I sought the perspective of my agent, Laney Katz Becker of Markson Thoma Literary Agency, on this week’s topic, “Next book.”
Prior to becoming an agent, Laney was an advertising copywriter and freelance journalist, as well as an award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction. She grew up in Ohio and is a graduate of Northwestern University. You can read her full bio here.
Thank you, Laney, for sharing your point of view on The Debutante Ball!
“For most authors of fiction or nonfiction who are thinking about their next book, the first thing they should do is talk to their agent. Not all authors want writing to be their full-time job, and authors’ goals vary. Some authors are speakers, and they want a book to supplement that job. Other authors are writing to help boost their profile in their day job. Once I know what kind of career my author desires, we talk further about the best way to work toward that goal.
“But, if you’re looking for a general rule of thumb, for ‘next books,’ I recommend that authors stick with what they’ve done. So if they’ve written fiction, the next book should also be fiction. Same with genre: If it’s a thriller, then the next book should also be a thriller. Why? Because most authors are trying to build a readership—and if they stay within ‘their’ category, it’s easier to do that.
“Consider this: A reader finds you on your third novel of suspense, let’s say. The reader really loved your book and naturally, is eager to see what else you’ve written. Keeping within a category/framework makes it likely that if readers liked one of your titles, they’ll like the others, and keep buying, and keep reading, and hopefully, keep recommending you to their friends. Jodi Picoult is a great example of this, as she’s built an entire franchise—one book at a time.
“But the rule is, there is no rule! There are some occasions where an author already has great name recognition, and may be inspired to write something else or try something new. They (and their publishers) trust that readers will follow.
“There are also times when authors are writing within a genre (romance, for instance) and the author may want to try her hand at upmarket, commercial women’s fiction. That’s probably more doable than moving from writing how-to books to sci-fi, let’s say.”