Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Guest Post: Alexandra MacKenzie on Publishing Her Second Novel

Second Time’s the Charm

Second Time’s the Charm

According to a certain Mr. Scott G.F. Bailey, I am now a “jaded old hand” at publishing, as my second novel just came out (Seattle Sleuth, Rhemalda Publishing – never miss a chance to get in a blatant plug, folks). He asked if I had any insights on how a second book release experience might differ from the first (Immortal Quest: the Trouble with Mages, Edge SF, 2010 – see what I mean?).

In a nutshell: Yes. They’re different experiences. Way different. Let’s do a little Compare and Contrast exercise, shall we?

OH.MY.GOD!!! WHOO!!! YES!!!!!!!! A publisher finally said YES after decades (literally, DECADES) of hearing, “NO NO NO NO NO no…maybe…we’ll string you along on false hope for a year and then crush you with yet another NO." MUST TELL ENTIRE WORLD RIGHT NOW. WHOOO HOOO!!!

Wow. That’s cool.

Editor needs me to write whole new scenes, add substantive development to key characters, and make a whole lot of little changes as well in TWO WEEKS after they promised me THREE MONTHS. EXCUSE ME???? Truth to tell, they were good changes and needed to be made. Still. STRESS!!!

BOOK TWO: EDITING (different publisher from book one)
Editor didn’t need any substantive changes at all. No new scenes, just a few new paragraphs here and there and a whole lot of little changes. Plus, the editor gave me a whole two weeks to make the changes. Easy. Truth to tell, they were excellent edits. No stress. Maybe after that first editing experience, I wrote a better book the second time round?

PUBLIC READINGS = ANXIETY ATTACK. Publisher wanted ME to make all of the efforts at contacting bookstores and asking for readings. And they asked ME to find magazines and newspapers and web sites where the book could be marketed. I’m not a publicist. They HAD a publicist. STRESS!!! (The book readings went fine, though I suffered anxiety symptoms for over a year afterwards.)

New publisher prefers web-based marketing. They don’t mind if the book is not in bookstores and I don’t do public readings. Wow. Cool. I can do online stuff, no problem. And when, after the first experience, I kept trying to find markets for them, the publishers made it clear that THEY are doing all the research and putting in all of the effort to find places to market it themselves. WHEW.

Your relationship and ease of communication with the publisher is KEY. If you’re not on the same page, there will be issues, and there will be a lot of stress. Even though that first book is a huge thrill, make sure you and the folks you’ll be working with over the next several years understand each other clearly.

Things do get easier the second time around. You have a better understanding of timelines, deadlines, expectations, and possible outcomes -- and you’ve managed to survive it all, so you know you can do so again. The second book is less stressful all around.

Your life – you whole big sprawling messy life full of work, family, friends, hobbies, dogs, cats, whatever – doesn’t actually change all that much. After the big celebrations along the way, the excitement dies down quickly and everybody, including you, goes back to their normal ordinary routine as if nothing extraordinary ever happened. YOU know it did. But hey, it’s one thing. It’s a great thing, but in the end, it’s ONE thing in your whole big sprawling messy life. And book two is just another thing, and just as amazing, but it and all the books you may ever write will never be the only thing.

Keep moving, that’s all. It’s the direction you are headed in that matters, not where you are standing now.

-Alexandra MacKenzie

Alexandra MacKenzie's books:

Seattle Sleuth
1921: A war lies behind him...a new battle lies ahead.
(Scott says: you can also buy it from a plucky independent bookstore.)

Immortal Quest: The Trouble with Mages
Policemen! Magicians! Eternal love! Time travel!
(Scott says: buying it from a plucky independent shop might encourage them to stock it and recommend it to more readers!)


  1. You can learn so many cool things by not giving up.

  2. I love what you say at the very end - it's so true. Life goes on rather quickly, no matter what we've been through or are going through. Congrats on the second book!

  3. Rick: a good friend, after listening to me rant once about how many times I'd submitted stuff and been rejected over many, many years, told me the maxim she learned in her karate classes: "Seven times down, eight times up."

    Well, for me, it seemed more like 799 times down--but she was right. On the 800th try, I got back up. And finally kept standing.

  4. April: Thank you kindly! I've learned a lot over the past few years about my own priorities in life and the things I truly want to focus on, and I'm feeling much calmer these days.

  5. Cool post! Thanks, Alex! Was it stressful when you got down to write the second book? (Granted, this may not be your second book.) Was it stressful for you to get back to writing after your first book came out?

  6. And, big congratulations again! I'm excited to read Seattle Sleuth!

  7. Domey: I already had a draft of the second book when the first came out, but after that first book editing experience I felt very inspired to go at that draft with a big old hatchet. I actually enjoyed it a great deal -- I'd put it away for some time and it was pretty fresh, plus I had a better sense of the kinds of things editors look for, which gave me a good handle on the whole rewriting process.

    I've always taken LONG breaks between writing projects. After finishing a novel, I feel drained and need recuperation. Also, I have other passions -- especially painting, so I tend to switch gears and go paint a lot, and not think about writing at all.

    I hope you enjoy Seattle Sleuth!

  8. This is fantastic, Alex! I'm so happy you're happy with Rhemalda, and that this is all less stress than the first time around. I'm finding my second book much less stress, as well. :) It's lovely.

    1. Thanks, Michelle! It's been a fun ride with Rhemalda!


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