What If My Agent Doesn’t Like My Next Book?

As if it’s not stressful enough getting an agent based on that first book, it seems everyone wonders the same thing. What if they love my first book but hate my second one?

I’ve had quite a few authors ask this about agents and publishers. So first I’m going to ease your mind; then we’ll cut to the chase.

Here’s the easing-your-mind part: you can relax. The agent or publishing house signed you because they like you, they really like you. There were forty thousand other authors they could have signed, and they signed you. Yay.

When an agent or publisher signs you, they have some degree of belief that you can write, not just one book, but hopefully many more. They have a commitment to you. They’re putting their time and effort into you, and they’re going to want to stick with you. So they’re predisposed to be favorable to what you write. Try not to worry so much.

Now for the reality check.

It’s true, many writers’ subsequent novels fall short of the mark. The most common reason is that most authors work on that first novel, the one that sold, for far longer than the second one. They may have even agonized over it for years. The following novels, by contrast, are usually written much faster and under the pressure of a contract and a deadline, so they might not be as strong. Then again, people often get better the more novels they write. So who knows how it will end up for you?

However…

If you wrote one great one, and your second one is not quite as good, the world’s not going to end. You just fix it. Presumably you’ll have the help of whoever told you it wasn’t good enough—your agent or editor. You’ll get notes for revision and you’ll get to work. Or you’ll be told to junk it and start over. (Hopefully not the latter, but it’s been known to happen.)

So the answer to the “what if” question is, “you deal with it.”

Now, a few people have written me and suggested that once an agent takes on a writer, they’re basically obligated to sell whatever the writer writes, regardless of whether the agent likes it or not. Um, not so much. It’s the agent’s job to continually assess the writing and the market, and to make judgments about which projects are worthy of putting out there. An agent needs to protect the author’s reputation by refusing to submit sub-par work; the agent needs to protect their own reputation too. If you signed with the agent, it’s because you trust they have a good reputation with the editors, right? And hopefully you trust their judgment and you also have a good enough rapport with them that you can talk through any problems.

(To put it more succinctly: it’s your job to provide a sellable book. It’s my job to sell it.)

Have you thought beyond selling that first book? Do you worry about the agent or publisher not liking your other work? If you sign with an agent, what expectations do you have about them selling your entire body of work?

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  • http://www.gabrielle-meyer.blogspot.com Gabrielle Meyer

    I can relate to this fear, especially because I’ve been dreaming and thinking about my first book for over ten years. The beautiful thing is, I’ve also been thinking about three or four other books for that long. I also know that with each book I write (and re-write!) I am learning skills that will help me with subsequent ones. I think that having an agent and/or publishing house say “we like you, we really like you” will be a boost to my confidence and help me push myself to give my best – hopefully they’ll also be there to cheer me on (or hit me over the head) when I think this way!

    • http://einefeistyberg.wordpress.com Cherry Odelberg

      Yes. We share similar writing histories. In general I learn from my past and it makes me faster at what I do in the present.

    • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

      Well as a fan of your writing, I’ll just say- “Keep ‘em coming!” :)

  • http://www.supamomthoughts.blogspot.com Angie Dicken

    Love learning about the agent’s perspective! Trust is such a big component of the process, isn’t it? I am learning more and more about “the right fit” as far as author/agent goes.

    I hope to embrace a teachable spirit when I get to this point in the publishing journey!:)

    Thanks for the post!

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.gorzkowski Paul J. Gorzkowski

    Personally, I feel that landing an agent at all is the biggest task of any author’s career. After that, should be a piece of cake. I completed my first novel in February of this year and instantly began working on my second one. I have sent out numerous queries for my first novel but did not succeed. So, I simply pushed that one aside and will go again once this one is written and polished. I will keep going until I land an agent. If not, then I guess I have written countless novels for my own entertainment. I have plenty of stories and no problem writing them. At the moment, I have seven others in the bucket just waiting for me to get to them. Just because I wrote them, doesn’t really mean I MUST sell them. If they don’t like second one, I will offer them the third one, etc… until they are satisfied. I just wish the opportunity to have an agent believe in my work strong enough to represent me. The rest of our relationship would be a piece of cake.

