I’ve been analyzing my hits and misses in writing. I’ve finally been at it long enough and tried enough things to look back and see how the dust settled. I had no idea what I was doing when I started out, and I’ve taken plenty of wrong turns.
Wrong turn #1: Novels take a chunk of time to write, so when I read an article that encouraged writers to post novellas between novels, to keep their name out there, that made sense to me. I didn’t think it through to the next, logical step, though. Most authors write those novellas about characters and events that tie into the series they’re known for. They use those novellas to keep readers interested in the fictional world they’ve created and eager for a new book’s release. That’s not what I did. I wrote in the same genre, but I wrote whatever struck my fancy. Not a great marketing ploy. Readers prefer series. They like reading book after book about characters they’re fond of.
Wrong Turn #2: I wish I’d have researched how to market my books a lot more and a lot sooner. I’m lucky enough to have Dystel and Goderich Literary Management behind me, and my wonderful, patient agent–Lauren Abramo–wouldn’t let me put my books online until I started a blog, had 50 followers on Twitter, and had a web page. She encouraged me to try an author’s page on Facebook, too–which I’m still not very good at. But those things are just dipping your toes in the water of book promotions. I joined Goodreads and learned a lot from “listening” to the authors and bloggers on there. I bought John Locke’s and Kristen Lamb’s books on marketing. I didn’t really “get” the basics, though, until I discovered Lindsay Buroker’s blog. And then I finally realized that if an author doesn’t promote herself, readers don’t find her. The sad truth is, I don’t have a ready-made audience, dying for my next book or novella to come out. I have to jump up and down and say, “Hey, I’m here. You might want to try my new Emerald Hills story.” Or whatever I’ve put online that’s new. I now set time aside to look at different sites on the web that promote authors’ books. Before I offer a book or novella for free or at a reduced price, I have some kind of free or paid promotion set up. Some of the sites only charge ten or twenty dollars. Others charge more. I’m experimenting with different ones, but anymore, I don’t cast my poor, naked novel into the cold, vast universe of millions of books without a little advertising love.
A lucky hit: When I started writing, I had no idea what I thought might actually make a successful series, so I started three of them. Now, this might seem to go against the wisdom that readers love a series. After all, if I’d have written three books with the same characters, I might have built up more of a faithful following. That’s what most authors do, and it works. But part of being a writer is knowing what works for myself. And I need a certain amount of variety to keep me interested in my own stories. While I work on an Enoch and Voronika novel, Reece and Damian can simmer in the background. And when I work on Reece’s plotlines, Tyr and Diana stew in my mind. I’m not sure I needed three series to keep myself happy, but I know that when I finish a book, I’ve lived with those characters day in and day out until I’m ready for them to take a hike and leave me alone for a while. But by the time I finish two other books with completely different characters, I’ll actually miss old Enoch and be ready to cause him grief and trouble again. I think the breaks help keep my series fresh.
Lately, I’ve noticed that some of my favorite authors, who write some of my favorite mystery series, seem to be struggling. The authors who only write one series with one set of characters, in my opinion, get tired of them. Their books feel flat, forced. Sometimes, I even wonder if they still like their protagonists. I understand why so many authors write at least two, different series. It gives them time to shift gears, to catch their breath, and to want to spend time with their characters again. I stumbled on that by accident, but I’m glad I did.