N is for Next


letter nLet’s have an argument. Authors and publishers have this argument with far more frequency than you might imagine. The question at issue: What do I do next?

You have just completed your (first, third, fourteenth) book. The debut parties are over. The book signings are done. The everyday marketing has begun to drag. The Muse has kicked you in the keister a few times. She wants to know if you are going to spend the rest of your life on Twitter.

What are you going to do? If your answer is write something else, before you head off to commune with the laptop, let’s assess a few opinions and facts.

Fans (Rock)

If your book is a runaway hit, you have fans clamoring for your next book. The two main classes of fans are groupies and serialists. Groupies are going to read whatever you write, even if it is a collection of notes you passed in the eighth grade. Serialists are pickier.

These are the genre-junkies who want more of the same, just a little better than last time, with enough wiggle room for the possibility to demand more of the same, just a little better than last time.

Publishers (Hard Place)

Industry professionals are a bit more wary than fans. They are keen on the concept of market saturation and know the impact of flooding the market with product before the audience has exhausted the supply. (See bean counter version of supply and demand.) Do not be shocked when the answer to your nearly finished WIP is Not at this time.

You (You)

Your runaway hit was a stray in your WIP folder you only submitted because your opus has a filing cabinet full of rejection letters. You may have even come to the place where you like your hit, but your heart is sunken deeply in love with something which belongs to another genre. When you sit down to cipher, you are banking on riding the wave of demand to grab your buyers with wallets still opened to sell your real manuscript.

Wall (Bet you weren’t counting on this.)

Readers are both loyal and fickle. The irony is palpable. Some anonymous person once said, Readers only like what they like. In a not-quite-as-circular-as-you-might-think way, it is true. Readers like:

  • to be entertained by their chosen genre.
  • to be driven rabid by a new love.
  • to have satiation for voracious appetites.

Genre-junkies want authors to deliver something novel, well-constructed and complete. For the first time reader of any genre, once in love with it, hundreds of books will be insufficient. Despite you tying up the loose ends before the cover went on the book, readers love the idea there could be more to the story.

What you do not see on the list is a favorite author bullet. The reason is: The title is passed from author to author based on consistent delivery of satisfying books, or the lack thereof. The question is now: Can you deliver books consistently?

But I wanna…

Do not whine. It is unbecoming. If you have your heart set on jumping genre and writing something different, be prepared to go back to start. (Do not collect $200.) You may collect a little from your groupies, but you will not be tapping the same vein you did with your last book.

If you are prepared to begin from scratch, pack your parachute and jump. If not, weigh your options carefully.

The Sequel (or Prequel)

How you ended the last book is pivotal to whether a subsequent book with the same characters is a possibility or going to be the camel you try to force through the eye of a needle. For the record, it matters not if it is a dromedary or bactrian.

sequelIf there is an opening for a continuation of your story, a sequel is not hard to write. A good sequel is hard to write. Consider how many hits you have seen where the second (third through seventh) was a dismal shell of the first or a lopsided attempt at a cookie cutter repeat. The successful ones were integral, as in built of parts which could have been added to the original if printing a 1,250+ page book was cost effective.

The ones which fail are the ones which try to recapture the excitement of the first book by either rewriting the first installment or by using the portions which were not up to par in the first pass.

Quantum Leap

Every day authors jump genre. Even very well known authors do it; albeit, many choose a pen name for other genres. Despite large reputations, the sales of books out of the mold which readers previously accepted are different. In some cases, it is just what the author needed to grab more market share. In more cases, it is nothing more than starting at an entry level position in a new genre.


Before you decide, weigh the market carefully. Assess all of the steps you took with your last book. Where is there room for improvement?

  • Writing? Take an extra few betas.
  • Launch? Do more pre-release reader cultivation.
  • Follow through? Try to reach a higher sales plateau.

Bottom Line

When you release a new book, you are at the beginning. Take all the necessary steps to producing a quality book. Every single one of us can recognize a chance to improve in our books. Be certain to take enough time between releases to make your next book your best book… yet.

What is the first thing you will do differently with your next book? How do you feel about prequels and sequels? Which author have you read and wondered why they jumped genre?

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  1. I hate prequels, they are often written after the entire series has been completed and introduce background characters that lead up to characters never seen in the series. The time it takes to figure out who the characters are could be better spent do anything else.

  2. If I really like an author, I’ll read their writing, and all of it usually.
    I am writing the sequel to Ripple in part because it is part of the story–I just had to end at 120,000 words and was at a great ending point. Wave is a continuation of the original story, just five years in the future.
    I don’t really write in one genre, on purpose, in part because I hate starting over.
    El Phoenix Farris recently posted..Boston Marathon: Finding Joy among the WreckageMy Profile

    • There are a lot of us who do not stick to one genre, but frankly, the genres are outdated and a rather silly way of cataloging in the age of the keyword. Then again, do not get me started on that train wreck, either. Fortunately for me, I jumped into three genres at the same time. For me the vacillation is not enough to make me motion sick.

      If your sequel is down the line somewhere, it makes sense. The ones I deplore are the simulcast ones where everything is what was going on behind the curtain which you never even saw over the window in the last book. Great to see you today, El. xxx

  3. Groupies I got, serialists don’t stay.
    Bearman recently posted..Project Blue Collar – Daddy Issues CartoonMy Profile

    • No, serialists are going to be in lust with the next guy in line with a passable caricature of you.

  4. My feeling about prequels are about bleeding everyting you can out of your sequels. Sounds desperate to me, but then again, as you mention, serialists clamor for more of the same so the idea is to give them more—even when the well has run dry. Desperate.

    I’ve been wrong before.
    tess kann recently posted..Flash in the Pan – SommelierMy Profile

    • I am with you. For me, I have more respect for the authors who say, that is all there is to the story.

  5. What next?

    The letter O of course.

    H is for hand stand, what most authors will do to get any sort of attention focused on their book. That probably includes me.

    MJ Logan recently posted..L is for LimburgerMy Profile

    • True. Getting the right attention on books is hard enough. I think that is likely most in this group.

  6. Ha ha, “don’t whine”. Are you actually here in this room with me? Howdja know?
    Enchanted Seashells, Confessions of a Tugboat Captains Wife recently posted..How To Stay in Shape if You Work On a TugboatMy Profile

  7. Well there goes my idea for Wombie Babies. It worked for the Muppets!
    Binky recently posted..Toothpaste BathMy Profile

  8. I have written one memoir, but there won’t be a sequel to it. It tells the whole story. I won’t be jumping genres, however, since my next book is also a memoir. I really don’t think I have many books in me to write, however since I have one poetry book (both published recently through Redmund Productions) I will probably concentrate on poetry books after this second memoir is written. I hope to make it my best book!
    Gail Thornton recently posted..Mantra’s Book of Shadows, Dark Poetry by Red DwyerMy Profile

    • I would not be so certain of that. Your growing aptitude for flash may yet birth something in the short story class or even a novella. xxx

  9. Oh that’s true haha. 🙂

  10. I would rather an author jump genres and write well. If I love the author I will read them, unless I am simply not interested in the story.

    I have two series where the author wrote both prequel and sequels to the original books, they worked throughout the series. In both cases though, there was world building involved and the books added to the overall stories. I suspect this has more to do with how these were presented within context.
    Valentine Logar recently posted..Spring Flash FinaleMy Profile

    • Probably so. If there is not a stage set to let you know there is more than what you needed to know for this story, there really is nothing more than the same characters in another book. For me, the hardest part is the sequels which are based on the assumption you have read all the books in the order in which they were presented. As I am perpetually late to series, I often start in the middle.


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