    • http://lauralibricz.blogspot.de/ Laura Libricz

      Yes, I fear I will have a whole drawer of novels, one better than the next, by the time I find an agent, too. I am so preoccupied with this emotional rollercoaster, querys, waiting, no replies, writing, trying not to think about the agents I queried, that I can’t even entertain the thought of what could happen if and when I find an agent. If…

  • http://bethvogt.com Beth K. Vogt

    Been there, done that, have the manuscript tucked in the desk drawer to prove it.
    I knew what book #2 was going to be about … until my editor said “Nope. That’s not the story we want.”
    Yikes.
    My options? Panic — sure, for a little bit.
    And then figure out what story they would want.
    Turned that manuscript in about 10 days ago.
    Lesson learned: You can only panic for so long before you get back into the game again.
    :)

    • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

      Good point, Beth. In writing, the chicken’s head is re-attachable after running around a bit. :O)

      • http://bethvogt.com Beth K. Vogt

        Yep — you can re-attach it many, many times. It gets easier … and it takes less time. :)

    • http://aboutproximity.com Lisa

      Great advice. I am really good at panic!

    • http://einefeistyberg.wordpress.com Cherry Odelberg

      :) Yes, I think you must embrace your panic. Then, with some chagrin, I can’t help myself and I am feverishly pounding out something inspired at the keyboard again.

    • http://www.helenkeeble.com Helen Keeble

      I knew what book #2 was going to be about … until my editor said “Nope. That’s not the story we want.”

      This exact same thing happened to me too. *grin* Complete with panic.

      With the benefit of hindsight (handed in book two last month), my editor was absolutely right. Looking back, I have no idea what I was smoking when I came up with my original 2nd book proposal. Thank goodness she saved me from myself!

  • http://juliesunne.com Julie Sunne

    Although I haven’t published my first book yet, I am grateful to know agents will not just feed my ego or take the easy way out and submit subpar manuscripts after the first book. I wouldn’t want to have junk published no matter how much money is in it. As writer’s we need to take pride in our work!
    Thanks for the reassurance, Rachelle.

  • http://mediaintercept.blogspot.com/ Pat Walsh

    I’m often amazed by the insecurities of my fellow writers. If I were fortunate enough to have had an agent for either of my published books (each of which were non-fiction, and each sold to a traditional publisher), I can’t imagine I would be worried about my agent ditching me on my next book! Sometimes I wonder if I just have an enormous ego, or if other writers are terribly insecure about their work. Personally, I see each good thing that happens in my writing career as another step forward, even if there’s a step back waiting at the next corner…

    • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman

      Pat, that doesn’t sound like enormous ego to me. It sounds like a grounded, healthy attitude. Unfortunately, there are those of us, like me, who are worry-warts. Staying in the present and staying positive help. I keep reminding myself of that.

  • nuku

    Uh…Regarding your mention of maybe being told to “junk it and start over”. Can you help me understand this?

    Say you are the writer, you write this series and the publisher says to junk one of the books because it’s not going the way they want. How does that matter? Your characters have backgrounds that fit ONLY that story, and that story is the only thing that fits your characters. The whole plot and ending rests on that one book and they tell you to get rid of it. How could that possibly work? If the publisher wants X story and the one you wrote doesn’t work, why don’t they just write X? Because, after all, the story they make you write wouldn’t be your own. You’d be more of a Ghostwriter, correct?

    I’m not saying this situation happened at all, not to my knowledge at least, but it’s the scenario that comes to mind when I read that.

    Would that scenario happen, or is that my overactive imagination? And if it would happen, what would you do about it?

    Sorry if this isn’t understandable. I’ve got a lot of distractions around me as I write. (^_^;)

    • http://erindanzer.blogspot.com Erin Danzer

      Nuku, I think with a series of books it is completely different than writing stand alone novels. With a series, the publisher/agent/editor understands that the characters have backgrounds already and that the story is building around them. Within a series, I believe the agent/editor would suggest things that might need to be changed about a book but not get rid of the book completely. Worst case scenario is having to rewrite an entire book in the series, and I’m not sure how often that happens.

