It is once again GUEST WEEK here at EMU’s Debuts, in which we talk with some other authors about their debut experiences. This week, we talk to two authors who have debuted a little differently from most people.
Today’s guest is Jennifer Nielsen, who’s second book, ELLIOT AND THE PIXIE PLOT appears in stores this week! This is the second book in a series, and also Jennifer’s second book to be published, and yet in a sense, it is still part of her debut, because her first sale was for a multi-book deal. So she agreed to come by today and tell us a little about debuting with a multi-book deal. How did that happen, Jennifer?
In the spring of 2009, my fabulous agent (Ammi-Joan Paquette) began the first round of submissions for my middle grade manuscript, ELLIOT AND THE GOBLIN WAR. It tells the story of Elliot Penster, an 11-year-old boy who becomes King of the Brownies and accidentally launches a war with the Goblins. Two houses made offers on it, and both offers came in for a three-book deal.
Almost immediately, I began work on the second manuscript of that series, ELLIOT AND THE PIXIE PLOT. This book, which has just released (squee!), picks up shortly after the end of the Goblin war when Elliot is kidnapped to the Underworld by a Pixie who wants Elliot to steal a hair from a sleeping demon for a plot of her own.
As proof that I have a fabulous agent, in the spring of 2010, she sold another three-book series for me to Scholastic. The first book, THE FALSE PRINCE, will launch in April 2012.
How does selling multiple books differ from selling a single book?
Every sale is exciting, right? And every sale deserves celebration because it means that story will be told. The difference is that in selling multiple books of a series, I knew right from the first manuscript that there would be more story to tell. So it allowed me to write in threads for Book 1 that I knew might not be developed until the second or third book. I probably wouldn’t have included them if there were a chance of it being a standalone book, because these threads wouldn’t have made sense on their own.
And it was fun to look ahead and know I would have two more book releases all on that single sale. This is a great thing, but it also means I have a longer time commitment. It would be difficult to work on other projects until I knew I’d met my expanded obligations for the current releases. When I wrote FALSE PRINCE, I had completed the first two ELLIOT books and was into my early drafts on the third. But even though I have ideas, I won’t begin any solid work on a new series until the ELLIOT books are completely wrapped up, and until I get through the outline stage of the third book for the PRINCE series. I’m really excited about the other ideas, but they’re in a long line.
I think many unpublished authors (and probably a lot of published ones too) dream of the multi-book sale. What is different about writing a non-contracted book and a contracted one?
Now I’m working on contracted books, and the question that nags at me isn’t whether it will sell, but whether if what I’m writing meets the expectations generated from the previous manuscript. I sometimes miss the freedom of writing without rules, deadlines, and limits. Having two contracted series means that I’m always working on promoting the current release, edits for the next deadline, or writing the next manuscript (which means, I’m always working). It also means from the planning stage, my ideas become subject to the thoughts and feedback from my editors. Luckily, I’ve had great editors to work with, so this has been helpful for me. I’m glad to be where I’m at and feel very fortunate, but I’ve come to understand that nagging questions are a constant for writers. The only thing that changes is what the question asks.
How are you building off your first book to promote the second book in the series?
Every author hopes to build a fan base with subsequent books, regardless of whether they are standalone or series books.
This is probably the great advantage to a series sale. If children liked the first ELLIOT book, they are likely to seek out the second. If they stumble upon the second, they might go back and get the first, and so forth. But since I knew from the first book that five more books remained to be released (in two separate series), whenever I signed a book, I’d include with it a cardstock insert (like a square bookmark) that gave the titles and release dates of future books. I don’t know if that simple gesture will translate into future sales, but it definitely couldn’t hurt!
The bottom line is that when you approach a sale, it’s important to know who you are as an author. While some may prefer the security and advantages of a multi-book sale, others may prefer the freedom and advantages of a single book sale. Neither option is a guarantee nor a hindrance to a successful career, so it’s really a matter of working toward what works best for you.
Thanks for joining us today, Jennifer! Both ELLIOT AND THE GOBLIN WAR and ELLIOT AND THE PIXIE PLOT are available for sale, so check this great series out, if you haven’t already, and join us Wednesday to talk to Audrey Vernick about her debut in a new genre.