Launching a Sequel: 3 Challenges of Book 2 and How to Handle Them

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You might think that after launching your first book, any subsequent books would be easier. You know the process to write, edit, and publish now, so it should be simple, right? But from writing to launch, each book presents new challenges. Read on to discover three new problems you'll face as you publish your second book and three new strategies to overcome them.

For most people, it’s hard to think past launching that first big debut book. It is, after all, a new, exciting, nerve-wracking, and complicated experience. A lot of people also only think in terms of one book, the book, and once it’s done and out, it’s checked off their list.

But if, like me, you have many stories to tell, then that first book is only the first step. Which means there’s more writing, promoting and launching in the future. We’re in it for the long haul, and there’s no end in sight. Making a sequel work presents a new set of questions and challenges.

How do you release your second book? Especially if it’s the sequel or prequel to your first?

It's Nearly Launch Day for My Second Book

On July 13, 2021, I launched my first novel, Headspace, into the world. It was an incredible and humbling experience. I made sales beyond my expectations, met and got to know some incredible people in the process, and got to finally declare myself a properly published author. Life was good.

Now, almost exactly a year later, I’m about to release the second book in the series, Master of the Arena.

And wow, what a year it’s been.

So how’s it going, you might ask. Surely it’s just like launching the first one, right? A book launch is a book launch.

Well, buckle up.

Master of the Arena, the prequel to J. D. Edwin's Headspace, is here!

You saw Astra fight for her life—and the fate of the world—in Headspace‘s alien arena. Now, discover the story behind the master who pulls the strings and designs each deadly trial.

Order your copy of Master of the Arena today!

Get Master of the Arena

3 Challenges of Writing and Publishing Your Second Book

The second book in a series presents entirely different challenges than the first book in every step of the process. Let’s take a look at three of the biggest challenges:

1. Writing

Book two presents a problem not usually present for the first book—continuity.

Your second book must stay consistent with your first book in key plot points and characterization, not to mention give the readers an all-new story while staying completely in line with what was presented in the first book.

2. The Finicky Audience

It probably doesn’t surprise you that it’s much easier to hook people with the first book of a series than a second one. It’s hard to enjoy or even fully understand the second book of a series without having read the first, which means your potential audience for book two will mostly be the people who have read the first one.

This is a much smaller audience than book one, which anyone can pick up and start.

Another factor related to this is your support team. When you launch that first book, everyone is excited—it’s a first, it’s unique, it’s exciting.

But the second book? Bit of old news. You may notice your support dwindling, people being less excited and not as willing to be involved, especially if they didn’t read the first book.

Suddenly your cheer team is, well, just you.

3. Exhaustion

The first launch was fun. You’re doing everything for the first time. It’s not easy, but you’re excited to experience it all for the first time. You ride that high, happy to do the work.

Until you realize that you will have to do it again.

And again.

And again.

The work of the launch doesn’t end with each book (unless you hit it big and your enormous fan base does it for you, and if you find the secret to doing that please call me). Every book you want to publish has to go through the same process of editing, promotion, ARC reading, publication technicalities, etc.

The first time was fun. The second time, not so much. The third time will probably feel like a swamp of oatmeal you have to slog through.

How to Face the Challenges and Publish Your Second Book Anyway

So what’s the solution? Should you give up on writing more than one book just because the work of launching it is exhausting and endless?

Of course not. I am by no means encouraging you to give up on your authoring dreams.

In fact, knowing the reality of what to expect can help sustain your writing career for the long run. Here are a few lessons I learned from writing and launching the second book in a series that you might find helpful.

1. Plan

Plan your books. I can’t say this enough. You check out my series on how to write faster by planning your books here.

Even if you didn’t plan your first book, it pays to plan your second. Make a list of all the things you need to ensure consistency for, such as character quirks, references to events in book one, descriptions of recurring locations and objects, and anything that might have happened between the two books if they’re not immediately connected chronologically.

My second book is actually a prequel to the first, but this plan applies the same. I had to ensure that characters who appear in both books develop in a consistent direction and exhibit character traits that make sense. Any references to the first book had to be double-checked and having a plan helped enormously.

2. Maintain Public Interest

This is a hard one. No one is more interested in your books than you. And in between book launches, you may find that no one is interested in your books but you.

If you’re lucky, you’ll have found a few die-hard fans, and if you’re extra lucky, you also have a supportive and dedicated publishing team. But even these folks will not be around to hype you up all the time. So from shortly after your first launch to shortly before your second, you’re on your own.