      • nuku

        I don’t know how anybody else writes, but even if I write a stand alone novel, I create the backgrounds and such of my characters. The stories basically revolve around what was set in their backgrounds. Not one of those flashback type things, though. But I believe that character backgrounds are important whether your character is in one book, or ten.
        Were that to happen to me, somebody saying X didn’t suit their idea, I couldn’t rewrite that character, or book, to suit them. I understand revisions, like taking out things that are inappropriate, or just don’t fit, or adding more to the story, but I don’t understand telling somebody to ‘junk’ their idea.

  • https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ruth-A-Taylor/112941348748036 Ruth Taylor

    I think about it all the time.

    I’ve come to terms with the fact that my first novel will not be the first to hit the shelves, but I do like to think that it’s good enough to come in second or the third!

  • http://www.sally-apokedak.com/index.htm sally apokedak

    I’m hoping that an agent will be able to sell all my work. Not early, bad work, but all the work that comes after the first contracted book, at least.

    I think if one book sells the rest will too, because I’ve been studying and practicing so long that the first book that sells isn’t likely to be a fluke. It’s more likely to be proof that I’ve finally learned what it takes to write a good book.

    (Of course, I’ve just had a couple of good writing days. If you’d asked this question last week when I couldn’t write two words that made me happy, you’d have gotten a different answer.)

  • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

    I typed a response to this ten times and deleted every one. In the next few weeks, I’ll be sending out queries to secular agents for my latest work. If they like it and want to sign me for more books, I’ll be a bit concerned. My first three books never made it out of the query stage, but they were all Christian. I am most comfortable writing about Spiritual things. If this book takes hold, I wonder how many more secular novels I have in me. Sound strange?
    I’ll let you know if I find an agent for the new book. It would probably not be appropriate to send to Rachelle, but hopefully the right agent is out there. Rachelle will continue to be my online mentor though. :-D

    • Rachelle Gardner

      Why would anyone want to take you on for only one book? Just wondering.

      • http://einefeistyberg.wordpress.com Cherry Odelberg

        Well now, that’s a different perspective on “One book wonder.”

        • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

          Cherry, yep, you’re right. One book won’t make a career. My concern is unwarranted. Thanks for pointing that out!

      • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

        I see your point, Rachelle. It makes little sense to fret over it. I’m like the person who worried about their taxes if they one the lottery. :)

    • http://bethvogt.com Beth K. Vogt

      I’m betting there’s truth — even spiritual truth — woven in that story, P.J. Why not call it “general market” instead of “secular”?

      • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

        Thanks Beth! I’m nervous because the kids in it talk very bluntly about sensitive issues. It’s a book that I hope will save lives, though, and so I’m hoping it gets into teenage hands.

        • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman

          P.J., if your book will save teenage lives, then I’m praying hard that it sells and gets into their hands. And I’m with Beth. I’m sure you have a good message in the book; don’t worry about the label. In regards to the second book, since you are a spiritual person, those values / principles will come through in your writing. You don’t necessarily have to write an overtly Christian book to communicate Christian values. Take C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien for example.

          Blessings!

          • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

            Thank you for the encouragement, Christine!

      • http://talesfromtheredhead@blogspot.com Jennifer Major

        Exactly!

        • http://talesfromtheredhead@blogspot.com Jennifer Major

          Good grief. I meant the above comment about the “general market”, but it landed where it did…but I agree PJ. And yes, if it will save lives, it will land where God wants it to land.

  • http://nancysthompson.blogspot.com/ Nancy S. Thompson

    Oh of course I worry about this. I’m working on that second book now, a follow up (sequel) to the first, which was a roller coaster ride of epic proportions. I’m afraid I won’t be able to top it, or maybe even just meet it in scale. I won’t have the 18 months I took to write & revise the first. Having said that, I know a whole heckuva lot more this time around, so hopefully those rookie mistakes won’t appear or at least take so long to fix. I’ve been well seasoned!

  • http://www.michaelinfinito.com Otin

    Thank goodness I didn’t have that problem. My agent was very very happy with my follow up!

  • Lanny

    One pitfall I consider is this: What if you publish your first and/or second novels as digital books and then you get a solid hit with those, and then you’re into some ironclad publishing agreement with Amazon, etc., and can’t get out of it? It might have been that waiting for a traditional publisher would have been far better for your fledgling career.

