My first novel was published in July of last year and I’ve almost completed a second manuscript, with a third and a fourth already planned. Now, my dilemma: previous publisher has basically given the green light to send this new ms. their way, but I’m looking to both (a) improve marketability by going with a more “popular” publisher and (b) begin a more professional phase as a writer, producing at least two works a year, etc. I think this new novel, a period-piece crime drama, is the perfect vehicle with which to make this transition.
Writing is a wonderful expression of your creativity, thoughts, and feelings, but getting published is truly a leap of faith. The minute an author decides to enter the publishing world—by seeking an agent or a publisher—she takes a leap of faith that her work is good enough to compete not only with everyone else looking for an agent, but also with the thousands of published authors already on shelves. You’ve already taken that leap to find and retain a publisher, and now it’s up to you to decide if you’re ready for a next, bigger step.
My advice would be to put your previous publisher on hold and start querying agents the minute you have a partial of your next work (even if you are published by a small publisher you won’t necessarily need a full to grab an agent at this point). Include reviews of your published work with your package, and of course everything about your book should knock their socks off.
The only time I would solidly advise that you stay with the previous publisher, no matter how small, is if you are trying to continue a series. It’s extremely difficult, almost impossible, to move a series midstream to another publisher (unless you’re a bestselling author, of course).
It sounds to me like you’re ready to take that jump, you’re just afraid it will be a mistake. Trying, no matter whether you achieve the results you thought you wanted, is never a mistake. What’s the absolute worst thing that could happen? You end up going back and selling the work to your original publisher. It sounds like you’d be more disappointed if you didn’t try than if you tried and failed.