Sunday, June 28, 2015

Series Books and Frequency

by Kristi Belcamino

My HarperCollins imprint, WitnessImpulse, has a demanding publishing schedule and while I don't mind it, I'd like to hear opinions on it.

I've heard a lot of different opinions on how often/quickly readers want a new series book to come out.

Part of the philosophy behind WitnessImpulse is that many mystery readers read on eBooks and that they want to read the next series book as quickly as possible.

That's why when my fourth book, Blessed Are Those Who Mourn, comes out Sept. 29th, it will be the fourth book I've published in 15 months. I've been okay with the schedule so far. I'm a veteran journalist and the benefit of that is I know how to write very fast and I know how to sit down and get the job done. In my book, there is no such thing as writer's block.

But I think for future series books, I might consider a book a year, which is what most NYT bestselling mystery writers produce.

What are your thoughts? Are there any downsides to an author putting out more than one book a year? Any drawbacks to only publishing one book a year?

Thanks for your thoughts!


Rick Ollerman said...

I think putting a group out in short order is smart; you're a new author, you find fans, and you don't want them to forget about you before the next book comes out. As long as you can keep the quality up, putting out four books in a year seems like an excellent way to build a readership.

On the other hand, once you find the readership, I'd imagine you could flood them, and then it becomes counter-productive. A reader finds one of your books, tracks down the others, then they look for more as they come out. But if they're in the process of doing that, and meanwhile two more come out, my guess is it would be difficult for the reader to maintain the enthusiasm and you'd get in danger of, "What, another one?" Then maybe they stop--after all, they can always get them in the future and they read other authors.

Get the four out, then slow down a bit. You did the work to get established, now you do the work to keep it going. That has always seemed to me to be the best way to come out of the gates.

You asked for thoughts, so there's one....

Anonymous said...

That's exactly what my concern was - sort of bombarding readers.
I think what you said totally makes sense.
Thanks so much,

Jay Stringer said...

I can't really speak to which way is best for sales/marketing. I think nobody really knows for sure how to sell, what sells, or what will work best. We just have hard working people behind the scenes trying their best to get our books in front of people, but the rest of it is guesswork. Plus different writers need different paces. It took me 9 or 10 months to write a Miller book, but Ways To Die In Glasgow took me around 15 weeks.

What I think as a writer, is that a book every year is better for a series. The kinds of fans who want to buy up and read everything straight away are the ones that really we earn over time, and come to our back catalogue. But purely for my own development, I wrote three Miller books back to back and, though I clearly learned a lot as I went, it's been since I switched out and started writing other books that I've NOTICED what I learned and really applied it. Because as much as we learn from writing, I think we learn even more simply from time, and ageing, and thinking, and letting our work breathe.

If I had a series on the table, and I could choose my schedule, I'd aim for one series book every year, with a stand alone fit somewhere between each one.

Dana King said...

My opinion is biased, as there's no way I could write four books in 15 months, so there's that.

This strikes me as another example where publishing has the cart before the horse. It takes you as long to write a book as it takes you. To pick an arbitrary time period to "satisfy the market" is a tacit admission "the market" cares about quantity more than quality, which is NOT what these same publishers are telling people tying to break in. Their attitude seems to go from "write the best book you can" to "Write the best book you can so long as it doesn't take more than four months."

No offense meant toward you; with your journalism background, you may well be able to maintain quality with such a pace. It's the publisher's attitude I wonder about, where that doesn't seem to be a consideration. Asking for books to be written about as fast as they're read (a bit of an exaggeration, I know) doesn't say much for their opinion of either writer, or reader.

Kristopher said...

I agree that the accelerated schedule has really helped to build your brand, Kristi. While I don't think many authors could keep that pace for very long, I think for the early years, it will pay dividends down the line. While you are still a "new" author, your catalog makes it look like you are more established than some other debut authors. That can only be a good thing.

But I do think slowing down moving forward is the right decision as well. There are so many books out there that folks want to read, putting out too many books could be seen as flooding the market and may backfire.

I think one book a year in a series is perfect. An occasional stand-alone mixed in WITH the series book is even better. Only a few authors can skip a series book one year to write a stand-alone and still maintain the interest in the series. I think that comes with a longer standing career.

Kristi said...

So, wrote this super long response that got deleted wheni tried to post it so here's the short version- thank you soooo much for all your feedback.😄