The main question I have received since announcing Book 2 has been: “Was the writing process different this time? Has it felt different?”
The answer is a resounding yes, and there is no better illustration than my ironic realization this morning.
Let’s back up. For Book 1, I had a detailed spreadsheet with every different social media option available to me and what I scheduled to post on each platform for MONTHS leading up to my release date. It marked special countdown dates and holidays (4 months til release! National Read a Book Day! 100 days til release!).
I have a similar spreadsheet for this year, but it hardly has anything on it (I’ll get into that below). It does have a list of blog ideas for the lead up to release day, and today, I finally sat down to write the one I scheduled for over a month ago (ha!). “The differences between writing Book 1 and Book 2.” And then I looked at the calendar and realized…
I MISSED THE TWO MONTH COUNTDOWN YESTERDAY. May 12th flew right by with absolutely ZERO realization that it was exactly two months until release day of Book 2.
That, my friends, is one of the biggest differences between writing Book 1 and Book 2. Whoops!
So let’s get into it.
Book 1 vs. Book 2: The biggest differences in writing and releasing a freshman and sophomore novel.
I wrote Book 1 as a hobby and fiddled with it for over a decade. I wrote when I felt like it, and I put it away for long periods of time when I didn’t feel like it.
For Book 2, there was no official deadline. However, I was well aware that most sequels are published within a year or two of the previous book. That meant I had to hustle, and I had to write even when I didn’t feel like it. Honestly, having word count goals and feeling that (self-imposed) pressure made me pretty miserable. I hated forcing myself to write, and it took a while to develop some rituals that helped me get into it on those days when the muses just weren’t singing.
And still, even trying to push myself, it will still be 2 years and 3 months between release dates. I doubt I will ever be an author that can push out books every year (or less in some cases!). I’ve accepted that’s not my style, and I wish I could go back to about 2 years ago and tell myself to stop worrying so much about the timeline. (And honestly, the muses probably would have started singing a bit more if I had relaxed a bit!)
Hobby vs. Published
When I started Book 1, I never dreamed it would actually be published. It was purely for fun, artistic expression, and exploring my own faith. I was free and unencumbered by fear of what others would think. I wrote whatever I wanted whenever I wanted with zero fear of judgment or bad reviews.
While I wrote Book 2, I knew it would be published. I knew other people would read it. It was far more difficult than I expected to quiet the self conscious voices that whispered, “People you love will read this and hate it. Total strangers will judge you for this. People you respect will criticize your writing. Fans of Book 1 will be disappointed in Book 2.” Now, I know that I am far from alone in this. Those voices plague most writers (and artists of all kinds). It’s hard to get back to that freedom of writing like no one will ever see it.
Newbie vs. Somewhat Experienced
I would definitely not call myself an expert in releasing a book, but I do have one under my belt. I learned so much the first time around.
As soon as I signed my contract on Book 1, I went into hyper research mode. I knew my publisher would market my book to a certain extent, but it was also on me to build excitement around this project. I read everything I could find on using social media to market yourself and your book, recruiting a street team, and throwing a launch party (followed by book signings). I had my spreadsheets and my plan.
I learned pretty quickly that some of the advice out there was… well… bad advice. I overextended myself, trying to do too much at once. I would need a full time social media manager to keep up with what some of the “experts” said was necessary. I refused to pay for ads, and it was demoralizing when I finally realized that most of the advice out there about taming the algorithm was a bunch of hooey (unless you pay for ads…).
Still, it was a really great learning experience, and this time I am better prepared with what worked for me and what didn’t. I’m sure it’s different for everyone. For me, I’m not wasting time on a million different social media platforms. Twitter isn’t my thing. Neither is Tik Tok. I’m also not wasting my time on inauthentic patterns that the “experts” say you must use when posting. “Post this many times about your personal life before you post about your product.” “Post at this time and on these days.” “Make sure these three things always show up in your grid.” “Make sure every photo fits your aesthetic.” I wasted a lot of stress, frustration, and effort trying to meet those demands last time. And you know what? It didn’t grow my audience by very much. (What DID grow my audience? Authentic relationships built over time with readers.)
The other thing that did not grow a real audience? Gimmicks like follow circles and follow backs. They look like quick ways to boost your follower counts, and I fell for it for a short time. Everywhere I looked, there was encouragement to participate in these shady “games.” All they really do is increase the number of fellow authors who follow you (and they usually unfollow pretty quickly). Fellow authors don’t necessarily buy your book. They aren’t the audience you really want (unless they are also fans of your genre. Those individuals are great to connect with on social media, and I’ve made some great friends over the last couple of years. But that is the exception and not the rule with most of these follow loops).
Ok, all of this has been pretty doom and gloom—things I’ve learned NOT to do. I’ve also learned a lot of what I want to do and who I want to be in this publishing world. Most importantly to me, I want to be authentic. I want to post what I want to post (whether it’s about life or my writing), without worrying about patterns or timelines or aesthetics. I want to keep forming genuine connections with real readers, rather than seeking a higher follower count. I want to write for the joy of it, and not for the pressure I placed on myself to finish in a certain amount of time.
I have no idea how this will translate in sales. Maybe there will be a dip because of fewer marketing efforts. Or maybe it will stay even or grow because I’m being myself rather than forcing myself to align with the “experts” (who, by the way, rarely even agreed with each other).
The experiences of writing Book 1 and Book 2 have been so vastly different, and I have learned so much. Book 1 was a joy to write, but the marketing and release were so frustrating and stressful (not to mention we were about a month into Covid when it released in April of 2020!). Book 2 was frustrating and stressful to write, but I’m actually looking forward to the lead up to launch day. Hopefully book 3 will be a joy to write AND a joy to launch 🙂
What’s to come in the next two months here on the blog?
We’ll check in with the main characters, with reminders of where they were at the end of Book 1 and some interviews with them as we go into Book 2.
I’ll answer YOUR questions as I receive them (send me an email or dm!)
In the week before launch, I plan to release one chapter per day to give you a head start into Book 2!