The other day I was bored. Now, I love numbers, and like many debut authors, I wonder how I'm doing compared to my debut author peers, and spend more time than is necessary trying to collate data based on various sets on numbers. It's easy to freak out because there are SO MANY debut authors in a year...OMG, the Tenners group has 95 members, and even noting that some of them are duplicate LJ-names and some of them I have nooo idea who they are, that's still a lot of debuts. And not every single 2010 debut author is a Tenner.
That got me wondering just how many debut authors become career authors. It's WAY too early to truly tell this from the Tenners group. I mean, WAY. Someone who is struggling with their second book today could be celebrating bestseller status in five years. Such is the nature of creative business! But, we're halfway through 2010 now and everyone is thinking about their second books, and it certainly bodes well if you have already written and sold that second book at this point. I think a lot of writers who are just striving for the agent or the first deal think that debut authors have it made in the shade.
Well, they don't. But it's hardly hopeless either.
I made a very vague list of 2010 debut authors and how they're doing. Note: Very vague list. It would be creepy and wrong to get specific and name names. And obviously my data is not terribly specific. We have a weekly check-in at Tenners, but only about half the members actually check in, and then it's not like they go into huge detail. So these are HIGHLY UNSCIENTIFIC statistics. But interesting nonetheless.
About one third of 2010 debut authors have a second book completed and sold.
Of this group, some have completed revisions, some are revising with their editors right now, and some are waiting for editorial notes. In some cases, it was part of the initial deal and in other cases, the option book. Contrary to what some may imagine, not all the authors in this group had big breakout debuts. Some have just been working hard and well and their editor is happy to continue working with them and building their career.
(About a quarter of 2010 debut authors, by the way, have gotten a second book deal. For some, this was their second book, for others, more books in a series or similar genre, and for others, a branch into a different genre (YA author doing MG series, etc).)
About one third are still writing the second book. More of these are unsold than sold, but there is a decent group struggling with the second book of a contract. This surprised me a little because I didn't think I wrote THAT fast, but I guess I do write fast; most of my second book was written while waiting for Magic Under Glass to sell, and then while waiting for edits, so it was already with my editor months before Magic Under Glass was released. There is a lot of pressure and panic in writing a second book. (Yeah, I dealt with that too...and now with the sequel.) Seriously, the biggest favor an aspiring writer can do for oneself is working on another book while the first is on submission, or while they're waiting for edits. (But even so, you can run into trouble if your editor doesn't like that book, or wants a sequel, etc.)
About a fourth are waiting. The second book is done, and their agent has it on sub, or they're waiting for their agent to read it, or they're waiting for their editor to read it. In most cases it isn't sold yet, but a few are waiting to see if their editor will accept their second book as the next book in their deal. The waiting room, as we know, is always a frustrating place to be. You can sit there a long time. (Hint: Write a third book!)
The remainder have been pushed back to 2011 or other situations. In any given debut year, a group of books will be pushed back from the initial planned release date. Sometimes this is because of unexpected editorial trouble, other times trouble with the marketing/packaging of the book, perhaps most often just a strategic decision to place the book in a different season. Absolutely no shame in it, but it can be a frustrating delay for a writer who wants a career and now must wait longer to sell future books. It's good to be prepared for the possibility when you first sell your novel.
As far as I can see, there are two major lessons in this.
One, WRITE MORE BOOKS while you're waiting. If you can. Some people just have a slow muse and that's fine. It by no means dooms you. After all, you want quality over quantity. But if you can be ahead of the game, it does not hurt one bit.
Two, be prepared for the unexpected. Being pushed back a year. Having your editor quit and your new editor say "nah" to your option. Getting frazzled by promoting one book while trying to write a second. Things happen to everybody at some point. Everybody. I promise.
That's it. Let me add again as a final word, HIGHLY UNSCIENTIFIC STATISTICS.