How to Have a Comeback Book

by Claudia Gere

How to Have a Comeback Book

by Claudia Gere

by Claudia Gere

One of the dilemmas many authors face is how to have a comeback book once the first one hasn’t proved successful enough for publishers to take the risk on a second book. As we all know, editors don’t like to take risks. Taking on a second book by an author who didn’t succeed with the first, is one way to to get fired or at least draw negative attention.

I’ve seen a couple of instances where a publishing company approached an author to write a specific book or asked authors to change the focus of their books. When the book the publisher requested isn’t successful, the author who wrote it falls into that category of unsuccessful published authors.

Now, as reported in the New York Times article (, Book is Judged by the Name on Its Cover (Julie Bosman, 2/22/2012), there’s a strategy that works for those authors. When famed literary agent, Esther Newman received rejection after rejection for author Patricia O’Brien’s latest novel, The Dressmaker, they used an old-time practice:

“Ms. O’Brien and Ms. Newberg had cannily circumvented what many authors see as a modern publishing scourge — Nielsen BookScan, the subscription service that tracks book sales and is at the fingertips of every agent, editor and publisher — with a centuries-old trick, the nom de plume. It has been employed by writers from Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) to Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot) to Stephen King (Richard Bachman).”

Their strategy worked, for fiction at least. If you’re writing a nonfiction book to promote your business or yourself, using a pen name might not be the smartest strategy, but could be worth trying if it’s your only option, and you have your mind set on traditional publishing.

But also, keep in mind, when a publisher asks you to change your topic, your slant, or your focus, be sure the book you’re writing is true to your goals and your brand. You still have to market the book so that it sells or risk ever publishing with a traditional publisher again.

Let me know what you think. Is it ethical? Would using a nom de plume work for nonfiction?

Not sure if the book you want to write is the right book to support your goals? Let me know if I can help.

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Claudia Gere envisions a world where all aspiring nonfiction authors can write a great book that shares their experience and knowledge. As an author consultant, literary agent, ghostwriter, and host of her Rock Your Business with a Book Program, Claudia has launched many successful authors., 413-359-0003 (Eastern)