[DON’T FORGET: Friday night or Saturday – your chance to chat: see posts for last Tuesday and Wednesday below.]
Most would-be authors aren’t surprised to find out just how difficult it is to get published first time around. They’ve been warned by those who went before. Some have tens of rejections for a book before they get it accepted; others try ten different novels before they write the one that gets accepted. (And some of course will never make it.)
Once you are published, is it different with the next book (or next trilogy)?
Yes, it is. Just how different though, and in what way, depends on the particular author and publisher and the book(s).
- If a writer has a solid seller or a best seller first time around, then there is usually no problem. They will sell the next book on the basis of a synopsis and/or book proposal. Indeed, they might sign the contract without having written a single word of the new book – and that will NEVER happen to a new (non-celebrity) author with no publishing history who submits a fiction proposal/synopsis for consideration.
- If the sales for the last published book or trilogy were not so hot, it may be harder – almost as hard as a first time author. In other words, it is not the brilliance of the book being offered that is the issue – it is the sales figures for the last book. Not very fair, perhaps, but often true.
- The great publishers and editors – and yes, they still exist – will “carry” a newly published author for a while, giving them a second or even third chance at publication when they have faith in the writing. In other words, they build their writers and hope their fan base will expand with each publication. (For a brand new author, though, you usually only get once chance to snag a particular publisher – which is why your MS has to be as faultless as you can make it before you submit.)
- If an author is unprofessional in their work and behaviour, they may find themselves being dropped even though their sales are not so bad. The next book may be good, but an editor will feel that they aren’t worth the trouble. And yes, I have heard of this happening. If you want to play the prima donna, wait until you are at the top of your league when you may indeed be “worth the trouble”. Not that you should be proud of that, of course…
- Sometimes poor sales are not the fault of the writing or the author. Horror tales abound (true ones too) about books that could never be re-ordered by book shops because of wrong ISBN numbers, about dreadful covers and awful back cover blurbs, about books never pushed because of inhouse problems at the publishers, about editors who left the firm at the crucial moment in the journey of a manuscript to published book and no one cared about your languishing baby, about imprints that died taking the book into oblivion before it had a chance. Or about the publisher who misjudged the popularity of your book, and ordered a large print run. It sold 10,000 copies (respectable for a new author!) but your publisher has another 20,000 unsold and your name is suddenly poison compared to an author who had a print run of 5000 and sold them all in the first three weeks. Any author who has been around for a while has at least one of these stories to tell about their life as a published writer! It happens. You learn to deal with it and move on.
- The main advantage a published writer has over a newbie is this: they have a foot in the door because they can prove that they are publishable. They have the book(s) to prove it. (A self-published book does NOT say the same thing as a book published by reputable publisher. Sorry.)
So what’s the biggest surprise an author receives after they are published? It is this: you write a book and your whole aim is to get an acceptance letter and then to hold that first published book in your hand and drool…and you think all your problems are over. What you don’t know, is this: that moment is just the beginning. And life doesn’t necessarily suddenly become a bowl of cherries. Just like any other career, there are good moments, great moments, and times when you break a tooth on a cherry pip. You shrug and move on. That’s life and I love it.