Thursday, January 10, 2008

Writing Under Contract

If there's one thing I've learned about becoming a professional author, it's that it's not really what I thought it would. I've said it before and I'll say it many more times in the next many years, I'm sure; I have the best job in the world. But there are some interesting aspects that I had never really considered. One of them is writing under contract.

I am contracted to write four books for HarperCollins. The first, of course, is finished. (Well, we haven't done all the editing yet, but the manuscript was as complete as I could make it at the time of the sale.:)) That leaves me three more books to write that are already partially paid for. On the one hand, this offers me a ton of security. The idea gets debated a lot, but I am very convinced that multiple book-deals are a good thing for debut authors. It gives you a chance to get your career going without feeling like you have to be a blockbuster with your first book. Most books gain popularity as they go and even bestselling series sometimes don't actually hit the lists until the second or even third book. I've got four books to really get my career off the ground. The better I can do with book one the more likely it becomes that said launch will happen, but for me there is a lot less stress over things I can't control when I know my whole series is going to be published.

What I didn't expect was the pressure I feel as I am in the middle of writing book two. It's not the same kind of pressure you feel when you are writing a book to snag and agent or publisher. I wouldn't even say it's more pressure, but it is different pressure. Instead of worrying about impressing a rather small handful of publishing professionals, I am worrying about impressing a huge group of teenagers! And I hope to impress them even more with my second book than my first . . . and my first hasn't even come out yet! I am stressing about increasing the approval of a bunch of unknown people who haven't even been impressed the first time!;) I don't have to get the approval of my editor, I have to keep it. *laugh* I don't even have to worry about impressing my agent anymore; she won't have to sell this book. (That's very funny to me.:))

This doesn't take the fun out of writing by any stretch. In some ways, I think it even makes it more fun. But I can feel a difference in the mindset I have when I write. A lot less pressure in some ways, and a lot more in others. I'm sure enjoying the process though.

I have to say, the thought that I will probably never have to send out a query again (I just can't see myself ever calling it quits with Jodi) is a very, very nice thought.)



American Genius said...

Congratulations on your book!!!
I never thought about the pressure of being under contract as an author. There is pressure in everything; especially the arts. It's worth it though because it is something sewn inside of us that makes us want, makes us have to, create.
Don't stress out so bad. I'm positive it'll be great. They will all be great.

Anonymous said...

Too many exciting things going on in your life.....Isn't it wonderful?!!


Anonymous said...

That's fascinating, and it makes total sense, too. Congrats on your four-book deal right off the bat. That's really impressive.

angelle said...

i always thought that writing a book under contract might in some ways be more pressure, just because, well, if a book you need to shop for sucks, it basically just sucks for you (and your agent, if it's not your first book i guess). but with someone already invested in you, you already have that much more to live up to. you can't just shelf it and be like, okay, that didn't work, i guess i'll try something new. you're legally bound to produce something of worth. tough. but it's exciting that you're working on a series bc it gives you so much room to play and grow the series and plot out so far in advance bc u know you WILL be able to do all of it!

Maprilynne said...

That was a huge thing for me, Angelle. I had all four books of the series plotted out before my book sold and i was hoping against hope that i could get a four-book-deal so I could be sure that I would be able to put out the whole story arc.

David L. McAfee said...

I've thought about that a great deal, myself. If it ever happens, I wonder how I will deal with that kind of pressure. Hopefully I can be as upbeat and optimistic as you are. :)

Demon Hunter said...

That's very interesting, Aprilynne. Thanks for sharing. It gives me something to think about as I query agents. Keep sharing! :*)

Carrie said...

Great post and great point. I think any author would feel that pressure to prouduce after their first sale: whether the second book is under contract or not (the biggest difference is just the time to write it, but that can be negotiated up front).

It's also nice having that next book under contract because you can talk to your editor and agent along the way and get feedback as you're writing. That way you don't go through the whole process only to find out the editor wanted something different.

Holly Kennedy said...

Amen. I've so been where you are, writing a book under contract, and the pressure is hard to describe, isn't it? All the stages an author goes through in this business are unique in their own right and I find myself constantly growing, which is a wonderful thing.

Have fun writing!

Helen said...

I'm finding all of your writer posts since you got your deal to be really interesting and informative. It's a neat look into the 'other side', so to speak.

And your second book will go just fine, I bet. :)

trinathegranny said...

I am amazed at your ability to write under 'contract'. In the movies or tv, writers get writer's block and they draw a blank. In your case, though, your imagination and creativity seem like the water in our kitchen faucet, it's always there when you need it and plenty of it. It just keeps coming.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

I can completely relate to this as I just starting writing the synopsis for a sequel for my editor . . . sooo different from writing a synopsis for shopping-to-publishers. Good feeling. Scary feeling. Strange feeling!

ORION said...

Perfecting, writing and revising the second book sends things up to a higher level. It's hard not to second guess yourself. What I need to do is unplug myself from the internet LOL...

Josephine Damian said...

Aprilynne, I'm happy for your success, but there are a lot of writers whose first books don't sell, and they're dropped by their publisher.

Your publisher may commit to putting out four books regardless of how well they do, but they might stop promoting you if your first book doesn't sell.

And you're stuck with them if they get pissy on you.

I do hope it all works out.

But there's not enough money in the world to get me to sign even a two book contract. I'm not going to make any long term commitments with anybody because I don't want to be stuck, and I don't want somebody looking over my shoulder as I write a first draft.

Did you see that Ken Bruen just got fired by his agent? He's a legend in the crime writing world, with a gazillion books out and in print and now he's twisting in the breeze. And look at Tom Wolfe switching publishers - there are no guarantees in this biz at any stage of your career.

Every writer needs to expect to have a bumpy ride.

Kenneth said...

Josephine, have you ever heard the saying, "Expect the best, but prepare for the worst?"

Life makes no guarantees, but you have to calculate the risks against the rewards. Aprilynne did not just get a significant deal for the book she'd already written--she got a significant deal for her willingness to commit to see a long-term project through to completion. Naturally, there are risks involved, but she's going to work against the fruition of such risks.

Expecting a bumpy ride might scare you away from seizing valuable opportunities. I have never been the optimist that my wife (Aprilynne) is, but we have learned through experience that if we work hard--even through adversity--we can accomplish amazing things.

When we got married, she was finishing a degree in Creative Writing, she had never written a book, and I was just starting work on an undergraduate degree in Philosophy. We prepared for a bumpy ride--and sometimes it has been bumpy indeed. But we worked hard on smoothing those bumps, and three children and six years later, we can't stop talking about how fun our life is. By the summer of 2009, Aprilynne will be a published author with a major young adult imprint, and I will be graduating from law school.

That doesn't mean there won't be further challenges, but overcoming those challenges will bear further reward. Life is work. Being willing to make commitments and endure those "bumps" that do crop up along the road is far preferable to cowering in fear of theoretical problems that may never arise.

And between the inevitable bumps--party!!!

Christine Thackeray said...

Congrats! I have had my first two books sold to CFI. I'm currently writing the second book of a series (the first book about Alfred Edersheim is out in Feb.) but for me writing under contract is very challenging. (They want the rough draft yesterday.) The most difficult part is keeping my production up. I'm such a perfectionist, the pressure makes it actually take longer.

Geoff said...

Aprilynne, I had never really thought about the pressures that must go into writing "the next book." I hope to get there someday. Kenny gave me the link to your blog and I hope to learn a lot about what I hope to be a future career for me! Best wishes on 1000 words a day!

Geoff Dietrich