World Fantasy Convention – How to Write That Difficult Second Book – or Why Indie Publishing May Be Right For Me!

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So you’ve written that first book, done the impossible and won a publishing contract. Now you have to write the next. Simple.

Or is it?

This is my final panel report from World Fantasy Con 2013 – and a totally appropriate one for me, as I’m also in the throes of writing the sequel to my debut, THE PRINCE’S MAN.

The panel consisted of newly published debut authors, discussing the pressures of writing to a contract.
Yes, they’d all won contracts with publishing houses, and signed to the varying contracts offered.

One writer had planned a trilogy, and had most of the second book written before finding her publisher. They gave her a two book contract and told her to fit the rest of her story into one book, not two. She had to re-plan and start again.

Another was awarded a three book contract, but was expected to deliver all three in one year!

Publishing contracts are not standardised. And whatever advance you get on the first, unless you are a phenomenon, is unlikely to allow you to give up the day job. And anyway, should you? There’s no telling if your contract will be extended or renewed after those initial books are published. So writing 5000+ words a day has to fit around your working/personal life. And no slacking now – you’re under contract!

They all talked about the pressure: when we write our first (or second, or third…) novel, we take as long as we want. Writing, polishing, re-writing, starting again, editing, polishing… Then suddenly you have a contract, and you have to produce the next book in six months (or in the one case, four). Help! If you’ve been sensible, you’ve probably already plotted, if not written, a second. But suppose your publisher doesn’t like your idea? One author I know had exactly that. She’s planned a sequel to the one the publisher accepted. Her agent liked it, her publisher didn’t. Back to the drawing board to produce another original idea.
Or, like the lady on the panel, they only want to risk two books initially, so you somehow have to cram your planned two novels into one.

And then there’s the reviews for your first. And this is where I’m feeling it – lovely, positive reviews, with readers enthusing about what they are looking forward to seeing in the next. But wait! I’d not considered expanding on that at all! So do I? Or do I write the book I’d originally intended? In fact, I’m planning on a bit of both as some of the ideas are rather interesting, but it means some change in emphasis.

Without doubt the panellists were all thrilled to have gained their contracts, but how many of them will go on to be contracted for more? Another author friend of mine had four published before she was axed for not selling enough – only around the 30K mark, not the 50 – 60K needed to stay on the mid-list.

Yet another friend has had six novels published, to critical acclaim and good sales, but she’s recently ditched her publisher and gone Indie because she could no longer cope with the unrelenting pressure of producing a book a year.

And me? I’ve had two non-fiction books traditionally published, with an option for a third still outstanding if I ever decide to come up with an acceptable idea. Will I? Well I think I have the idea, but I may never present it to my publisher because the financial rewards are too small for the amount of effort and besides, I’m having too much fun with Indie publishing my novels!

Nice though it would be to have a publishing contract, and paperbacks on shelves on bookstores, I don’t think I want that pressure. Been there, done that with the non-fiction books (and those are on real shelves, so I suppose to some extent, I’ve done that), and life went on hold for two years. I run my own business, with no intention of giving up, and going the Indie route allows me to set my own schedules, and take the pressure off if needed. I can also go the other way, and publish more often, and at whatever length of work I choose, instead of having to fit my novels into a box.

How about you? Do you have a contract, and for how many books? Have you written your second, or third, or fourth yet? Or are you working to your own schedule and Indie publishing instead? Leave me a comment; I’d love to hear other people’s views.

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2 comments

  1. Great article Deb. There is much to be said for Indie publishing. I am reading about more and more authors want to self publish and shy away from traditional for the rewards. Most say the advances are small (unless you’re Stephen King), the demands are high and the promoting is much left to the author anyway. I say why not keep my own gravy? I will be publishing my first book Conflicted Hearts in a few weeks and am already 1/3 through first draft of my next book. Yup, we have to keep plugging. I give myself deadlines and I would hate to be pressured telling me dates I have to be finished. Happy to go Indie! 🙂

    1. You are so right – putting figures out in the open, I was paid an advance on each of my books of £2000 – not a lot considering the amount of hours they took to produce. And of course it is what it says it is – an advance. You have to earn it back (at 10% of the sale price) so I have to sell more than 1800 before I start to see any new royalties. Sounds like a small number, but isn’t for a technical book in a small niche. I’m almost there with the first, and about two thirds there with the second.
      On the other hand, my indie published novel has already sold over 1500 copies and has earned me, after expenses, around £1000 so far in the first 3 months.
      definitely preferring this, as the marketing I do for all of them takes the same amount of time and effort – no help from my publisher there 😦
      All the best for your launch – about the same time as my second comes out 🙂

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