Everybody wants it…an extreme return for a small investment. The problem with ‘instant’ overnight success tends to be the lack of groundwork to support continued success. It’s similar to the big lottery winner who has to return to work a few years or months later because the money is gone.
A lot of things that look like overnight success took months or years to achieve recognition. This is an important lesson for authors to learn. Many who do their own marketing quit after three to six months. The traditional publishing industry tries to turn a book into a bestseller within ninety days. In the publishing world, competition is fierce. Even a cursory look at the numbers shows that the odds are against any particular author ‘making it.’ Writing a book that makes it to ‘bestseller,’ especially for a first time author, is like winning the lottery. If you used a traditional publishing house, you’ve already had your one-time win, in having your manuscript turned into a book. Perhaps it’s part of the reason most published authors never write a second book–the bestseller dream never materialized with the first one. In addition, it can take up to a year for a book to be noticed by a reader cruising the bookstore.
A single book is a mere blip on the horizon most readers gaze at. You can double the chances of ‘winning’ the publishing lottery with a sequel–but if your first title didn’t do so well, you probably won’t. My plan was to write a book, and then its sequel, and then start to get my other stories into print. I could see turning the first two novels into a series a few years down the road. The editorial team had other ideas. They told me I had too much material for just a sequel, and I should turn the story line into a series NOW. It was one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten. One website lists my Martian Symbiont series, then lists Been Blued and Martian Blues. Other websites have a button for ‘other titles by this author.’ Since readers make an emotional investment in characters from books they like, why not give them more of what they want?
Star Trek, for example, used characters from previous series to launch each of their newer series. Captain Picard from The Next Generation had a guest appearance on Deep Space Nine, while engineering chief O’Brien was assigned to the station; Tom and Harry had a bit of an encounter with the Ferengi on the Deep Space Nine station before taking their places on the bridge of Voyager. The whole Enterprise series was presented as a prequel to the orginal Star Trek, and helped answer fans’ questions about ‘how it all began.’ The point is, each series took advantage of the fans’ affinity for pre-existing characters. Yes, I’ll admit it. I’m a trekkie too. That’s beside the point. 😉
Thanks for reading.
Phyllis K Twombly