Getting a multi-book deal–what does it mean?
Getting a multi-book deal sounds pretty dream-worthy. Like, the only thing better than getting one book published is having several, right? Well, like everything in life, there are some wonderful things about multi-book deals…and some bad.
Disclaimer: I am more grateful than you can ever, EVER know about becoming a published author. But everyday I learn new things about this whole “writing under contract” that I had no idea about before I sold my book. I don’t want you to think I’m complaining; I am merely stating the way things are in my life and also the lives of many of my author friends. C’est la vie d’un auteur. 🙂
Why Getting a Multi-book Deal is Awesome
1. The obvious reason is that you’ve just sold three books. You’re guaranteed >1 published novel–huzzah!*
2. Your first advance is kinda big. I mean, not necessarily huge, but certainly the biggest of your advance checks. Why? Because it’s your “Signing Advance”. For example, in a three book deal where each book sold for $15K, then each book’s advance will be split three ways. This means each advance check will be $5K. HOWEVER, that first signing check is nice and fat because you just signed for all three books. So you’re first check is a wopping $15K. Yippee!**
3. You can brag to people about selling multiple books because it sounds really wicked cool.
*Nothing–absolutely nothing is guaranteed in publishing. Or life, for that matter. See #1 under The Rough Parts.
**Publishing never, ever, EVER pays on time and it’s very hard to live from check to check in this biz since you only get ~2 checks a year. Plus, you’re gonna lose 15% of each check to your agent (and they are worth every penny!) and then another 25% to Uncle Sam. So of the starting $15K on your signing check, you’ll only actually get $9,500. Ouch, huh?
Why Getting a Multi-book Deal Can Also Be Rough
1. If your first book flops, the publisher can cancel your contract. OR if you sold a series and the series flops, then they cancel the series. In that case, you might be expected to write other books to fulfill the contract you signed. Does that make sense? So for example, if you sell a four book series but the first book fails, then they might not publish books 2-4. Instead, they’ll expect you to write 3 different books. And consider, you’ll probably already have written and turned in books 2 & 3 before the publisher even knows book 1 didn’t sell. So…under that 4-book contract, you could feasibly end up writing 7 books.*
2. You’re writing a book that you might not want to write on a deadline you might not be able to meet. Think about that for a minute. Your next book will be due soon. Soon could mean a few months or maybe a whole year, but it’s still soon. Probably less time than it took you to write that first book. You need to write the contracted book, revise it, send it to your crit partners, and revise it again all before you turn it into your editor.
NOW, some people are better writers than me, and they don’t need as many revisions as I do…but alas, I’m not one of those people. I wrote, revised, rewrote, and revised again A Darkness Strange and Lovely in 3 months. Do. Not. EVER DO THIS. Like many debut authors, I way over-estimated my ability for how quickly I could write a book. A Darkness Strange and Lovely almost killed me. I am trying to be smarter with book 3. I started writing it this month and I already have 20K. However, considering that I only finished book 2 a few months ago, my inspiration to work on book 3 is kinda low. It’s taking a lot of force of will to hammer out new words each day. But I have to BICHOK anyway.
3. Not only do you have to write multiple books, but you also have to promote multiple books. Right now, I’m spending a solid chunk (~3-4 hours) each day preparing promotional stuff for book 1…I also need to write book 3 and work on editorial revisions for book 2. There is no leftover time for writing what I want to write–which is Screechers. I gave Screechers a full month of TLC, and now–even though it destroys my little soul–I have to set it aside for what’s in my contract. This is kinda tied to #2 above. And #4 below.
4. Kiss vacation goodbye. Even with a single book deal, you have NO idea when you’re next moment of free time will be. I have no idea what will be expected of me in the next six months–both in terms of revising/writing under contract and also in terms of book promotion. I do not foresee any vacations for a long, looooong time. My poor husband.
5. Kiss free time and weekends goodbye. See #4. It’s kind of the same, just on a day to day scale. My poor, poor husband.
6. If you still work a day job or are in school, then consider how much time you actually have in a day to work on your writing. It might not be enough, plain and simple. I know more than a few authors killing themselves to meet deadlines…and even more who kill themselves and then need extensions. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just how it is.
7. Oh! I just thought of one more. Coming up with the plots for sequels is REALLY HARD. If you sold book 1 as a “series with standalone potential” (as most debut authors do) then you will be faced with creating a new story that can last X-amount of books. You’re faced with writing the same characters for X-amount of books and working in the same world for X-amount of books. To some people, this might be a great thing (so let’s make it #4 under Awesome, just with happy language), but to others, it can be a real challenge.
*Don’t worry. I only a know a few people to whom this has happened. I don’t think it’s that common.
Why I’m Telling You This
Contrary to what you might think, I’m not telling you all this to scare you. Or to complain about my lack of vacation time (I can hear my brother all the way across the world making a sarcastic “WAAH” sound at me). The purpose of this post was just so you know what to expect when you set out to write a series. Or write ANY book under contract, for that matter. For example, when you sell a book based on a proposal (synopsis + partial MS), then you’re facing a lot of the same issues.
Some people have no problem with the Rough Parts–some of my close friends, in fact, manage with no trouble at all. They can hammer out beautiful prose with no need to feel inspired, and they are 100% able to juggle families, full-time jobs, and hobbies to boot (here’s looking at you Kat Brauer).
But people like ME find it a challenge. It is a challenge I’m willing to face (as I proved with my stupid write-a-sequel-in-3-months debacle), but it was also a challenge I never expected. I can’t lie: I do miss the days of writing whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. Of dropping X book to work on Y book…and then head off to dabble with Z book. But I’m also very, very happy to be exactly where I am today. (Even if self-promotion scares the willies out of shy old me.)
So the overal moral of the story is that there’s good and bad in multi-book deals. And at the end of the day, there’s a whole LOT in favor of writing a single, solitary, standalone book (and publishers are actively seeking them! REMEMBER THIS!).
You tell me: As a writer, do you tend to write single books or series? What about as a reader–are you more likely to read standalones or series?