Avoiding the sophomore slump

By Steve Vincent

Writing a novel is really hard. Polishing the heck out of it, pitching it to an agent and/or a publisher, editing it and working your ass off to market it and make it a success is even harder. Those who make it that far have done something that millions of people dream of and only a fraction of them achieve.

You reach that point and feel like there should be parades and parties and a library named after you. While you might get that, I certainly didn’t. I got a decent sized cheque, a book launch and a pat on the back from family and friends. Then came the question that is like a double edged sword:

“Can you write us a couple more?”

Sure, I told them. I had two books loosely plotted out and I’d done it before, so how hard could it be? Really hard, actually. But I got them done and all three books in my Jack Emery series – The Foundation, State of Emergency and the newly released Nations Divided – are now with readers.

When I was talking about a guest column for The Thrill Begins, I thought I could contribute some advice to newly minted debut authors about how they can avoid the inevitable downer that comes after such a huge high as having your first book published.

So here goes. A few tips that might help a debut writer for the year or so after they’re published. 

  1. Celebrate your successes, large or small

As previously mentioned, you’re unlikely to get a parade when your novel is released. But there will be markers of success along your path, large or small.

When your novel comes out, share a bit of a meal and a drink with your family and closest friends. Ignore bad reviews, and enjoy good ones, whether they’re in Publisher’s Weekly or from a fan on Goodreads. Be gracious when you meet fans, because they’ll pay it back in spades. As you work on your next book, when you hit a milestone make sure you take some time to smell the roses.

You’re doing something cool that you’ve always wanted to do and plenty of others aspire to, so make sure you celebrate and remember why you’re doing it.

  1. Don’t be a spammy, annoying git on social media

You’re published! Most of your family and friends will buy the book. Some will read it, some might not. A few will tell you they loved it and one or two might even say the opposite.

The point is, stay cool. Yes, you’re published! It’s a big deal, but so are a lot of things in people’s lives. Don’t spam your friends and family with pleas to buy, read and review you book. Don’t spam your fans and followers on social media with the same barrage. Let them know, share your excitement, point them in the direction of your book and ask for their help, but be measured.

This will help people to stay excited with you as your next book comes out, and the one after that. If you carpet bomb your family, friends and fans they’re going to get exhausted with you.

  1. Find your entourage and be generous to others

Writing a novel is a lonely business. It takes hundreds of hours and a whole lot of hard work. It’s good to be able to share it with someone.

Some of you will already have writer friends from groups you’re a part of, classes you did or who you got talking to online. That’s great. But if you don’t, find them. Talk to people at signings or conventions or whenever you can and find your community. You’ll be glad to have a network of writer friends to bounce your ideas off and drink with at events.

But don’t treat your network as a vehicle to get a better agent, a meeting with an editor, or whatever. Be generous, pay it forward, help others and focus on the friendships.

  1. Don’t be afraid to change your habits

Some writers find the formula that works for them from the very start, and they can smash out a new book like clockwork using the same techniques.

For other writers, and definitely for me, it takes some fine tuning to figure out what works. My first novel was written over four years without much of a plan, my second was loosely planned and I filled details as I went. The third? I spent months working on a giant, all details covered outline of the novel that would scare the pants off most people. I write regularly for a few hours per day. Every single day.

Try new things and find what works for you. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, big and small, because that’s how you find out how to become a better writer.

And, most of all, after your first book is done and before you start and publish your next one – have a small break, but then get right back to working.

Steve P. Vincent is the author of the Jack Emery series of political thrillers – The Foundation, State of Emergency and Nations Divided. Connect with him on the web, Facebook, Twitter or Goodreads.