DECIDING TO WRITE A SERIES OR A SINGLE BOOK
Writing a series is a definite way to make some cash, ultimately because people who may have only slightly enjoyed your book 1 will perhaps continue through the latter books just to see how the story ends. An even greater reward is when someone praises all three books, detailing how they enjoyed each book in the series. So there’s some definite satisfaction when your readers talk like that.
I’ve noticed trends in my sales with The Pioneers where someone will purchase book 1, and within a few days, I’ll see sales for book 2 & 3. What does this imply? Well, it makes me think that someone has bought the first book to test it out, and then that same person decides that 2 & 3 must be equally as good. So by writing a trilogy, I have in effect been able to sell 3 books at once.
The problem with a series in regards to marketing and versatility though is one that’s hard to ignore. Because I’ve written a series, the desire to try to sell the series to an agent has gone down substantially. Why? Well, if book 1 were to sell to an agent and that agent sells the book to a publisher, then I’d be stuck with that publisher for all three books of the series. And if that publisher did not want to publish books 2 & 3, then I’d have 2 books on my list that I could never sell unless I paid a sizable chunk of money to the publisher to have the rights of those books released back to me.
This means the series creates some “baggage” when it comes to selling your books. With the Dark Connection Saga, I have not queried any agents because I’ve already written the 2nd book and most of book 3. With that in mind, if I were to submit book 1 (The Girl with the Scar) to an agent and the series were to be accepted, I’d be in some serious trouble because I would not be guaranteed the privelege to sell books 2 & 3 and the latter books that are to follow.
My advice on this is simple. If you feel the need to write a large chunk of a series before putting it out there (I know I do), I would suggest that you create a side project that will only serve as one book. This book can be more mobile since it can be queried to agents without the feeling that you may lose several books’ worth of work.
I’m currently working on an urban fantasy novel that doesn’t have a title, but it’ll have some pretty good legs because I don’t intend for it to be a series; it’ll just be something that I can toy around with that’ll be a quick and easy read for those who are into the urban fantasy sector.
Anyway, what are your thoughts? Would you advise that a series be written in totality for selling purposes? Or do you think it’s better to have a sole book that you try to market while you work on your trilogy?
This doesn’t really apply to me as I’m a firm believer in self publishing.
I released five titles (fiction and non fiction) in quick succession during 2011/2012 and one made it to the local best seller list for 8 consecutive weeks. Really this is no big deal as I’ve yet to make it big on the world scene. But this was better than most local authors here who rely on ‘publishers’. Needless to say, I made more money too.
I wish you all the very best with your books,
Eric, that’s great to hear about your success. And I’m a strong proponent of self-publishing as well. That said, I am not anti-traditional, so I wanted to write this post for those who were in the balance.
And I don’t gather that you’re anti-traditional either. I just wanted to make mention of the purpose for this post. Thanks for stopping by and I hope your success continues to grow.
William, this is a very interesting post and a legitimate warning for other author.
But it gets even WORSE: In almost all publishing contracts is a clause that wouldn’t allow an author to publish a book in the same genre on his own. With a publishing contract you are bound for years to this company. See details in: http://savvybookwriters.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/do-you-understand-your-publishing-contract/
“The author shall not publish any book on the same or similar subject matter that would directly compete in the marketplace with sales of this manuscript. The author shall not undertake to write another book for another publisher until the manuscript is delivered.”
What it means: If you have a contract for any type of cook book, say one about vegetarian
recipes, you cannot write a barbecue cook book and offer it to the producer of George Foreman barbecues, and even a baking book, offered to another publisher who is specialist in bake recipes is out of question.
Doris, that’s great insight, and I wasn’t aware that the author couldn’t publish within the same genre. That makes traditional publishing even less appealing to me.
I agree the traditional way of publishing is becoming less and less appealing. Not so long ago I chatted to a bestselling YA author, whose books are currently being turned into movies. She told me that the publishers forced her to change the ending of her 2nd book and when she showed us the covers she had originally intended for her books versus the ones the publishers forced upon her…well…neither the ending of her book nor the covers now meant anything to her or related to what she had set out to achieve and you could tell how deeply disappointed she was. I told her after hearing her story I’m determined to remain strictly a self-publishing girl. She asked me what percentage of royalties authors can expect from Amazon etc and when I told her she gasped. She made barely 8% in royalties, and that was considered good for a YA author.
Thank you so much for your advice Doris – it’s put the final nail into the traditional publisher coffin for me.
This is great! Thanks for this. And yes, the industry looks as writers as people they employ…not as contractors for the writers. But ultimately, we do all the work while they do the marketing! That sounds like they work for us. So though I am not against trad-pubs, I do think that the industry should view writers with a much better attitude. Or else self-pubbing will take over.