Four Weeks, Second Books

Displacement—my second book, a stand-alone, queer YA sci-fi novel—comes out in just four weeks and I’m both excited and very nervous.

You’ll often hear people say that second books are a lot harder than first ones, and for different reasons.

On the one hand, you’ve got people with agents and “Big Five” publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, and Random Penguin). When they say it, in a lot of ways they mean the economics of it. It’s a lot harder to do well with a second book, and I’m told sales of even popular second books tending to be more like 70% of their respective debuts. Maybe that’s because the Big Five deal with such large numbers that novelty really makes a difference in marketing? I’m no expert. What I do know is that publishing with a Very Small Press Indeed tends to change the logistics of things.

I’m hoping Displacement will do even better than Mouse—there’s a lot of room to grow into in my definition of “success,” for starters. If you sell tens (or hundreds) of thousands of copies of your debut that’s one thing, but for better or worse, well… let’s say I’ve got a lower bar than that. Plus, this time I’ve got something I didn’t before: people who’ve read something I’ve written before. See, last time, I was starting from zero. Every person who picked up a copy of Mouse was taking a chance on me (and I cannot stress this enough: Thank you so much). But at least some of the people who’re going to read Displacement will have not only read something I’ve written before, they might even have liked it. And when you’ve got a publicity budget of zero, that’s a Big Deal.

So I have room to hope.

But there’s another thing people mean when they say second books are harder, and it’s that the process of writing them is just… so different. I wrote Mouse in the hours between panicked bouts of grading and researching while doing my PhD. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, so I constantly thought I was nearly done (reader: I was not). The end was always in sight, right there, waiting for me. When I sent it out to my alpha readers (which I didn’t even know enough to call alpha readers at the time), I had no idea it would be the first in so, so many rewrites. With Displacement, I had a pretty good guess of just how far from done it really was, and pushing through that—that was harder.

It’s like that every step of the way, with second books. The only thing that gets more focused is your expectations, and in such a challenging industry, well, that itself poses a challenge. More than a couple of times I’ve wondered if I should even bother writing these things, but when it comes down to it, I just don’t think I know how to stop. I love doing it too much. I carry on.

So for the next four weeks, you’re going to hear more out of me, on this site, on Facebook, on Twitter, trying to convince you to read Displacement. There’ll be a pre-order link (probably next week), maybe some nice things readers have said about it (if I’m lucky), maybe some profiles of the world and the characters I love so much, maybe some ramblings about the difference between plotters and “pantsers” and where I fall on that spectrum—maybe some memes. And if something catches your eye, please, share it with your friends.

Because you? I’m hoping to sign you up. You’re my publicity department. You’re all I’ve got.

I’m counting on you.