  • Neil Ansell

    I found my first book very easy to write because it had been fermenting in the back of my mind for years, and it was snapped up immediately.
    It took me far, far longer to come up with the right ideas for the second book than I ever imagined, but my agent had stood by me 100% and I now know eaxactly what I am doing and have a second deal.
    My agent has more belief in me than I have in myself, she has been a wonderful support when my confidence has sagged.

  • http://www.sharonalavy.com Sharon A Lavy

    At least, once you get to the proposal stage, you only have to write three chapters or so before it gets nixed.

    But some of us will probably always have to write the whole manuscript because things get revealed in chapter 20 that take us back to the beginning. Sigh.

    I know this is another subject but I wonder if pantsters get more attached to the characters because the story is revealed to us little by little, just as getting to know people in real life.

  • http://thebloggingofanaspiringwriter.blogspot.com.au Bonnee

    My only real worry when it comes to my second novel is that it might be for a different genre that the agent isn’t interested in. I guess that there’s a chance they’ll make an exception if they’ve already taken my first book and loved it enough to sell it, but I’ve read in some places that sometimes a new agent is necessary if you switch genres. Do authors sometimes have multiple agents if they write for multiple genres?

  • http://jackiesbackporch.blogspot.com Jackie Layton

    I go back and forth between writing romance and romantic suspense. If I get an agent interested in one will I still be able to write both categories? Or if an agents likes one of my romantic suspense novels am I pretty much stuck there?
    I was so happy to read that when I get an agent, they’ll have my best interests at heart.
    Thanks for posting this!

    • http://www.helenkeeble.com Helen Keeble

      I go back and forth between writing romance and romantic suspense. If I get an agent interested in one will I still be able to write both categories?

      I think for those categories, you’d probably get a multi-book offer if a publisher likes your first one. Publishers want to “build a brand” with an author, particularly in genre. However, romance and romantic suspense are not a million miles apart, so I think you could still sneak suspense into your romance (or vice versa) while keeping your agent and editor happy.

      I had a similar experience, in that I wrote SF/F short stories before selling a YA paranormal comedy novel in a two-book deal. My ideas for SF/F novels have been put on hold for a bit while I focus on my YA comedy side – so many ideas, so little time! :)

      • http://jackiesbackporch.blogspot.com Jackie Layton

        Helen,
        Thanks for sharing this with me. I appreciate it!

  • http://thejaimereports.blogspot.com Jaime Wright Sundsmo

    I love it! “just deal with it”. Best. Line. Ever. (my husband tells me that all the time. Blunt. True. And motivating.)
    :)

  • http://www.sueharrison.com Sue Harrison

    Do I worry about my agent liking my next book? ALL THE TIME! Except when I’m writing. For some reason when I’m writing I feel empowered.

    • Stephanie M.

      I agree Sue. Sometimes you write that perfect sentence and it’s like, yeah, I totally nailed that. Then you realize that’s probably another of the sentences that will have to be changed :)

      I try not to worry if my agent will like it. If I’m writing what I love than I assume she’ll love it as well. If not, she’ll definitely let me know.

      • http://www.sueharrison.com Sue Harrison

        Right, Stephanie. Sometimes when I fall in love with some sentence I’ve written, I decide a few months later that it’s over the top and needs to be cut! Ah the drama of the writing life!! You gotta love it!

  • http://joannaaislinn.wordpress.com Joanna Aislinn

    Sigh. I’ve been in that position but not b/c the second novel wasn’t as good. It’s a direct continuation of my debut, and a stronger story. As per the editor who was kind enough to give feedback for rejecting it, it’s a bit non-traditional. A few other houses didn’t give that much.

    It is what it is. As Jody Hedlund might say, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

  • http://talesfromtheredhead@blogspot.com Jennifer Major

    I’ve completed the first book, am at work on the second and have #3 plotted and am thinking about #4 and #4. There is no shortage of ideas, just time. Of course I worry about what agents will think of numero dos, but I still have to get a certain agent who floats high above the rest to notice numero uno. Coughhintcough.
    I would expect a roller coaster no matter what happens, that’s what life is like. I’ve learned not to harbour expectations, because those are in the same league as assumptions.
    But I would HOPE for a great working relationship and an exchange of mutually beneficial ideas…and chocolate.

