Don't Put All Your Eggs in One Basket By Writing Only One Book

At a recent writers’ conference in New York, I was asked by someone in the audience to give my best pieces of advice.  Thinking fast, I ended up throwing out four tips.  One of those tips was “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

In my mind, if you have written only one novel or memoir, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. 

At any given time, I have from 3-8 different projects going on.  That includes articles due, articles turned in, book proposals to my agent, book proposals in progress, or new plays I’m trying to get produced.  Something is always cooking.  Besides having multiple rounds of “good news” with so many projects, it also allows me to never have writing downtime.  It’s not like I send out 10 queries and say, “Well … nothing to do now but wait for agents to respond, I guess.”  Nope – none of that.  Something is always cooking, and I enjoy the variety. 
In addition, as an agent said to me recently, a lot of first novels really aren’t that good.  This is a hard fact of life.  If you spend 6 months or a year on a book and it turns out bad, it’s not the time to quit.  Start the next one.  Writing gets easier – and you get better at it. 
Diversify!  Nothing bad can come from it.  If you start writing articles, for example, that means more bylines (awesome), more credibility and platform (double awesome) and more money for writing the pieces (triple awesome).
On a side note, I apologize that it took me several days to finish this darn post.  I was sick and then traveled to Georgia for a writers’ conference.  (I’m at St. Simon’s Island now.  Of course, if you were my Facebook friend, you already knew that!)  In the interim between the start and finish of this post, I see agent Scott Eagan posted with his own take on the subject.

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4 thoughts on “Don't Put All Your Eggs in One Basket By Writing Only One Book

  1. Anne Wayman

    Chuck, you don’t really explain why one book isn’t enough. Totally apart from writing ’cause we want to or need to, my own experience is that a single book or two books may appear to fail or have an extremely long tail.

    But once the author gets well known, the original books will start to sell more. I’ve not seen stats, but I’m sure a well known author can bring a book back from out of print to back of list to at least mid-list status, even if it isn’t very good.

    I just bought such a book by a favorite author… I’m so disappointed, except when I think of the work that he’s had to do to get as good as he is today. It’s for me anyway, a real lesson in how it’s hard to get worse at something we practice.

    And I bought that book!

    Anne Wayman, now blogging at

  2. Conda V. Douglas

    I just taught a workshop in writing and selling short stories. A major complaint? If you won a contest (free contests with $100-900 plus for winners) and they published your story online you couldn’t sell it "for real and for real money." When I explained that was a reasonable payment for a short story and to just write another story…I got looks. Of course, these were newbies who didn’t believe me when I said "You must write and write and write, first."

  3. Trysh Ashby-Rolls

    I’ve been a professional writer for 30+ years but only came to authorship 20 years ago–a whole different kettle of fish than being a print and broadcast journalist. The book was a great success and although O/P continues to sell around the world. (Shameless self-promotion: Paperback edition coming this fall thanks to Phoenix Press.) The point is: I thought I could sit back on my laurels and get rich. HA!
    Luckily, I’m one of those writers who must write every day, or go nuts. This means I have a lot of partials in drawers ready to trot out anytime I have an opportunity to pitch. Literary fashion comes and goes, and right now nobody seems interested in ‘challenging social issues’ — my area of expertise / brand. I still maintain a day job, a column in a bi-weekly publication plus book reviews, op-eds, freelance articles, and so forth. Presently, I’ve branched out into fiction, a dark historical novel full of murder, horror, mayhem and yes — even a hint of romance.
    Writing is a tricky business these days: You gotta be tough, you gotta keep on going and not give up. I agree with my favorite literary blogger, Chuck. You must have lots of irons in the fire.
    Trysh Ashby-Rolls
    Pender Island, BC,

  4. Garridon

    So true. Recently, I ran across a writer who had been shopping his novel around for three years. He wasn’t getting any bites, so he kept revising the query and the synopsis–instead of working on a new project.

    After he posted the latest version of the query, one of the critters checked his name. Found out the book in question had an ISBN and was listed on Amazon, out of print. Apparently, he’d gone to Lulu to have it printed, and they’d gotten an ISBN for it. Unfortunately, that counted as published, and his project that he’d shopped around for three years was dead. Now he’s starting from scratch on a new book, but you know, he could have done that three years ago after he’d finished the first one.


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