Sara Megibow returns to her monthly gig with us to talk about what happens after the first book honeymoon is over. Check it out!
A second book deal – the REAL celebration
Publishing is a competitive business. 36,000 queries to our agency in 2011 turned into 5 new clients for me, which turned in to 4 book deals so far. I am a firm believer in celebrating every success – celebrate, confetti, shout out loud, cheers – that first book deal is an amazing accomplishment. And yet, the importance of breaking into publishing is dwarfed by the accomplishment called The Second Book Deal. It’s just as rare to go from slush pile to book deal as it is to go from book deal to career author. Ultimately, the second book deal is more important to your career than that first one (in my opinion).
So, what are some of the elements important to securing this coveted second book deal? In no particular order:
1) Earn Out Your Advance.
Personally, I think authors talk too much online about what they did or did not get for an advance on their book. Stop it! Ok, I’m off my soapbox now.
My opinion (as an agent) is that advance money should be roughly what one book will earn in a year (with modifiers for foreign rights, audio rights, etc). In a first book deal, this number is a bit of a shot in the dark. Some people say that when a publishing house pays a higher advance, they put more effort into the book (thus creating more sales which make it easier to earn out). That hasn’t been my personal experience so far. So far in my career each publishing house with which I partner has worked very, very, very hard for our books regardless of size of the advance. However, when it comes time to talking about the second book deal, proof that we’ve earned the advance has always been very important. Earn out = higher interest in continuing to publish our books. Don’t earn out = yikes.
2) Write an incredible second book.
Your first book deal might be for one book, two books or three books (or, like Allison Rushby’s upcoming e-serial THE HEIRESSES, six books). I tend to keep a list of books my clients want to write – I update that list constantly and when the books on their first contract are delivered, we prep for the next submission. Very occasionally, I do shop for the next book deal using a proposal. But (gasp) usually we require the next book to be 100% complete before going for it. So…get ready to work just as hard as you did on Book #1. We’re not starting from scratch once we’ve published, but we do have to be just as exceptional as the first time around.
3) Keep an active online platform
Ok, before y’all eviscerate me – this is NOT a deal breaker. I mention it because, let’s face it, the connection an author has with her/his readers is easier to quantify when there is an online platform to monitor. If you love blogging, keep it up! If Facebook or twitter is more your thing, then don’t stop. I am the first to acknowledge that the amount of work piled on new authors is always overwhelming. Being organized and disciplined is going to help you. Want to be a career author? Be organized and disciplined. Social media should be scheduled after family, life, job and writing. But, keep it in the schedule if you can!
4) Be willing to talk about your brand with your editor
Keep an open dialogue with your publishing team. What do they want you to write next? Who do they think your readers are? What do they picture as your brand? I know this is a touchy subject – no one likes to talk about the phenomenon that feels like someone telling us what to write. It’s not write-for-hire. I’m just saying if you are willing to have an open conversation about what book will sell best next, that’s a conversation that helps the publishing house acquire you.
5) The sales numbers
Alas, the honest truth is that sales numbers end up being very important in this business (see item #1 – earning out the advance). When we have strong sales numbers, there is big incentive for a publishing house to resign an author. A good agent helps an author by planning for the second book deal – getting a Plan B ready if sales numbers aren’t looking great, and jumping on an opportunity to resign when sales numbers are strong.
Got a second book deal? Congratulations! This is a huge success deserving of enormous amounts of celebrating!
Okay – so the floor is open. What questions do you have about the second book deal? Experienced authors – any tips for making the big step form one-hit wonder to career?
On Friday, Darynda Jones talking about poking eyes out . . . or something like that. =) See you there!
Bio: Sara Megibow, Associate Literary Agent
Nelson Literary Agency, LLC
Sara has worked at the Nelson Literary Agency since 2006. As the Associate Literary Agent, Sara is actively acquiring new clients! The Nelson Literary Agency specializes in representing all genres of romance (except inspirational or category), young adult fiction of all subgenres, science fiction/ fantasy and commercial fiction (including women’s fiction and chick lit). Sara is an avid romance reader and a rabid fan girl of super sexy and intelligent stories.
Nelson Literary Agency is a member of AAR, RWA, SFWA and SCBWI. Please visit our website http://http://www.nelsonagency.com/ for submission guidelines, FAQs, resources and sample query letters. Sara’s Publisher’s Marketplace site (www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/SaraMegibow)  is a great place to find more about her personal tastes, clients and recent sales. You can also cyber stalk Sara on twitter @SaraMegibow