When I first started writing urban fantasy, I wasn’t sure what would work/what wouldn’t. My agent was sending out my novels back then. For Fabric of Life, (which she really liked), I got comments back from editors that mostly said, good writing, not really urban fantasy. At the time, I thought urban fantasy was taking a setting in our world and adding a paranormal element to it. Boy, was I wrong. Fabric of Life was way too much like a cozy mystery with ghosts and destiny tossed in.
I listened to all of the editors’ feedback and read more urban fantasy authors and decided that urban fantasy was really sort of a battle between good and bad, and the main players were supernaturals. But they live in our world in our time, right? So I figured they’d have to intermingle with humans. And Fallen Angels was born. I decided to have Danny, a mortal homicide detective, mirror Enoch–an angel sent to Earth to battle rogue vampires. Both men fought the bad guys in their worlds. After MANY rewrites, my agent loved it. She sent it out. And most editors responded with similar opinions–good writing, but the human, mystery plot muddled the urban fantasy feel. Little did I know that mortals were simply a backdrop–of less importance than the setting–for an urban fantasy novel.
I read more urban fantasies and wrote Wolf’s Bane. This time, I tried really hard to get ALL of the elements right. My agent liked it. She sent it. And this time, I got replies that said their urban fantasy lines were full, that they were looking for something similar–but different–from what they already had, and that Wolf’s Bane was too much like all of the other books on the market. Aaargh. That’s what I was trying for, and this time, it worked against me. Almost three years had passed, maybe more, and I thought that selling an urban fantasy to a big publisher would only happen if every planet aligned in my sign…or posthumously, if I was lucky. So I decided to try e-books.
It’s easy to put a book on amazon, compared to trying to snag a big publisher. BUT, it’s hard to get anyone to look at it. I joined Goodreads, and moderators and bloggers in urban fantasy groups were supportive and active. I offered Fallen Angels for the read-to- review section, and I got good responses. It’s harder now. More and more writers have joined Goodreads, and there’s a lot more competition to get your book noticed. I offered Fallen Angels for free days on amazon, and I got even more reviews. Now, authors are offering free books on all kinds of sites, and that’s competitive, too. Free days help, though. People might be willing to try a new author they’ve never heard of if they don’t have to pay for the book. And sometimes, they even read it (instead of just downloading it for later) and sometimes, they even leave a review. If you’re lucky, they might buy the next book in the series. BookBub picked up Fallen Angels, and that made a huge difference. But BookBub is getting harder and harder to get into. There are LOTS of indie authors, so an author HAS to market herself, or she goes unnoticed. And big name authors are starting to use BookBub and other sites to promote their work.
It’s getting harder and harder for an author to stand out from the crowd. One of the things that helps is to write a series. I did this wrong. Hopefully, you’ll do it right. I wish I had started by writing one series, but I had no idea which series might or might not work for me. I started online with four different stand-alone books–Fabric of Life, Fallen Angels, Wolf’s Bane, and Empty Altars. I got decent reviews on all four of them. I LIKE all four of them. But now, I’m playing catch-up. I’m trying to make each one into a series. For Fabric of Life, I wrote Emerald Hills novellas that highlighted a different protagonist for each one with a different, unique type of magic. And I made each novella a romance. Was this successful? Not really. Readers would rather have a novel that follows the main characters of the original novel. Personally, I think novels sell LOTS better than short fiction–unless it’s a popular author who’s writing about a series that readers love.
I finished a second Fallen Angels and Wolf’s Bane novel and have a second Empty Altars with my agent. This year, I want to write a third novel for each one of those. It will be interesting to see if having three books for each series makes a difference.
My advice to you? Write a series. If a reader likes your book, he’s willing to look for a second one. If he likes that one, he’ll look for the third. On Goodreads, members wait anxiously for their favorite author’s newest book to hit the shelves. Of course, no rules are absolute. I’m only suggesting that a series has certain advantages. Next week, I’ll play with this idea a little more–the pros and cons of writing series. If you have any opinions, share with us. And if you have any questions, send them my way.