Second book syndrome

How many of us, after publishing our first book, felt, after more than enough rejections, that that was it? Well I certainly did. I comforted myself with talk such as – oh well, that was nice while it lasted, at least I got one book published, at least this, at least that……But if I’m honest, I think I felt worse, once the hype had died down, than if I’d never published anything at all. I felt like a fraud (and I know we all do at times), like someone who had snuck in under the curtains to be kicked off stage once everyone realised I didn’t really belong in the ‘children’s author’ play at all.

Now I don’t want to sound ungrateful, I am SO grateful especially to Walker Books who took a chance on a newbie and to the wonderful Marjory Crosby-Fairall who illustrated The Croc and the Platypus so beautifully. I guess what I’m trying to say, especially to those of you who have published your first book, is that there are no easy roads in this business. You can’t for one moment rest on your laurels and think that books 2, 3 and 4 are going to tumble out the of the sky.

The Croc and the Platypus was published in 2014, happily it was reprinted a number of times and I’ve been informed that there is a new issue in the wings which is terrific news.

So what’s changed? One thing that is very different for me now is that I am able to send my manuscripts directly to Walker thus skipping the slippery slush pile. What this also means is that rejections often come quicker but usually with very thoughtful and useful feedback which of course is gold.

So, once it sunk in that books 2, 3 and 4 weren’t going to tumble out of the sky, I took myself off to the first Kidlit Vic Conference. And boy am I glad that I did because while it took over 10 years for my first picture book to be published, my second picture book contract only took 4. A definite improvement. I cannot speak more highly of this conference and everyone involved in organising and putting it together including all the publishers and editors and panelists who give up their weekends to share their knowledge and to offer their encouragement. As you can see my ms assessment was with Maryann Ballantyne. I first saw Maryann speak many years ago at Victoria University in Sunshine when I was a brand new newbie. Right then and there I thought, WOW! how I would love to work with that woman. Such presence. Such professionalism. I could tell that she’d not put up with any nonsense. Now Maryann and I had met on and off, around the circuit and of course she knew I already had a book with Walker but we’d never sat down face to face, like we did back in 2016 and can I tell you I left that meeting on cloud nine.

You’ll note however that nearly two years past by before I was offered a contract and in that time I wrote many, many picture books, none quite what she was looking for until the one that was. This was a tricky time, one in which I had to remind myself to enjoy the journey. I knew there was no guarantees of publication but I also knew that the surest way of not being published was to not try, so I kept on trying.  I also continued to submit other work elsewhere and I think this is very important to help keep one’s spirits up. All successes must be celebrated big and small so to follow my own advice here is a little gallery of things that I’ve achieved since attending my first KidLit Vic conference back in 2016.


I’m also pleased to say that I will be attending this year’s KidLitVic Conference so if you’re going too – I’ll see you there!

Please do comment if you too have a second book syndrome story to share.



2 thoughts on “Second book syndrome

  1. Jackie, I know exactly what you’re talking about. My first picture book was published to a lot of hype in 1982. My next two picture books weren’t released until 15 years later yet I hadn’t stopped writing and submitting throughout that time. Like you, I had lots of poems and short stories published along the way and that kept my spirits up. Fortunately, I’ve also had quite a few more books published in the past 10 years. But now, for the first time in about seven years, I find myself without contracts or books in production. All we can do is keep writing and hoping that some of the manuscripts we send out will turn out to be the right story on the right desk at the right time.

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