Tuesday, August 23, 2016

What's Your Third Book? (Part 1 of 2)

(By Dan Balow)

At some point, whenever I speak with an un-published author I will ask the question, “What is your third book?”

The purpose of the question is to elicit a response to get an idea if the author is interested in being a professional author or simply publishing a book.

Those are different goals entirely.

Agents mostly represent professional authors, not books. Agents are “in this” for the long term so we look for authors who are as well. You can understand how someone trying to get a book published with no plans or ideas for what happens next will find it difficult to find an agent, much less a publisher.

So, what is your third book? The question is intended to uncover your strategy. Your second book might be relatively easy to determine, but book #3 takes some thought.

The first time I encountered the implications of this was about 25 years ago when an author wrote a book, which sold pretty well. So well, in fact, the publisher offered a multi-book contract for subsequent titles.

The author could not deliver book two. For the life of them, they only had the one idea. They burned off all their thinking in the first book. Re-shuffling chapters and re-stating concepts from book #1 did not constitute a new work.

After some time, the book contract was cancelled and advance money repaid.

It was painful for everyone.

If the author and publisher had thought about a third book, they probably could have determined rather quickly there was no second book.

So how do you develop a writing strategy? First, you need to know what it is not.

It is not a test of your creative ability.

It is not a test of your writing ability.

It is not a test of your value of your message.

Developing an extendable writing strategy so you can write more than one book is a function of whether you know who you are and where your limits are drawn.

You know your own unique approach.

You have an audience in mind.

You have a core message in everything you do.

You’ve all heard something about developing a brand. One of the “dark” sides for creative people of developing a brand is the concept of intentionally limiting creativity. Brands are the creative boundaries you stay within.

You cannot become well known for something unless you are known for something.


It seems counter-intuitive, but creativity flourishes inside boundaries. Outside the boundary are random thoughts and confusing plots. Structure provides clarity for the author and the reader. It is similar to knowing the size of canvas you are painting.

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Reprinted by permission. This first appeared on The Steve Laube Agency.

1 comment:

What are your thoughts?