    • http://talesfromtheredhead@blogspot.com Jennifer Major

      #5. Hahahaha.

      • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

        Keep churning them out! I really enjoyed your first book and learned a lot about Navajos!
        Thanks again for letting me be a beta reader!

    • http://einefeistyberg.wordpress.com Cherry Odelberg

      Yes, there is no shortage of ideas – just time.

  • http://loribenton.blogspot.com/ Lori Benton

    I have hopes and plans, but I know better than to have set expectations. Not only might my agent or publisher have something else in mind, God might have.

  • http://livingthebodyofchrist.blogspot.com/ Connie Almony

    A very real consideration for exactly the things you mention. The time put into my first manuscript would be unrealistic under contract. However, it was the one I “learned” on. I’ve already started the second in the series and ITS the one doing better in the contests. I have a third in the series in mind, and have developed characters in this series poised to be main characters in a spin-off series. My expectations of an agent include helping me see what the manuscript needs in order to make it more sellable to editors, as well as develop a quality product that will keep readers coming back.

  • Cindy Regnier

    I have written 8 (historical romance) books already but only just now beginning to seek an agent. I know my views are prejudiced but I think my later books are better than the first ones. Is it possible that this gives me an advantage in the eyes of an agent, having material already available in case the “second book” ever come about? Or is this actually a disadvantage – an agent that signs me has to take on the baggage of my past writing with all the editing, suggesting etc. that comes with that territory, then too wondering what my incentive might be to keep writing new works knowing I have an “inventory” already stock piled.

  • Josh C.

    Yes, I’ve considered selling beyond the first book, and yes, I worry about it at least as much as selling the first one. I for one have decided to hold off on querying an agent until I have three novels done, revised, edited, and polished as best I can. Hopefully I will pick up speed as I go along and get better, a little less crappy in my first drafts, a little better at editing and all that. But I do worry that if any of these three are picked up, the other two will be considered junk.

    I don’t expect an agent to represent every single thing I write. That’s just unrealistic. Also, if what I’ve written is a booger, I wouldn’t expect him/her to take that to a publisher. Everyone’s reputation is at stake, and agents have established relationships that go way before I will have come along.

  • http://www.laramsey.com Lori

    Honestly, I have never worried about an agent liking my 2nd book. I figured if I get an agent in the first place, it will be because they like my style. Should I worry? Maybe I’m too confident? Right now my main concern is finding one. I suppose I’ll worry with keeping one when I cross that bridge.

  • http://rmabry.com Richard Mabry

    Do I worry about my agent not liking my work? No, because I know she and I are a team. Do I worry about my publisher not liking my work? Umm, let me get back to you on that one after they see the next one…and the one after that…and…

    I, like many authors, suffer from the “imposter syndrome.” I can’t believe I’m good enough to get this far, and I’m always waiting for someone to jump out of the bushes and say, “I know who you are, and you can’t write.” That’s why I appreciate a supportive agent like you.

    • http://www.josephjpote.com Joe Pote

      “imposter syndrome”

      I like that description.

      I think that describes more than just the life of a writer. In many areas of life we have a poorly hidden fear of “being found out” as unworthy.

      In the end, I suppose it is because we are unworthy. My only true basis of worth is Christ considered me to be of enough worth to give His life for my redemption.

      • http://einefeistyberg.wordpress.com Cherry Odelberg

        Impostor syndrome! Yes, that is what surfaces when the fears actually reveal a name-as a writer, as a performer, as a musician and teacher…

        • http://www.josephjpote.com Joe Pote

          I guess that would explain why I still shy away from calling myself a writer… ;-)

          • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

            Well, you could always call yourself a chicken farmer, but it wouldn’t be accurate. I always put “writer” in as an add-on.
            “What do you do?”
            “I’m a pastor and writer.”
            “What do you write?”

            Funny, ninety percent of the time, they ask me what I write and not where I pastor. B-) I should say, “Sermons, cf course!”

          • http://www.josephjpote.com Joe Pote

            PJ, that’s funny that people are more interested in your writing than your pastoring…though I’m not surprised.

            I usually just say I’m an engineer. I don’t mention writing unless they ask more specifics, and I don’t mention books or blogging unless we start talking about either hobbies or ministry.

