AFTER THE BOOK DEAL – Guest Post by Jonathan Auxier
The Internet is full of great advice about how to sell a book, but what about after the sale? When my first book came out, I found it was surprisingly hard to find answers to some basic questions. Like most authors, I learned most of the answers through trial and error. And so in anticipation of the launch of my new novel, The Night Gardener, I’ve decided to write down everything I learned so I don’t make the same mistakes twice!
AFTER THE BOOK DEAL is a month-long blog series detailing the twenty things I wish someone had told me before entering the exciting world of children’s publishing. Each weekday from now until MAY 20, I will be posting an article on a different blog. Follow along and please spread the word!
This is a subject that I don’t see discussed openly, but we’ve all felt it. As an author, it’s very hard not to look around and resent other writers who seem to be getting a better treatment—better reviews, bigger print runs, more publisher support, bigger sales. No matter where you are in your career, there’s always someone out there who’s doing better.
Authors are only human, and these feelings are natural. But I also believe this line of thinking can be incredibly destructive. In the last few years, I’ve had the chance to witness a few authors implode mid-career … in almost every case, I think the thing that set them off was professional jealousy.
So how do I ward off the Green Eyed Monster? Whenever I start down this road, I try to recall a few helpful principles …
Root for Good Stories
One great thing about writing for children is that you get to write for children. Kids aren’t just reading for story; they are also reading to learn how to read. This gives every person in children’s publishing a de facto mission of literacy. Every new book in the world has a chance of being “the book” that unlocks a child’s love for reading. In principle, this means that you should be excited about every new book entering the world. But in practice, that’s not always the case. I’ll admit to feeling a little wary about good books that come out in the same month as my books—wouldn’t it be nice if everything else was terrible? No. It wouldn’t. A true lover of stories always celebrates good stories … even if they’re coming from the “competition.”
Embrace Your Inner Snowflake
Speaking of competition, one big factor behind jealousy is “zero-sum” thinking: the idea that your failure is directly proportionate to a rival’s success. This was a bad habit I picked up as a screenwriter—an industry where writers are literally competing against one another for a single assignment. In publishing, however, this doesn’t really apply.
The reason you’re not getting attention from your publisher is not because some other author is hogging all the resources. Good books are actually pretty rare, and there will always be room in the world for another one—your best insurance against being in competition with other authors is to write stories that only you could write.
I’ll use myself as an example: when Peter Nimble launched, it was within weeks of two enormous middle-grade books from my same publisher. Needless to say, I was terrified. These other authors had huge followings and enormous print runs—why would a publisher even care about my little debut when they had bigger fish to fry? As it turned out, neither of these books had any impact on the early sales of Peter Nimble. Why? Because each of us had written books that only we could write … and we were all of us speaking to very different readers.
So here’s my new philosophy: the only authors who have legitimate concern about market overlap are those whose stories and voices are not unique to them. Focus on telling stories that only you can tell, and there will always be a place for you in the world.
Establish Healthy Goals
The very last piece of advice would be to set realistic and healthy goals for yourself as a writer. There’s no harm in being ambitious—artists should always be pushing themselves to create better work. The danger comes when your ambition is linked to things over which you have no control. These are what councilors refer to as “blocked goals.”
Trade blocked goals for things that you have more control over. Don’t say “I want to become a NYT bestseller” because that’s not a system you can game. Instead, try and say “I want to earn out my advance”—because with enough hustle and handselling, that’s something you can do!
And what’s the biggest thing that you have control over? Your writing. Director Jean-Luc Goddard famously said “in order to criticize a movie, you have to make another movie.” Don’t complain about other books or authors (even privately), instead channel that frustration into your own art. Watch what happens: all the frustration and jealousy disappears when you keep yourself completely focused on your craft. After all, who has time to worry about other people when you’ve got a book to write!
That’s it for AFTER THE BOOK DEAL! Tomorrow we’ll be talking about the importance of keeping author busywork at bay! In the meantime, you can catch up on previous posts (listed below), and please-oh-please spread the word!
AFTER THE BOOK DEAL – Stops So Far
WEEK ONE: Before Your Book Comes Out
4/21 – Finding Your Tribe: entering the publishing community
4/22 – Do I Really Need a Headshot?: crafting your public persona
4/23 – I Hate Networking: surviving social media
4/24 – A Night at the Movies: the ins and outs of book trailers
4/25 – Giveaways! … are they worth it?
WEEK TWO: Your Book Launch
4/28 – Can I have Your Autograph?: 5 things to do before your first signing
4/29 – Cinderella at the Ball: planning a successful book launch
5/1 – Being Heard in the Crowd: conferences and festivals
5/2 – The Loneliest Writer in the World: surviving no-show events
JONATHAN AUXIER writes strange stories for strange children. His new novel, The Night Gardener, hits bookstores on May 20—why not come to his book launch party? You can visit him online at www.TheScop.com where he blogs about children’s books old and new.
Thank you Jonathan for stopping by the blog and sharing all your insight! Check out my review of The Night Gardener.