This summer sees the release of a slew of second novels with reactions to débuts informing publishers’ strategies for that tricky second book.
Editorial director at Picador Francesca Main has several second novels coming out this year: “I think the key is to build on the success you already have—who are the people who loved and championed the first book and making sure they feel connected. The most important step is thinking about the author more widely, moving from launching them as a brand new talent to becoming a career novelist.”
One of Main’s big summer titles is Rebecca Wait’s new book, The Followers (May, £12.99). Wait’s début, The View on the Way Down (2013, £14.99), was critically acclaimed, selling 1,981 copies to date according to Nielsen BookScan data. Main said: “I hope The Followers brings her up to bigger and better things, she’s a writer we really believe in. We know that we’re in a market that is polarised between being wildly excited about new talent and big names and we don’t want anyone to feel midlist. With Rebecca, you get that feeling of being back in hands you can trust.”
One of the breakout YA voices of 2014 was Non Pratt with her début novel, Trouble (Walker Books, £7.99), which was shortlisted for the inaugural YA Book Prize and has sold 4,928 copies to date. June sees the publication of Pratt’s follow-up, Remix (£7.99).
Pratt’s editor is Denise Johnstone-Burt, publisher at Walker Books, who said: “The second book is always a challenge, especially when the first book has done so well, because every author and illustrator when they start a new project thinks ‘Am I going to be able to do this again?’ but personally I see every book as an individual project. Every book has to stand on its own merits.” Pratt’s follow-up keeps the dual narrative format that she used in Trouble and a similar tone.
Johnstone-Burt said: “We thought about what Non’s readers like—her honesty and humour. She’s frank without being too dark and gritty. She writes so truthfully and we needed to preserve that.”
Pratt herself, however, found big differences: “I didn’t even stop to consider how hard I’d find a shorter timeframe and female narrators. Once I embraced the fact that it wasn’t supposed to be the same, things flowed a lot better. I was complacent in my approach to begin with.“
Virago has a slightly different situation with Virginia Baily’s Early One Morning (July, £14.99) as Baily’s debut, Africa Junction (2011, £12.99), was published by a different publisher: Harvill Secker in hardback and Vintage in paperback. It won the McKitterick Prize for a first novel by an author over 40 but has only sold 843 copies.
Ursula Doyle, associate director at Virago, bought Baily’s follow-up from Nicola Barr at Greene & Heaton. Doyle said: “Nicola submitted it just before Frankfurt, I started reading it on the Friday and pre-empted on the Monday.”
Speaking of launching a new voice for Virago that is not actually a début, Doyle said: “They did a perfectly credible job with Africa Junction but it’s hard to launch début literary fiction and Ginny felt that a different approach might bear some fruit. Authors moving publishers can really revitalise an author with a different approach and a different team.”