            It’s not that I don’t enjoy talking about the writing…it’s just that it doesn’t fit well with most people’s idea of an engineer.

      • http://talesfromtheredhead@blogspot.com Jennifer Major

        Love that phrase! “Imposter syndrome” is an all too familiar issue in just about every field out there. I gave it up in my singing after 30 years of thinking I was only good-ish when someone said “I need you in my ear!” for a money note. So. I’ve decided to fight against it in my writing too. I know I’ve written some great stuff, and yes, I tell myself this everyday. I feel like a little engine though.

        • http://www.josephjpote.com Joe Pote

          “I think I can! I think I can!” :-)

          Lots of wisdom in some of those children’s tales!

        • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

          Jennifer, as one who’s read your stuff and who doesn’t hand out untrue compliments, let me say that you are most definitely a gifted writer. So there! :P

          • http://talesfromtheredhead@blogspot.com Jennifer Major

            Awww, thanks PJ!!! And no, I know that you don’t layer on the schmooze. I appreciate your opinion very much!!

    • http://www.sueharrison.com Sue Harrison

      Richard, I love the story that Stephen King tells about his little boy. King had to go on the road to promote his books, and he said to little son, “You understand why Daddy has to go away for a little while, right?” His son said, “Yes. You have to go be Stephen King.”

      The dichotomy of that is part of every writer’s life, even prior to publication.

  • http://reflectionsbykrista.blogspot.com Krista Phillips

    Oh yes, major fear there. As my badly in-need-of-editing book sits on my harddrive for me to finish editing it once I get done with proofing edits on my first one…

    I figure the best I can do is the best I can do, and you roll with the punches after that point.

  • Jeanne T

    I appreciate your thoughts and encouragements in this post, Rachelle. The reminder that a published picks up an author because they like them is a good thing to remember, especially on those tough days.

    I’m grateful also to know that, one day, when I have an agent, I can rely on that person to know what will and won’t sell/work for publishing, and give solid suggestions for improving (or forgetting) the current story.

    I have thought a little about the “second book,” but I think I’ll focus on writing the current book first to the best it can be.

    I think it behooves an agent/publisher to guide a writer in what is acceptable, rather than saying s/he must accept whatever body of work the author presents. There needs to be give and take in the relationship, I would think.

  • http://www.sundijo.com Sundi Jo

    My first book is in the publication process so I’m preparing to get started on the book proposal for the second. I’ve heard that’s the thing to do. Have another one ready while the first one is still in the process.

    Do you agree?

  • http://einefeistyberg.wordpress.com Cherry Odelberg

    One of the ways I plan beyond my first book is the way I address writer’s block. If I am stuck on a particular passage; if I am just not excited about that plot today, I will go work on something else in a different voice. If I observe some incident in real life that would make a great story, but not fit with the one I am focusing on, I start a new story. In that way, I have three or four books at various stages of completion at any given time. Of course, at some point, there is the question of disciplining myself to finish what I have begun.

    • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

      Great thoughts, Cherry. By keeping those files open, you allow your creativity to flow naturally instead of trying to squeeze out the last drop. We all know that squeezing a teabag makes the cup bitter, but you’re stocking the cupboard with tins of fresh leaves.

  • http://www.josephjpote.com Joe Pote

    Rachelle, in reading this post I was struck more by the similarities to other careers than by the differences.

    We always must be prepared to continue to prove ourselves in new challenges, regardless of our career choices.

    Yes, in my day job I’m on salary and am paid monthly. However, I must continually prove my value to the company. If I ever cease to be of value, I should expect to be let go. At the end of every pay period, we’re even.

    The relationship you describe between author and agent is not terribly different, except that the pay periods are a book at a time, rather than a month at a time.

    • http://einefeistyberg.wordpress.com Cherry Odelberg

      I agree. Writing the first book is like four years of getting the education in the first place. When the first work is signed you have graduated and landed a job in your field. After that, you are expected to perform at speed every day. Let’s hope you retained a lot in your well from your years of education.

  • http://www.janesteen.com Jane Steen

    Digitally self-published books can be changed, updated or withdrawn from publication as the author wishes (for instance if he or she gets a traditional publishing contract). Nothing ironclad about it.

