Publication Phobia

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Part of me is scared to death of publishing.

It’s okay to admit that, right? I’m pursuing it, despite my fears, but I still find myself spending a ridiculous amount of time problem-solving in my head, working out ways to avoid the things that terrify me the most.

Here are the top two:

#1 – A debut that’s not fantastic. It terrifies me to see so many first-time authors out in the market and never hear about them again. This tells me that your first book has to be fantastic if you want it to launch a career. Thankfully, this is the fear that I have the most control over. I will take my time and make my first book amazing. I will shelve all manuscripts that are not amazing.

#2 – The second book crunch. This terrifies me far more than number one. I hear of so many authors who spend 4–5 years on their first book, sell it to a publisher in a two-book contract, and then are expected to write the second book in 6–12 months.

I understand that YA publishers want the second book to come out a year after the first for a lot of reasons. For one, the young adult audience has a time limit that adult audiences don’t: young adults are only young adults for about six years (at the most). There isn’t much time for an author to win them over. While writers of adult fiction have the luxury of a patient fan base that will remember them and eagerly buy their next book three, four, five or more years after the last one, writers for young adults have to move quickly to retain their readers. They also have to be more interactive with readers on the internet in order to keep the fan base interested in them even in that short one-year interim. It’s understandably a tough market in that sense.

Some writers are prolific enough to handle this crunch just fine. Some of them even write MORE than a book a year, which completely astounds me. I am a slow, methodical writer. I need my simmering time. And while I hope to continue to become more efficient in my writing process, I just don’t believe I can write a quality book in 6–12 months.

Of course, there are some young adult authors who aren’t expected to churn out manuscripts that fast. M. T. Anderson doesn’t publish a book every year, and his novels are incredible. Megan Whalen Turner’s fourth book in her compelling series is coming out in March, and her first, The Thief, came out in 1997. Her original young adult readers have grown up by now, but I believe that it’s because she spends years on each book, perfecting the details, that she appeals to a crossover audience of adults. Her books are amazing, and if I could pick an author to write like, I’d choose her.

So my concern is . . . how do I, as a brand-new author with zero clout, convince the agent and editor I someday sign with that I want to be an M. T. Anderson or a Megan Whalen Turner? How do I convince them not to bind me into a second-book crunch that will devastate the quality of my second novel? How do I convince them to take the risk of time with me? Can I work it into my contract?

Anybody else have phobias like these?

Leave a comment!

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4 responses »

  1. While I am the reader that’s begging my favorite authors to churn out books faster than every year, I can definitely see your dilemma. At least to solve fear #2, can’t you develop stories on the shelf to then present to agent/editor for your 2nd book? That way you’ve already been thinking and percolating on the story for a while and when it comes to writing it you won’t have to start from scratch with only 6-12 months to finish? As a non-writer, I have no idea if this idea would even work. Maybe the ideas on the shelf are there for a reason? But at the same time, I hear authors say that they come up with way more story ideas than they ever have time to write. Why not keep a file going (physical or digital) with plot outlines, character sketches, etc. and then you have something to pull from?

    Good luck! I can’t wait to see what outstanding debut story you get published!

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    • Thanks! Yeah, I definitely do keep those files with story ideas, and there are plenty of them. But it still takes years for me to develop an actual manuscript from those ideas. My best plan is to switch off between the novel I’m writing now and a second one so that I’ll have something at least in the works. And I do have that first novel I shelved that I could try and fix. But I know of at least two writers who got these two book deals with NO idea what they’d write for their second book. It’s tough!

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  2. I understand those fears completely. Especially number 2—eep! (I’ve heard the solution to this is just to write a short book. Works for me!) But those fears are good anyway. It means you care about the craft.

    Btw, I had a dream last night that you were getting published! I was on a reader blog and saw your book ad on the sidebar. I was like, WHY DIDN’T SHE TELL ME? I think it’s a sign.

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    • Woohoo! I’ll take that sign. I feel like 2010 might be my year. And yeah, you’re one of the ones I’ve been thinking about. Good luck to you on that second book! A short novel sounds like a very smart plan. 🙂

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