Second Book Blues
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about publishing novels, it’s that there are no guarantees.
In my previous post, I wrote about finding an agent–and then having to find another when the first one didn’t work out. Here, I want to write about publishing my first book–and then having to work even harder to publish my second.
Common sense says it shouldn’t be that way. After publishing Book #1, Book #2 should be easier to write (thanks to experience) and publish (thanks to reputation). But for many writers, that isn’t the case. Consider:
- One of my friends had a two-book deal. Then her publisher folded after Book #1.
- Another friend also had a two-book deal. She submitted no fewer than three possible Book #2 manuscripts to her editor. Her editor rejected all three.
- A third friend had a one-book deal, but (when Book #1 did quite well) figured he’d be able to sell Books #2 and #3 of a trilogy. His editor told him to wrap up the story in Book #2.
My experience was similar to his. In my contract for SURVIVAL COLONY 9, I had the standard “option” clause: I needed to offer my next novel-length work to my editor, who had the option of buying it before I showed it to anyone else. I produced a sequel, part 2 of a planned trilogy, and had my agent send it to my editor.
Who took almost six months before telling me she hated it. I mean, HATED it.
By this time, I’d nearly completed Book #3. Theoretically, having satisfied the option, my agent could have shopped Book #2 elsewhere. But with SURVIVAL COLONY 9 being my debut, what editor was going to look at a manuscript the editor for Book #1 had rejected?
My editor suggested I combine Book #3 with the (very few) parts of Book #2 she liked. That meant crunching two 80,000 word manuscripts into a single 80,000 word manuscript. With my mad math skillz, I calculated I’d have to trim 80,000 words overall.
Somehow, I did it. I kept the first chapter of Book #2, chopped out the middle, added the middle chapters of Book #3, then wrapped it up with the end chapters of both manuscripts.
Or something like that. It was far messier than that makes it sound.
In the end, I had a manuscript my editor liked enough to make an offer on. She still wanted major changes–as in, she sent me a four page, single-spaced letter and a manuscript full of post-it notes telling me everything I needed to change–but she also sent a contract. As of this writing, I’ve completed the revisions and am crossing my fingers that she’ll like what I’ve done enough to send the book to copy-editing.
I don’t want to sound as if I’m complaining. I do have one published book, and may soon have a second. I also have a very supportive agent and editor, neither of whom gave up on me during my struggles with Book #2.
But I do want to be truthful. It’s possible I’ll get to the point where anything I write will sail through, either because I’ve become such a brilliant writer or such a bestseller no one would dream of saying “no.”
The reality for most writers, however, is that each new book is a new challenge, with no guarantees.