SimonKJones Presents: TFW Your Second Book is Less Successful than Your First

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2016 was an exciting year. My first weekly serial, A Day of Faces, had been trundling along quietly for a year when it was selected to be featured by the powers that be, back when that was a thing. A couple of months later the completed story won a Watty Award for being a 'Trailblazer'. Readers started flooding in and it went from a few thousand reads to its current position of 140,000 reads. This all happened in the space of about six months.

I've made it, I thought. I'm a writer now. The big breakthrough actually happened. Time for book number two!

The sophomore book was to be more ambitious: a different genre, much longer, structurally and thematically more complex. Some of my 1.3K followers and 140k reads on the first book would translate into a head start for book two, right?

It got off to a good start, with an enthusiastic core readership emerging swiftly, but I'm now 62 chapters into The Mechanical Crown and it's only just broken 3,000 reads. That's a fraction of where the then-unknown A Day of Faces was at the same stage in its development.

So, what the hell?

Turns out that success with one book doesn't mean automatic, immediate success with another. I'm sure more experienced writers - Wattpadders, in self-publishers or traditionals alike - are rolling their eyes at my late revelation.

When this kind of thing happens it can be demoralising and unnerving. I'd assumed that success would be a continuing upward curve, but it's turned out to be rather more undulating than anticipated. That reality raises awkward questions.

Was The Mechanical Crown simply not as good as my first?

Was there any point continuing?

Had I been deluding myself the whole time?

What if A Day of Faces was a one-off?

After much reflection, I've realised that the only question that really matters is this one:

Why am I doing this?

'Success', however you define it, is a worthy and motivating goal. But it's an ephemeral, shifting, cunning thing which can become a distraction, especially once you've experienced it even for a moment. It can turn into a phantom that you're constantly chasing, pulling you away from your real goals and siphoning away your energy and passion.

I didn't start writing A Day of Faces because I wanted to get 140k reads. All I wanted to do was complete a novel, rather than faltering a third of the way in - Wattpad for me has always been a productivity tool, giving me the impetus to keep writing and publishing every week. At the start, a single reader was enough to keep me honest and keep the writing flowing. Somewhere along the line, I'd forgotten that and had started focusing on the numbers instead of the words.

The success of A Day of Faces was a wonderful byproduct of the process, but it was never the point. Completing the work and having it out there in the world was always the primary motivator.

At 62 chapters I'm only halfway through The Mechanical Crown. Every week the story and its characters surprise me. People are reading it, even if it's on a smaller scale. I'm grateful for every single one of them.

If you find yourself in a similar perilous moment of self-doubt, remember to get back to your roots. WHY do you write? Judge success by your creative achievements, rather than measuring yourself against the approval of other people.

Make your driving force be the simple, essential flow of words across a page and you'll be unstoppable.

If you're a writer you can find lots more productivity tips and writing advice over on my website at simonkjones.com.

To grab the complete collection of A Day of Faces in ebook form, be sure to enter the giveaway! Meanwhile, there's a new chapter of The Mechanical Crown every Tuesday. See you there!

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SimonKJones will giveaway the ebook of the collected A Day of Faces story, complete with a ton of behind-the-scenes info, to three lucky winners. My giveaway is open internationally.

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Wattpad Block Party - Winter Edition IVWhere stories live. Discover now