Savannah Hendricks On Combatting The Fear Of Never Selling Another Book

Welcome to the SNOB - Second Novel Ominipresent Blues. Whether you’re under contract or trying to snag another deal, you’re a professional now, with the pressures of a published novelist compounded with the still-present nagging self-doubt of the noobie. How to deal?

Today's guest for the SNOB is Savannah Hendricks who holds a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice, an Associate degree & CCL in Early Childhood Education, and a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice/Criminology. She works full time as a medical social worker and writes because to write, is to listen, to everyone, including yourself.

Is it hard to leave behind the first novel and focus on the second?

For me it was easy to start on other work. My first book, Nonnie and I took seven years from draft to sale so I already was well on my way through other stories, even submissions. There was a lot of focus on sales, which kept me distracted around and after the release date. I felt as though I was always checking to see where the book stood and if it had any reviews yet, plus my own marketing kept me busy. I did get the nagging feeling when I was submitting my second manuscript that I would never sell again, and still feel this way some three years later.

At what point do you start diverting your energies from promoting your debut and writing / polishing / editing your second?

I would say that today, I still have some energy focused on Nonnie and I. I think that unless you have a huge publisher (and even if you do), the work never ends. You don’t want your books to ever fall onto the “out of print list.” What writer doesn’t want their book to be considered a classic? I do have the fear as I work on a second book that Nonnie and I will be the only one I will ever have in reader’s hands. That can cause a lot of anxiety when you want to focus on other manuscripts. You don’t want to be a one hit wonder. 

Your first book landed an agent and an editor, and hopefully some fans. Who are you writing the second one for? Them, or yourself?

I sold Nonnie and I on my own, without an agent. But, I’m in the process of finding one. The publisher I worked with only had minor editorial changes. For any book, this is kind of unheard of, but for Nonnie and I it just worked out that way.

My second book I’m writing for me, one hundred percent, but the feedback I’ve gotten from the industry has really helped me/pushed me to make it better so that it can sell. I’ve learned you can’t write for anyone but you, especially in a profession that is subjective as this one. Overall, I want readers to love my stories. That is how it was with Nonnie and I, and how it will continue. My worse fear is getting a book published only to have readers hate it. Reviews where a reader didn’t connect with the story. That the characters were flat and the reader didn’t care what happened to them.

Is there a new balance of time management to address once you’re a professional author?

For me time management has always been a balancing act since I have a full time job outside of writing. As a social worker, most of my evenings after work are “wasted.” Because I don’t have the energy to devote to writing, and if I do, I almost become wired and then can’t sleep, which causes issues the next day at work. I do try and use the week nights for reading and researching so that when the weekend comes I can devote most of the day to actual writing and editing. If I’m able to get a lunch break during work I will try and read, edit or create a new rough draft of a story idea, but this is pretty rare.

What did you do differently the second time around, with the perspective of a published author?

The second time around, as I write I have learned that most of my drafts, which I thought were ready to go and perfect are not at all. I submitted too soon on so many of them. Also, I have thicker skin in a sense that I know it’s a waiting game, I just hope it’s not a seven year game. I have learned this second time around that it’s important to keep writing, when creativity strikes write it down. It’s important to have more than just one other manuscript, especially in the picture book world. The other day I submitted a picture book to an agent and the agent replied right away asking if I had any other picture books she could look at as well. If I only had that one, then I would have missed an opportunity. Regardless of the outcome of that agent, it’s important to have more than one thing in your portfolio, illustrators do, and writers should too.