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How do you write tie-ins?

A reader asks, "How do you get to write a tie-in novel? I have a lot of good ideas but I don't know how to get them to let me do it."

Sadly, the first thing you have to do is have already published at least one other book. Publishers of tie-ins are swamped with proposals and manuscripts from fans, first time writers with a great idea, and I have never heard of them agreeing to publish a single one.

The reason is this: most people who say they have a great idea never actually write the book. You probably know this from your friends and from online fandom. How many times have you heard someone say that they have a great idea for a big story, only to write one or two chapters and then get distracted? How many abandoned stories have you seen, part 33 of how many? How many people start NaNoWriMo and how many finish it? How many people sign up for a Big Bang and how many actually write a hundred thousand words?

When a publisher signs a contract with you for a tie-in, they pay you an advance which is several thousand dollars. Would you give someone several thousand dollars trusting that they will actually finish, on time and on word count, a hundred thousand word book if they have never completed a book before? It's a very good bet that nine times out of ten you'd never see a book for the money you paid. Even with authors who have written one or two novels it still happens -- they don't deliver a finished manuscript on time and in a publishable form.

So publishers have stopped giving contracts to anyone who hasn't proven that they will in fact deliver a completed book on time -- someone who has done it enough times before that the publisher has confidence that they will do what they say they will do. Yes, Fandemonium will now buy from me on outline. But I have completed seven books for Fandemonium. They believe that I will in fact deliver a book about what I said it was about when I said I would deliver it. But my first book for Fandemonium was my fourth professional sale. They already had three examples that I would meet deadlines before they gave me a contract.

If it is truly your heart's desire to write a tie-in for something in particular (and it may be -- I certainly would leap to write Star Wars!) then you need to sell something else and establish the track record that would convince MGM or Paramount or Lucasfilm that you are the person they want writing for their valuable property, and that you will reliably meet your deadlines and follow their guidelines.