Friday, July 19, 2013

Series: A Childhood Full of Scars

From the title, you may correctly assume I'm not crazy about books in a series. Not that I don't have series that I love. I do. And I'm not talking about trilogies or limited run series that have a definite plan and a specific, bigger than one book arc. Those can and are done successfully all the time. I'm talking about the Never Ending Series. Those are the ones where we read the same character doing either lots of the same stuff book after book, or wherein we see the same character having to top every book prior, often violating the rules laid down in the first few books, and ultimately jumping so many sharks that all willing suspension of disbelief gets flushed right down some kind of story-telling pit toilet.

Add into the fact that in the age of the dinosaurs (before internet) when I was a kid, a series meant you could find books 1 and 3, but not 2. Or you could find books 1, 2 and 4 but not books 3 and 5. Why do you think I took up writing stories originally? I mean besides the voices in my head. Right - it was to finally finish all those danged stories I had only PART of. That stuff leaves scars, man.

Thus, you have the background for my early decision to not write series. I say 'early' and mean 'the hubris with which my unpublished self assumed I'd actually ever be published at all'. Regardless. I wanted single title, stand alone stories. That's what I wrote. I thought.

So when Berkley asked for some revision on spec on Enemy Within, the editor also tossed out - 'Hey, what do you think about making this a series?' I banged my forehead on my desk a few times and said, 'Let me give it some thought and see where I can go with it.'

That's my 'selling a series' advice. Don't want to sell a series and you're pretty much guaranteed that someone will ask for one. Here's the deal, though, and mark that I'm speaking in gross generalization: Most of the traditional NYC publishers like two book contracts. Or maybe it's the agents subbing to those houses who like two book deals so much. If you're asked for a series, don't expect it to go past two books *with that publisher*. Most publishers want amazing sales numbers right out of the gate and when they don't happen, your two book contract isn't likely to be renewed. This doesn't mean you won't write for that publisher again - you likely will be asked to submit something else. Something that isn't in the series or even the genre you sold originally.

Granted, thanks be to the blessed interwebs, you can subsequently self pub the rest of your series. I'll be doing this with the Enemy series
- since that two book contract story was, in part, mine. (Talk to any number of authors and you'll find it's a common story. Sometimes 2 books, sometimes more, but the end is usually the same - an orphaned series.)

Thus, some advice regarding your series.
1. No cliff hangers - you guarantee that the next book in the series will be declined and your readers will come after you with torches and pitchforks.
2. Complete your stories with each book - this goes with the cliffhanger thing in a way, but really, if you're writing romance, it's about completing at least that portion of the story within one book.
3. KEEP NOTES - series bible, a spreadsheet, whatever. Keep a list of characters, eye colors, place names, etc, so that if and when your series is orphaned, you have everything you need to keep going on your own if you so desire.

1 comment:

  1. Wow - I'd forgotten that whole "you can't get that book" pain. I remember times of going into Every Single Bookstore I saw, looking for that ONE book. Do not miss that At All.