Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Teapot and the Orphan

Sandra Parshall

Of course I’m thrilled that my 2006 book, The Heat of the Moon, won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel at the Malice Domestic conference on May 5. I waited a long time to see it published, I feel both happy and relieved that reviewers and readers have received it well, and I’ll cherish the award (which comes in the shape of a teapot) forever.

I’m a little torn, though. While my first book is getting so much attention a year after publication, my second, Disturbing the Dead, is waiting on the sidelines like a neglected orphan. It’s had good reviews, for which I’m grateful, and readers who have already read The Heat of the Moon and liked it have bought the second book. The Agatha nomination and now the award have made a whole new set of readers aware of the first, though, and I feel almost as if I’m launching it again. I thought I would spend this year talking about and promoting DTD, and I was geared up for that, but lately I’ve talked mostly about THOTM.

Terrible problem to have, right? I’m not complaining! I’m just remarking on a situation I’d never imagined, much less planned for. When someone buys a copy of the first book, I thrust a copy of the second forward. “This is the sequel. It’s new! It’s a great story! You’ll love it!” (Maybe I don’t sound desperate, but that’s the way I feel.) If they smile and say they’ll read the first before considering the second, I make sure they have a bookmark or promotional card with quotes from the reviews of Disturbing the Dead. Don’t forget my new baby, I plead silently. I have a feeling that if DTD were getting all the attention, I’d be begging people not to forget the book that came first.

I’m still relatively new to book promotion and perhaps too attached to my books to be businesslike about selling them. I want everybody to love them equally. I don’t want anyone to favor one over the other. If I have the good fortune to publish a dozen novels, will I drive myself nuts trying to nurture all of them at once? Or will I eventually learn to promote one at a time and let the rest wait in the shadows? I’ve asked more experienced writers a million questions about every other aspect of the business -- okay, I’m a pest, I admit it -- but this is one subject that’s never come up. I’d like to hear how other writers feel about it.

I have to find a place for the Agatha teapot, where it will be safe from the paws and tails of our two curious cats. I’ll give THOTM a kiss on the cover and say, Well done, kid. But I’ll give DTD a reassuring pat and whisper, Hang in there, I haven’t forgotten you.


Elizabeth Zelvin said...

One of the great things about talking with other writers is we all go through these cockamamie agonies. Mine right now is fear of starting the next manuscript in the series. I loved it at Malice when Lifetime Achievement honoree Carolyn Hart said each time she's afraid she can't do it again, and Agatha Best Novel winner Nancy Pickard said it's the same for her. Me too. :) Sandy, I'm sure you'll get plenty of "Me toos" from series writers about the dilemma you've described.

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth is dead on. "Me, too" about the second book. By next year you could have a matched pair of teapots, one for best first novel and one for best novel.

Lonnie Cruse said...

Ahhh, a matched pair of teapots, how lovely that sounds! Congrats, Sandy, and good to know we all have the same fears keeping us chewing our nails.

Julia Buckley said...

Congratulations, Sandra! What a great feeling it must be.

I agree that once a new author is published there are all sorts of things we don't anticipate--like how much we have to worry about promotion. I never DREAMED it would be like that, and it really is a whole new world.

Still, the teapot has to make it all seem worth it, eh?