So what do you do? Here’s an important tip:

It’s tempting to let promotional activities lag between book launches. You just want to focus on writing, you don’t want to endlessly shout into the void when there isn’t a book to shout about, and frankly, you’re a little tired.

But the fact is, keeping up these activities is much easier than letting your brand fade into obscurity and then starting up again. Here are three ways to keep your audience engaged in between books:

Maintain a regular social media presence

Pick one or two platforms and stick to them. Post a few times a week and interact when you can.

Not only does this help build relationships helpful for future launches, it keeps your name on people’s tongues, even if it’s just a few select people. Not to mention lack of activity on social media may result in the platform algorithm making your content less visible, so it’s very important to stay active.

Produce content

Do you have other talents? Do you draw, dance, or plant exotic trees? Do you write things besides your book, such as poetry, articles, or short stories? Do you have strong opinions on whether three slices of bread counts as a sandwich? Do you own a cat?

Well-rounded authors are interesting authors. Don’t be afraid to share your other interests. Show your social media following your cat. Share your thoughts and feelings with your launch team. Use what you have instead of trying to invent everything from scratch.

Be generous

You will never regret this. Read for other people, write reviews for them, boost their books, and promote their content.

Not only does this help you stay relevant, it builds your esteem within the community and helps out other writers as well.

3. Manage Your Expectations

The fact of the matter is, getting a second book out is hard.

Not only are you still trying to promote and push your first book, you now have the added responsibilities of that second book looming over you. It can feel overwhelming. and you might feel like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.

And when that happens, sometimes the best thing you can do is be honest with yourself.

I started this journey with a very ambitious timeline. My books were going to be released six months apart: summer of 2021, winter of 2021, and summer of 2022.

Except as that second deadline drew closer, things began to unravel. Promotional activities were becoming too tight, editing fell behind, and balls were getting dropped on all sides both by me and the publishing team because we were all overwhelmed trying to get two books out five months apart.

I was also drafting book three (yes, there’s a third Headspace book on the way!) and struggling to finalize book two. Everything was too much.

In the end, the whole team sat down and agreed that we couldn’t do this and that having a year in between books was a much more realistic timeline.

I won’t lie—failing to meet a deadline is something that really disappoints me. I felt I’d let myself down by not being able to make this ambitious timeline happen.

However, after we settled on the new plan, I felt relieved. By admitting my limits, I was able to devote more time to making my books better, growing my audience, and generating more content for social media.

Accept the limitations

You will face new limitations for releasing the second book of a series, or even just your second book.

You will likely have fewer sales due to reduced interest from the people who cheered your first book. You may find yourself taking longer than you anticipated to get the book written. You might be bored with the promotional activities and wish someone else would take over.

But accepting that these limitations exist can and will help you in the long run, because ultimately we do not write for the sales or accolades. We write because we want to tell our stories, and by having realistic expectations, you’ll guard yourself from unproductive disappointment and commit to the long haul.

The Second Launch

So here I am, officially beginning my second book launch. Despite the challenges, I’m still beyond thrilled to be here.

I’m tired but forever grateful, and very much committed to the long haul. After it’s done, I’ll still be working daily to promote the first book, generating content, talking to fellow authors, all while drafting the third book.

If you’re looking to live the author life, you will probably find that every step along the way brings its own challenges. But every book is its own reward, and I hope that even when you're trying to make your sequel work, you’ll remember that we’re all just slogging through that oatmeal swamp together.

Have you published your second book? What new challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them? Let us know in the comments.

Master of the Arena, the prequel to J. D. Edwin's Headspace, is available now!

You saw Astra fight for her life—and the fate of the world—in Headspace‘s alien arena. Now, discover the story behind the master who pulls the strings and designs each deadly trial.

Order your copy of Master of the Arena today!

Get Master of the Arena

 

PRACTICE

Sometimes completing a monumental task for the second time comes easier. Other times, it is just as hard as the first time around. Take fifteen minutes and write a scene where a character struggles to complete a task a second time. What do they expect going in and how can you complicate the task, so the character has to make new choices to grow?

When you're done, post your writing in the practice box below and be sure to leave feedback for your fellow writers!

Enter your practice here:

J. D. Edwin is a daydreamer and writer of fiction both long and short, usually in soft sci-fi or urban fantasy. Sign up for her newsletter for free articles on the writer life and updates on her novel, find her on Facebook and Twitter (@JDEdwinAuthor), or read one of her many short stories on Short Fiction Break literary magazine.

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