I’m going to think out loud a bit here.
If you could sit down with an author you admire or enjoy reading and could only ask them one question, what would it be? I know what I would ask.
“What do you do when your first published book doesn’t match the quality of your second or third?”
It’s no secret that writers are constantly learning and improving their craft. Their voice develops, their skills are sharpened, and they find little by little what truly works for them.
I self-published my first novel, Little One, in the summer of 2015. It wasn’t the first novel I had written, but at the time it was the best, and I felt I was finally ready to take it all the way.
Now, a year and two months later, I’m eyeing potential release dates for my second book, Where The Woods Grow Wild. It’s not a sequel to Little One, nor does it have anything in common in terms of tone or content.
Not only that, but the closer I get to publishing Where The Woods Grow Wild, the more I feel Little One just isn’t that great. Besides a slew of technical problems during its first weeks of life, I’ve improved so much as a writer in the last year that I’ve come pretty close to unpublishing Little One for good. I don’t want it to misrepresent me.
I’m also ridiculously pessimistic.
On the flipside, I’m probably being too critical of myself. Little One isn’t bad. It’s accumulated nearly 1000 downloads in 12 months (granted, most of those are free grabs), and it averages 4.7 stars on Amazon and 4.45 on Goodreads (and that’s after Amazon obliterated most reviews by friends and family). I’m frequently humbled by the glowing feedback I receive.
And yet, I know Little One could have been better. A lot better. I also know Where The Woods Grow Wild will be better.
Part of me wants to unpublish Little One and treat Where The Woods Grow Wild like a debut novel. Gotta put my best foot forward, right? Another part of me knows I should be proud of Little One regardless of its flaws and move on. After all, everyone improves over time. I never expected Little One to be my masterpiece.
Have those of you with published work ever felt this way before? If so, what conclusions have you come to? Give a brother some pointers here.