On Monday, Laurie Ann Thompson shared her delightful conundrum about which of her to-be-published books she’ll be able to call her first. I think that we all concluded that she should just think of them as twins—really, really fraternal twins with birthdays that are months, rather than minutes apart. But still, both firsts in their own ways.
Now that that’s settled, the rest of us can go back to worrying about our own book 2s.
We writers always need something to obsess about, and once the euphoria of selling a first book wears off, the next book becomes an excellent candidate. Will I finish the sequel by my publisher’s deadline? Can I get another contract before my first book hits the shelves? Will I ever actually finish writing another book again? These are the kinds of questions that keep debut authors up at night.
What kinds of questions we ask, exactly, depend somewhat on how our debut book deals were structured. Behold, three publishing scenarios that may impact exactly what kind of stress a debut author feels about book 2.
Scenario #1: Book 2 is already under contract.
You’ve sold your publisher a series, or multiple separate standalone books.
The upside: Congratulations—you know where your next advance check is coming from! 🙂 Also, your publisher clearly thought your writing in book 1 was so strong that they were willing to commit to publishing more of your books before they were even finished. That’s a nice confidence booster.
The downside: Well, now you have to write the thing, and most likely on a significantly shorter deadline than you had with book 1. Maybe you already have a complete draft of book 2 written…or maybe you’ve just got the one-paragraph proposal you texted your agent while you were standing in line at the grocery store. Either way, you’ve got work to do, and fast. (For another debut author’s take on this challenge, see Alison Cherry’s hilarious post, “How to rewrite your book from scratch in 75 days”).
Scenario #2: Your publisher has an option on your next book.
Many one-book contracts include a clause that gives your publisher the right of first refusal on your next book—meaning they get to see it before anyone else does.
The upside: You’re guaranteed to get professional, editorial eyes on your next manuscript—and hopefully the editor who bought your first book will be inclined to like your second, too. And, well, if he or she doesn’t, you can still go out on submission to other editors.
The downside: You don’t know where your next advance check is coming from, as there’s no guarantee that your second book will get published. (Alternatively, if your second book happens to be the next Hunger Games, you could end up losing advance money if you’re contractually obligated to offer it to your first book’s publisher rather than take it to auction with other houses.)
Scenario #3: No one is waiting on your next book.
You have no outstanding contracted books or options.
The upside: You can write whatever you like, and take as long as you want to do it. Total freedom! And when the book is done, you can shop it around wherever you like.
The downside: You really have no idea where your next advance check is coming from, or whether you’ll ever be published again. If you’re a slow writer (ahem!), you may wonder if you’ll ever even finish writing another book. Losing some of your “brand recognition” may also be a concern if you go years between publishing books.
So, which category do you fall into—or hope to fall into someday?
Tara Dairman is a novelist, playwright, and recovering world traveler. All Four Stars, her debut middle-grade novel about an 11-year-old who secretly becomes a New York restaurant critic, will be published in 2014 by Putnam/Penguin.
Find her online at taradairman.com.