What if you’re one of those slow-working novelists who just can’t produce a book every year? Are you totally out of luck?
Lisa posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:
Hi Randy I love your blog, e zine, software and books, your info has helped me develop as a writer.
I have a question about writing a series. I am writing a trilogy, but am a slow methodical writer. I read what you wrote about how quickly a publisher wants you to have any sequels written. So my question is this, if you are a slow writer, who takes more then a year to write a novel should you complete the series before trying to sell the first book? or at least be one book ahead?
I am a stay at home mom and my children come first making writing quickly quite challenging. I know if you can write a book that quickly that it is not recommended to write them all in case you can’t sell the first one, but would a slow writer need to write ahead in the hopes of the novel selling and the publisher wanting to publish a sequel?
Thanks for all the great resources for aspiring writers!
Randy sez: Good question, Lisa! Not every writer puts out a book every year. J.K. Rowling seems to have done OK releasing books on an irregular schedule, only releasing them when they were done. I doubt any of her fans would have wanted her to put out a half-baked novel just to hit a yearly schedule.
Since there’s no guarantee that you’ll sell the first book in a series, I don’t think it’s a good idea to try to get the whole series written before you start pitching it. If I were you, I’d write the first book, make it as good as possible, then find an agent and try to sell it.
While you’re looking for the agent, you can be working on Book 2. It might take a while. If you find an agent quickly, it can still take a long time to sell the book. Once the contract is signed, the publisher is usually going to take at least a year to bring it to market, and it can take a lot longer than that.
During all that time, you can be writing and editing Book 2, which will be much easier to sell than Book 1. In fact, when you sell Book 1, more likely than not you can make it a multi-book deal just by telling them that it’s the first of a three book series.
So for the short-term, that’s what I’d do.
What about long-term? What if you’re working with a good publisher and you just can’t maintain a pace of one book per year?
That’s a good problem to have. I think you can cross that bridge when you get to it. Plenty of successful authors don’t produce a novel every year. If you’re good enough, it’s not that big of a deal.
Note that some writers have the opposite problem — they write too much, and their publishers don’t want their books competing with each other. So the publisher limits the number of books it will publish by that author.
In that case, authors usually take on a pseudonym and publish their extra work under different names. The names Evan Hunter/Ed McBain come to mind. So do Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb. So do Stephen King/Richard Bachman.
My view is that your productivity level is a secondary problem. The main thing is to learn the craft of fiction writing well enough to sell a novel. Once you’ve solved that, you can deal with the “too little” or “too much” issues.
If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in public on this blog, hop on over to my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page and submit your question. I’ll answer them in the order they come in.
Carrie Neuman says
Some publishers must be ok with it. Kristen Britain’s Green Rider books only come out every four or five years and she’s published four of them.
Thomas Derry says
Definitely agree with making that first book as good as possible so that, not only do you sell it, but your reputation gives you more leeway in terms of time frame.
Thanks that all makes me feel much better about my slow pace! I was just worries when I read that your publisher wanted a sequel so quickly, I forgot to take into account the time it takes to sell the novel. You just lifted a huge weight from my shoulders 🙂