  • http://www.janesteen.com Jane Steen

    That last comment was meant for Lanny who worried about ironclad digital publishing – sorry Rachelle, still having the worst time commenting on your blog.

  • http://thoughtsthatmove.blogspot.com/ Wendy Paine Miller

    I’m an expert at worrying. However, I repeatedly squash it.
    Because: I trust my agent. I trust my voice. And I trust myself to keep writing and editing.

    Worry is a time suck & I need that time to write & love & live.
    ~ Wendy

  • http://lindsayharrel.blogspot.com Lindsay Harrel

    I hope when I get an agent that he/she will be my agent throughout my writing career. I want someone who likes me and my writing, and wants to help me succeed. I’m not afraid of hard work, so if I’d need to revise and rework, I’d do so.

    It probably would be a point of worry for me, though. :) Like Wendy, I’m an expert worrier (working on that!).

    • http://talesfromtheredhead@blogspot.com Jennifer Major

      There’s enough of us ‘expert worriers’ to form a full team.

      • http://lindsayharrel.blogspot.com Lindsay Harrel

        Ha! No kidding. :)

  • http://tcavey.blogspot.com/ TC Avey

    Haven’t got an agent yet (prayers going up) but yes I am already thinking ahead and working on future projects. I also am brainstorming ideas for other novels.

  • http://adventurebuilding.blogspot.com/ Janice

    I am glad to hear that second books can go faster. While I am in the process of writing my first book/s, it gives me encouragement. tks

  • http://girlseeksplace.wordpress.com Brianna

    Honestly, I haven’t thought much beyond the first book. I am still working on being brave enough to do something with the first book.

  • http://www.melissatagg.com Melissa Tagg

    “If you wrote one great one, and your second one is not quite as good, the world’s not going to end. You just fix it.”

    Love it. Actually, this is one of the things I love most about writing in general…until the thing is printed and bound (or in epub format), we can revise until it rocks.

  • Lori

    I prefer to not think about selling a second book. It’s better right now for me to think only of the first.

  • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman

    I have thought about “that second book.” It’s a part of why I want to go the traditional route with publishing. I would like to establish a relationship with an agent and a publisher and write on a regular basis. This is not to imply that I expect to quit my day job and be a full-time writer; I mean that I don’t want to be a one-hit wonder. Having said that, I also have the mindset that, just because my first novel is a smash hit (wouldn’t that be wonderful!) doesn’t mean that the publisher will automatically accept the next manuscript I submit. I expect to have to prove that I’m not a one-hit wonder, that I have more than one good book in me. If anything, I think the standard would be a little higher with the second book. Having established an audience, I wouldn’t want to let them down by writing a lackluster second book (along the lines of many disappointing movie sequels).

    Another consideration for me is genre. I am working on two first novels. The one I have worked on the longest is an adult psychological drama. The other is a Young Adult fantasy. The one that sells will determine the genre of my second novel. That’s a little scary. I have to be prepared to write in either direction.

    In regards to my agent selling my whole body of work, I completely agree that a good agent will only bring good work to publishers. This is good not only for her reputation and credibility, but it is good for the writer as well. The agent needs to be able to hold the writer to a standard of excellence and the writer needs to be able to accept that this is to her benefit. I teach writing. If, instead of giving constructive criticism, I wrote “Wonderful!” on top of a mediocre piece of writing, I would not be of any help to my students. An agent who tries to promote mediocre writing rather than telling her client, “I know you can do much better,” is of no help to her client.

    Thank you, Rachelle, for another excellent post.

  • Another Writer

    I wish this was true all the time, but sadly, it isn’t.

    My agent was unable to sell my first novel, but we still had a number of editors ask to see my next work. Despite this, when my second novel wasn’t to the agent’s liking, the agent dropped me without warning. The agent did send me off with well wishes and the hope that another agent would be better suited to help me succeed. My contract with the agency was for me, the writer, not one book.

    I later found out that the agent had done the same thing to half a dozen other authors in the prior six months.

    After talking with friends in the publishing business, the verdict is that while many agents do what this blog post says, there are others who don’t. So the idea of not worrying at all isn’t exactly true. Of course, you never find out about most of this stuff until you come out the other side – we all know how any writer that complains publicly about publishing, agents or editors tends to get crucified by their peers. I’ll admit, I’ve frowned and shook my head at posts about authors venting their frustrations with querying/agents/publishing.

