Friday, January 4, 2008

Welcome 2008...and other thoughts on authordom


So here we are, in 2008.

I’m not so sure that I’m ready for a brand spanking-new year. The year 2007 was an auspicious one for me—the first book in the Fat City Mystery series, DYING TO BE THIN, made its debut on October second, 2007. In its first month in bookstores, DTBT became an IMBA Bestseller.

Currently, I’m finishing up the second draft of the next book in the series, which is titled A KILLER WORKOUT. Life, as they say, is good.

So why am I anxious about 2008?

Going into 2007, my only focus was on the process of launching my first book. Going into 2008, I’m becoming aware of the challenges of improving the place where my work floats in the vast Sea of Books.

Swimming above me are the Writing Whales—the Big Kahunas. These are the Major Authors, the brand-name, New York Times Bestselling behemoths whose books get snatched up by the reading public, no matter what.

Below me are layers of Other Worthy Writers. Writing merits and awards aside, the Amazon numbers for OWW can sometimes languish in the six-and-seven-digit range.

Between these two groups is an anxious school of writing guppies known as Promising New Authors.

In that school of author fish, I’m a newbie Nemo.

My theory is that, to advance to Writing Whaledom, guppies need to significantly advance their writing craft and reach with each new book.

So here’s the bottom line—I’m finishing up the second draft of A KILLER WORKOUT, working hard to deliver a kick-ass second book.

The themes in A KILLER WORKOUT are bigger, the stakes are higher—and my character, Kate Gallagher, puts more of her character chips on the line.

The readers, of course, will be the ultimate judges.
How about you? Do you reach for “more” with each book? As readers, do you expect more from an author with each new novel? Or am I being a typical type-A Wellesley graduate by putting so much pressure on myself?

5 comments:

sheila328 said...

Hey, I have Dying to Be Thin and enjoyed it (I always support fellow Wellesley grads).

Since I hope to be a Promising New Author soon, I'll be interested in the responses to your question. My two cents: in the cozy market, I think readers want a known quantity. They don't want sudden shifts to gore and violence; they don't want to kill off a character (or, heaven forbid, a pet) they've grown fond of. So I don't think you need to ramp things up with each new book in a series (which could get absurd after three or four). The challenge is to create something fresh and reasonably credible each time (what? another body in your bathroom?).

And all launch hints gratefully accepted!

Sheila Connolly (Class of '72)

Camille Minichino said...

I think Sheila's right about cozy/traditional readers. That doesn't mean I shouldn't reach for a new point of view or give my character new challenges, but I believe the tone of the book and the kind of story needs to remain faithful to what made the series a hit in the first place.

This is why pubishers go for different names, as a kind of branding, for readers' benefit, among other things.

Kathryn Lilley said...

Interesting points, Sheila and Camille! Maybe I can ease off on the pressure a bit. Maybe I'll even adopt a new pen name for the thriller I'm working on, lol!

Sheila, I was class of '78 (purple beanies). I lived in what I'm sure are still called the "New Dorms", even though they were built decades ago. I loved Wellesley!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Kathryn,

I understand your pain! Fortunately, I already finished book two in my series, and had the publisher Midnight Ink accept it. And yes, I ramped it up. My agent was upset by the fact one of the main characters will "disappear" from the scene. I think we need to keep growing and improving, but I agree with Sheila--we can't kill off a character or pet. (My "disappearing" character is more of a...star-crossed situation.)

Kathryn Lilley said...

Sounds intriguing, Joanna! I look forward to reading Book Two!