The Elusive Follow-Up: Why Your Second Book is Harder to Perfect Than Your First
Your first book is easy. You have a great idea, you have plenty of enthusiasm, and the whole process
is exciting from start to finish because it’s all new to you, from working with a team of editors and
proofreaders to getting the cover design just right and putting together a marketing plan.
Then there’s the buzz that you get from your readers, which sustains you throughout all of the hard
work around the launch and that inspires you to keep writing. But that buzz is both a blessing and a
curse – expectations are high, and you now have an audience to satisfy.
For me, one of the main pieces of (constructive) criticism that I got was that my first book, No Rest
for the Wicked, was too short. In many ways, that’s a good thing – it was supposed to be short,
because it’s meant to be a page-turner, and I have heard a few people say that they read it in one
sitting. It also has the unintended side effect of making people look forward to your next book with
anticipation – No Rest for the Wicked whetted their appetite, and now I have to deliver a main
And that’s a problem, because you start to doubt yourself – for me, I have a bunch of completed
manuscripts, but No Rest for the Wicked was the one that I led with when approaching publishers
because I felt like it was my strongest. That means that I need a new manuscript for my second
book, something that’s even better than the first.
I also don’t want to get pigeon-holed as a horror writer, which is always a risk because my first book
was a supernatural thriller. I write a bit of everything, and whether it’s a conscious decision or not,
my next three books are in three different categories – poetry, fiction and non-fiction. Either I’m
rebelling, or I just write so much stuff that it’s hard to keep track of it.
For me, I still don’t think that my second novel is as good as my first, but I have an awesome team
behind me and it’s about to go into editing. I have a fantastic editor called Pam Harris, and so it’s on
her to make Former.ly kick more butt than No Rest for the Wicked. That’s due out in the middle of
But it’s not the crucial second book – it’s the crucial second novel, which is slightly different. Before
Former.ly comes out, I’ll be releasing Eyes Like Lighthouses When the Boats Come Home, my first
book of poetry.
Poetry means a lot to me – in fact, of the 101 poems in the collection, I’ve memorised over eighty of
them, and I perform them at open mic nights and poetry events. I must’ve written over 1,000 of
them just to arrive at the final 101, so Eyes Like Lighthouses is an important book to me. I’m also
incredibly happy with it – it has woodcut illustrations inside, as well as an amazing cover courtesy of
Michelle Fairbanks of Fresh Design.
I see that as my elusive follow-up – the second book that’s even better than the first. Every writer
has hits and misses – even if you think of something as successful as the Harry Potter series, there
are some books that you prefer to others. It’s a part of life – nothing is perfect, and neither is any
writer. But for your second book, people are watching and the pressure is on. If there’s ever a bad
time for a writer to deliver a dud, it’s when they release their second book.
Let’s like Eyes Like Lighthouses When the Boats Come Home and Former.ly don’t disappoint!
stories and poetry, he can be found working on his book review blog or developing his website, www.danecobain.com. His debut novella, No Rest for the Wicked, was released by Booktrope in the
Summer of 2015.