Poets & Writers

Selling Your Second Book

CHLOE BENJAMIN is the author of The Immortalists, forthcoming from Putnam in January 2018, and The Anatomy of Dreams, which received the 2014 Edna Ferber Fiction Book Award and was long-listed for the 2014 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize. She is a graduate of the MFA program in fiction at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and lives with her husband in Madison, Wisconsin.

PEOPLE will trash your second novel no matter what,” one of my graduate professors once said. “You might as well get it out of the way and move on to the third.” This professor was a writer I had idolized since my teens and whose work was, to me, flawless. She used her cell phone to pull up the Amazon reviews on her second book and began to read aloud comments so cruel they seemed to warn against publishing anything at all.

Shortly after my first novel found a home, I began work on my second with a hefty dose of trepidation. After all, warnings about the fate of second books extended far beyond my professor’s red flag.

If your first book didn’t sell well, good luck getting a publisher to buy your second.

And once it’s out? Well, no media wants to cover a second novel. Unless your first book was a smash hit, readers won’t want to buy it either.

If your first book was a success, good luck: Readers will hate the second book if it’s too different from the first. Come to think of it, though, they’ll probably hate it if it’s too similar, too.

And yet, as my professor had pointed out, it was impossible to move on to a third book without writing a second. Besides, I had another problem: I liked my second book. I wrote feverishly on weekends and made what progress I could on weekdays, staring at the computer screen in the early mornings before I left for my job in social services.

“This is ,” I told my agent, Margaret Riley King of William Morris Endeavor (WME). “The book I was

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