Tuesday, January 29, 2019

About that second book


Last week, I think, there was discussion around "the second book" and how that one can make or break a writer's career. Your advice was to be prepared for #2 (by having it already written).

I am working on a YA book with series potential. I love the world and the characters, but there are several other stories I want to write before ever doing a sequel (even if I found wild success with this hopeful debut). Also, if this work-in-progress isn't the ONE that gets me onto shelves, I don't want to waste time developing the sequel before the first one is even published (because it might never be published).

With the 2-book deal, how does everyone agree on what that second book will be about? Even if I have my next ms finished, I am sure the publisher can go, "Meh - what else ya got?" ... right? Or even, "Can we have Part Deux of Awesome McFirst Book, please?" Deadlines make me itchy. Especially with a day job (blast!), a wife and two kids  (yay!).
If you're writing YA and are offered a two-book deal,  Book #2  is almost always expected to continue the series.
The publisher's perspective on this is that they've invested time, money and expertise to bring a fabulous new book to the marketplace.  They'd rather not start over with a new book; they want to build on their success.
If you don't want to write Book #2 in this world, you're less marketable than someone who does.
You'll want to discuss this with your agent at the earliest possible moment.

You should know that a two book deal will often specify the content (generally) of the second book.

Example: Untitled #2 (Sam Dryden), the second installment of the series is how Signal was described.

Clearly you'll need to have let your agent know before this point that you want to write Untitled #2, the SharkForBrains thriller.

You don't have to write books you don't want to, but publishers don't have to agree to let you write whatever you want to either.

13 comments:

Kate said...

OP, you should also keep your intended audience in mind when planning your books/series.

YA audiences are pretty accustomed to series releasing one book per year (or every 18ish months at the longer end of the scale, for books that are substantially bigger, or where the author is juggling multiple series).

And when a YA book breaks big, the fandoms spring up quick. So if you get them hooked on book 1, they're not going to be happy to hear that the rest of the series is not even on the horizon, and they may well have moved on to other books by the time you decide you're ready to write the sequel.

So if you don't want to write the follow up in the near future, you might be better off making book 1 a stand alone.

Amy Johnson said...

OT: I found something this morning to help my writing, and I hope it's okay to share here. (Though I'm wondering if y'all might already know about it.) The Harvard Dialect Survey. Search "dialect survey results [the name of the state you're interested in]". Is my character in Vermont mowing the lawn or cutting the grass? Watching fireflies or lightening bugs? Those kinds of things. This is wonderful, wonderful!

Back to my characters in Vermont. Have a great day, everyone!

Craig F said...

I am a fan of writing a timeline first. That way you have a direction you can refer to. It also makes it easier to slowly reveal an uber villain, over-plot, and so on.

It also helps you keep The End in sight, so it doesn't sneak up on you.

OT: Congrats to all of those vying for the top Brrr in this past weekend's contest.

Lennon Faris said...

Writing the 2nd book isn't a waste of time, OP. You can probably write a rough draft in a few months. Getting the basic ideas and flow down for Book 2 can help Book 1, make the series more cohesive as a whole. Besides, writing more is always good practice.

This is what I'm banking on, anyway!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Book Two is scary. A time line and everything. And under contract. I wonder what that will be like. Well, I won't figure that out until I get this book queried and have ensnared myself an awesome agent person. No pressure, OP, get the first book sold and then march forward.

Beth Carpenter said...

Amy, thank you! Wonderful information.

OP, I had a "blind book" as part of a three-book contract. That meant I had a deadline, but before I could write the book we had to agree on a synopsis. It took a lot of time and wrangling to come up with a premise the publisher liked and we're still revising the story that comes out in July. From now on, I'll try to get the synopses settled up front.

Liz Penney said...

You could write a brief summary of the second book, then create a log-line for it. I don't agree to go ahead and write it yet, until you have a deal. Been there, done that.

Joseph S said...


I fully understand the apprehension of writing the second book before the first book sells. My early plan was to write the second book featuring the same lead character, then maybe the third. But after seeing how hard it is to get the first book published I thought I’d write a different character in a new storyline. Then I thought maybe I’d write one in a different genre altogether. It freezes you in time.

Speaking indirectly of second books (really third books), today is the release date for Donna Everhart’s “The Forgiving Kind.” As expected, it’s gotten fabulous prepublication reviews

Bethany Joy said...

I did the unthinkable when faced with this exact same concern: I started writing two books at once. One a sequel to my series potential novel and the other a new standalone. If I survive with my sanity intact, I’ll update everyone. Good luck, OP!

MA Hudson said...

I wrote really rough drafts for books 2 & 3 in a trilogy. I'd heard advice that it was a waste of time but I had to know if I could make the story arc work over three books. I'm so glad that I did because book 3 was a nightmare to get going. I can't imagine how traumatic it would've been to write it to a deadline.
I'm so glad I did those drafts. Now I'm confident the series can work, I know I can push through some pretty major story obstacles, and I've had much more writing practice.

AMY - That dialect thingamajig is awesome! Thanks for the link, I'll be making many visits to that site.

BrendaLynn said...

Thanks Joseph for the heads up on Donna’s book. Good luck querying op.

Amy Johnson said...

Beth and MA: Glad you like the dialect thing! :)

Yay for Donna!

AJ Blythe said...

Amy, that Dialect Survey will be hugely helpful. Thanks!

WooHoo Donna, another baby out in the world. Congratulations.

I've read the arguments to and for writing book #2 in a series before selling book #1, and have settled on an approach along the lines of what Liz suggested and this is now my writing order: write book #1, synopsis for book #2, write book one of another series (until someone takes on board book #1 and wants #2).