Here Comes the Sun: the Happy Sophomore Novelist

My second novel, Sweeter than Birdsong, is appearing in stores across the nation right now in preparation for its February 7th launch.

I feel much happier and calmer about this second novel’s launch than I did about the launch of my debut novel. That may seem odd if you’ve ever read writers’ blog posts about the sophomore novel blues. Writers often seem to worry more about their second novels than their debuts

I’m the opposite.

Before my debut novel Fairer than Morning launched, I was an anxious wreck. My unprecedented state of nervous anticipation started a full two months before the May 2011 launch of the book.

I knew why I was so wound up. I was about to realize a lifelong dream, with all the emotion that entailed, but very few people in my immediate vicinity had any clue what I was going through emotionally. If I had said “I’m running in the Olympics next week so I’m a little jittery,” most people would have understood the massive understatement involved. But the publishing dream is not as easy to imagine and therefore, not as easy to support. Most of my non-writing acquaintances didn’t realize that I was literally in an agony of suspense. The few times that I hinted at it, I got blank stares, so I found it was more prudent to keep it to myself. Non-writers tend to see publication as a glamorous, ego-pumping event, and they totally would not get it if your response to “So, are you excited about your book?” was “Will you excuse me? I think I’m going to be sick.”

In addition to the tension of awaiting the dream-come-true, I didn’t know what I was doing with PR during my debut.  I had to feel my way through it, with varying degrees of success. Many of the elements of the publication process were so new that they were disorienting.

So now, I am very, very thankful that all those debut-novel storms have passed, and the sun is shining for the launch of my second novel.

I know what I’m doing with PR, and I understand my publisher better.

I’m confident in the novel itself, thanks to my editors and their wise suggestions.

I understand the readers who will read my novel, and how they are likely to react to it. I know that every novel that has any substance will receive at least one or two harshly-critical reviews, so there’s no point in letting it ruffle any of my feathers. I’ve also learned to distinguish which criticism is constructive and which is the result of some reviewer having a really bad day. It happens. No big deal.

So the good news I want to share today is that for some authors, the second novel is going to feel much, much better than the first, when the big launch day rolls around.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with non-writers around you, when you went through a stressful experience in your writing life. How did they react? How much did you decide to share with them?

24 Replies to “Here Comes the Sun: the Happy Sophomore Novelist”

  1. Hi Rosslyn – thanks so much for sharing your feelings from your first release. I SO needed to read these words tonight as I’m in pure panic mode with the release for my first novel right around the corner (02.01.2012). I’m hearing that people are getting their pre-ordered copies already, and that’s terrifying me. The launch is a week from tomorrow, and that too terrifies me. I have never been one to experience anxiety, but man…I am wishing I could crawl into a hole right about now, and for some reason…it makes me feel better to know I’m not the first to feel this way. I’m also happy to hear it’ll be easier next time, and that I’ll make it through this brief period of panic. Thanks … you’ve calmed my nerves a bit!

    1. Julie, I feel for you! It’s not easy to face that first launch. I’m glad you can see that you are by no means alone and it will all settle down. By all reports, your novel is lovely and I’m sure it will be a good experience for you to find your readers.

  2. Rosslyn, thanks for sharing your experiences of the first novel vs the second. I understand the PR thing and how important that is. As you know, I’m trying to learn it now – to be prepared.

    I am so excited for you and your second novel! I loved Fairer Than Morning, and I look forward to reading Sweeter Than Birdsong! Love that title. I’m sishing you much success on this new one!

  3. Hi Rosslyn,

    I so identify with the anxiety your felt with the publication of your first book. It’s tough walking into the unknown. And you’re right ~ non-writers don’t get it. That’s why it’s such a blessing to be in an understanding community of writers who do. Thanks for your post!

    Big, calm, carefree blessings on “Sweeter than Birdsong.”

  4. My launch is still a comfortable enough distance away that I’m not yet neurotic. May 8th. I think I’ll start panicking mid March. Right now I just get butterflies.

    Love your honesty and I can’t wait to read Sweeter than Birdsong!

  5. Hi Rosslyn! I’m so excited for you and can’t wait to read Sweeter than Birdsong. While I haven’t launched a “sophomore” book yet, I agree that it will probably be an easier experience. I was just so fresh when I launched my first one… I had no idea what to do or when to do it. Next time, I”ll at least have some confidence as I go.

  6. I haven’t had a novel launch — yet?? — but I totally understand your feelings. I would anticipate the same. I just completed my first novel and, when sharing it with readers, they were excited that I had written it but didn’t have much idea of the difficulty of what happens next. Thanks for being honest.

    1. Meghan, that’s true–the difficulty of the writing journey is hard for non-writers to understand no matter which phase we’re in. All the best to you, and congrats on finishing that first novel. You’re already way ahead of the game.

  7. Rosslyn, I agree that the launch of the second novel produces less perspiration than the first, but in my experience, writing the second brings back the writer’s old friend–the imposter syndrome–in which a little voice keeps saying, “You wrote the first one, but this one’s going to be a bust.”
    Writing is not only a lonely business, sometimes it’s a paranoid one. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    1. Ha ha! I have to laugh as I totally agree that writing can induce a lot of paranoia.I have to appplaud everybody who makes it through the mental slings and arrows of this profession. It takes a durable mind and spirit. Thanks for commenting!

    2. I agree with your feelings on this Richard about the “imposter syndrome”. One of my first thoughts when I heard they changed my one book contract into three was– I really am going to have to write another book. Can I really do it– in 1/5 the time?

      1. I’m so with you Jordyn, Rosslyn, and Doc,
        I’m soooooooooooo glad that book 2 is done, the cover art makes me smiles, and it releases on May 15th. May seems to be a big month for releases. I still can’t write fast enough. Must write faster. Yikes, there goes my writer imagination. “Must drive faster,” is from Jurassic Park. Okay, so if I imagine a T-rex chasing me, will that make me write faster? Can you tell it’s been a long day?

  8. I’m thrilled to hear your story. I’m 7 weeks out from my debut launch and I feel like the PR is a giant “Punt and Pray.” You’ve also given me hope that even if I’m not on top of everything right now, there can BE a sophomore release. Whew! It’s nice to think about the distant future instead of just the next 7 weeks. I so appreciate your authenticity in this post!

    1. You can do it, Jennifer! I think when your launch comes, you will find that PR also can feel like a tough, few-yards-at-a-time drive out of one’s own end zone. But that’s OK–I found it was better to concentrate on the work than on the reception of the novel. 🙂 All the best to you for your debut.

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