

brendalottakamaggiebrendan said...

Great blog post! I'd say with a career and persistence like yours, Angela, it'll only be a matter of time before you're on that NY Times Best Sellers list. Enjoyed reading the journey. Tyler Perry needs to write your script, don't you think?

Angela Benson said...

You all should know that one of the best things about these tours is the sharing. Many of you say I encourage you. Well, I want you to know that the things you say are encouraging to me as well. Thanks for showing up and sharing your wisdom and love.

Dee S. said...

thanks, angela for being big fun here.

actually my novel is romantic suspense so...

thanks, ty for putting it together. i encourage readers of the blog to purchase sins of the father

PatriciaW said...

Eric of Pimp My Novel recently defined mysteries, suspense and thrillers this way:

• Thrillers are action-oriented;
• Suspense novels are danger-oriented, but not necessarily action-oriented;
• Mysteries, are, well... mystery-oriented, regardless of whether there's any action or danger involved. Is there a riddle to be solved? A question to be answered? &c.

Best definition I've seen. Hope that helps folks.

Angela, the message in your career is hold fast to one's dream and persevere through the bumps in the road. You've gotten better with each book so I'd put that on the list of good things!

Ann H. Gabhart said...

Great post, Angela. Reads a whole lot like my own experience except I've been at it 30 years and had two gaps and have written general market historical romance, young adult, middle reader, inspirational family drama, inspirational historical fiction and even one non-fiction life story for a friend. And liked writing them all. I met you at a book fair last April and enjoyed hearing you talk about your books on the panel we shared. Great to read more about your writing journey here.

Joey Pinkney said...

Angela's career is more than a blessing for her. It's also a blessing for any author who is wondering what is ahead in this journey and who to put the twists and turns in its proper perspective.

How can you beat getting a free lesson on how to proceed into the future from someone who has been there and done that?

Thanks Angela, Ty and Dee for getting this out there!

Renee Williams said...

Thanks for sharing your story Angela. I'm glad you're back on the writing scene!

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