    And even though things didn’t work out, I understand. My second novel wasn’t in a genre the agent focused in, for one. Second, it was completely different from my first novel. I did ask these kinds of questions before signing with the agent, telling what I planned to write in the future. But I get it, I really do, and in the end the agent probably wasn’t the right person for my career, just like they said.

    My plan is to go out there an find another agent, because I do believe in the traditional model.

    But what I’ve been told from those who found success after their first agent didn’t work out, is that such a situation isn’t as uncommon as one might think.

    So no, every agent isn’t going to keep you if they can’t sell your first novel and don’t like your second book – even if you aren’t a difficult client. They might drop you. But if this does happen to you, don’t give up on the system simply because the first try didn’t work out.

    To be honest, my only worry now is that other agents are going to assume I’m a problem client since things didn’t workout with my first agent – even though, while disappointing for me, the parting was amicable. Ah, good old paranoia. :) But I do have a list of editors that want to see what I write next, so maybe that will help…

    • Another Writer

      Just to clarify (after thinking back on my comment and Rachelle’s entire post), the agent never gave me the chance to do revisions. The agent read the manuscript, then sent me a letter saying we should part ways.

      I do agree that as writers it’s our job to put the work in to making a novel salable – even if it means completely rewriting.

      • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman

        A.W., thank you for sharing your story. I’m glad that you are continuing rather than giving up after an experience that would be enough to make anyone jaded. As you said, though, the agent had done the same thing to others as he / she did to you, so it the problem really isn’t with “the system” or with your writing. The problem was the agent. I hope that you find a new agent who is ethical, hard-working and who will represent you properly. The fact that your agent didn’t ask for revisions was maybe a red flag, but of course it’s easy for me to say that from my comfortable objective opinion. Blessings!

  • http://kristinlaughtin.blogspot.com Kristin Laughtin

    I’m sure the level of involvement varies between agents, but I’d imagine most agents would have some idea of what their clients are working on with their second books. If this is the case, they could work with the author to address any really obvious issues, such as the lack of a market or a seriously flawed story premise, before the author puts months into writing it. And as you said, many things can be fixed in revisions with the agent’s or editor’s input. Or is this scenario too much to hope for?

    tldr version: Communication with an agent during the writing process can probably reduce the number of situations like this.

    • Another Writer

      In my case, the agent read my synopsis when I was working on the project and we were still on sub for the first book, and seemed excited about it. When I asked when they wanted to be more in the loop (for concerns like you mentioned), the agent said since I wasn’t on deadline from a publisher they wanted to wait to read the manuscript when I was finished – to approach it as I did when I first queried her. This included three revisions and many beta readers before sending it in to the agent, getting the draft as ready as I felt possible.

      Of course, this is just my single experience. I wouldn’t be surprised if this varies greatly between agents.

  • http://www.leighkramer.com HopefulLeigh

    As I’m about to start writing my second novel, this has weighed heavily on me the last couple of months! Now I know I just need to do the work and trust the process. Thanks, Rachelle.

  • http://www.wisesculpture.com/ Gdub

    I’m working on the rewrite of my first draft, first book, but I agree wholeheartedly with what you say here. My job is to come up with something worthy of selling. Great blog.

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  • http://mediaintercept.blogspot.com/ Pat Walsh

    Thanks, Christine, and thank you for the insights on your blog. You make a lot of good points about the need to be creative in how we go about attracting an audience as well as in our actual creative writing. That kind of thinking should give you confidence that you are on the right track!

    • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman

      Thank you, Pat! And thank you for visiting my blog and for your comments there. I’ve checked out your blog as well. It’s great. I love that you are a “voracious re-reader.” Also, your entry on traditional versus self-publishing is well-done and informative.

      Blessings!

  • Catherine Hudson

    I happened to have worried about this but… two more books finished and those who have read them have assured me they like my writing better as I grow! Yay! (And that includes my South African friend who has no problem laying out my manuscript and taking scissors to it for improvement.)

    Now to just get them off my desk to an agent or publisher…

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