When writers finish a book there’s a lull. We’ve finished what we’ve been working on, maybe for months, sometimes years, and there’s a . . . silence after we type The End. There’s a strange letdown even as we’re excited to finally finish. Sometimes that can lead to confusion because we don’t know what to write next, or we get excited to start a new project while that one breathes, or we love editing and jump head first into reading and rewriting.
No matter what your plans are, chances are you go through a period where you just don’t know what to do, and that feeling is even worse once you publish and that project is done forever. Multiply this feeling by 100 if you wrap up a series.
But how done is it?
Do you really move on when you finish a book? Do the characters let you? If you’ve established a fanbase, do your readers? I’ve been thinking about this lately as I try to figure out some kind of publishing plan for my books. “They” say rapid release can be great to keep the Amazon algorithms going in your favor and to keep readers happy. But based on my experience when I rapid released my series last year, that only works if you already have an audience who is waiting for the next book. That isn’t me or anyone trying to start a new pen name.
One thing I heard on the Six Figure Author podcast not long ago is the idea to give your books room as you publish because that gives readers time to build a community around your books. This makes sense and takes some of the pressure off to publish quickly. Posting to a Facebook reader group and giving out extras to your newsletter subscribers will keep readers excited, and it will give you more time to run ads and build book buzz.
But then I think, well, how long is an author supposed to linger over a series or readers’ favorite characters?
Authors like E L James and Stephanie Meyer, J K Rowling, and Sylvia Day keep getting sucked back into their bestselling worlds. Do you think that Erika ever gets tired of thinking about Christian and Ana, or do you think she’s just grateful they made her the bestselling author she is today? I mean, what happens when your readers are hooked on one book or series, but your author mind has already moved on to something else?
Granted, it’s a nice problem to have, and if it ever happens to me, I won’t complain, but it doesn’t give an author room for something new. Maybe if you have fans clamoring over your books like that, it doesn’t matter if they want short stories and more books and/or the same books and scenes from different points POV–you’ll be happy to give that to them. It’s just hard for me to wrap my mind around giving your readers all these extras from books and worlds that you, as the author and creator, might have already moved away from.
That brings me back to the beginning of the post when I talk about downtime between books. Is there downtime? I suppose it all depends on your mindset and if you can keep up the excitement for all your characters and their worlds and if you can, or even want, to whip up a short story or novella (2.5 anyone?) here and there or an extra bonus scene for a series or novel that, in your mind, is old, because you’re excited about a new project. Lindsay Buroker seems she can do this easily enough, even though she’s very prolific and has several series that contain several books for sale.
Slowing down and taking time to smell the insides of my books will be an interesting concept.
One I will be tackling soon because I just can’t keep writing without stopping to edit and publish one of these days. I don’t know how much time I want to wait between releases. How much is not enough, or how much is too much because we can say take all the time you want and do things the way you want to do them, but consistency is important and staying relevant with Amazon can make a big difference when you need exposure and discoverability.
I’m taking a mini-course by Mark Dawson about his launches. He has an established audience, so his launches are going to look a lot different from mine, but he pads a lot of time before the launch. He posts to his author page on Facebook regularly, months before the launch. He offers giveaways and changes the banners to all his social media to graphics that feature that particular release. I have never done that. I don’t recall ever changing my banner for a release of any book. He also changes the text on the graphic from a pre order request to a buy it now order when it’s live. But while he’s doing all that, I’m assuming he’s writing the next book, and maybe it’s just how I’ve functioned for the past few years, but I’ve only ever thought about one book at a time. And maybe, if I’m fortunate enough, I may need to start thinking about past books for years.
E L James first published Fifty Shades of Grey in April of 2012. Let’s not go into the history of the book as it was when she self-published it. It’s not really important unless you want to add even more time to how long Erika has lived with these characters. Fast forward to now of 2021, and she’s still publishing in that world, the last book in Fifty Shades with Freed coming out in June, in Christian’s POV. That’s nine years of living with Christian and Ana. Some readers might not even remember she published The Mister in 2019. (I still think she ended that on a slight cliffhanger and I’m waiting to see if it’s the first in a trilogy I think it is or if she’s going to write something different.)
We can do the same with Stephenie Meyer. She published Twilight back in 2007 and she just published Midnight Sun, Twilight from Edward’s perspective this year. Not to mention she did a few other projects based off Twilight such as The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella (The Twilight Saga) and Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined (The Twilight Saga). Someone in my NaNoWriMo group accused Stephenie of writing her own fan fiction, but I don’t know how that’s possible if she’s doing what the fans want. As a reader, I’ve always enjoyed the male POV more so than that of the female main character, especially when we’re talking romance, and it could just be both E L and Stephenie were giving fans what they wanted.
Sylvia Day didn’t have to write completely different novels in Gideon’s POV when she wrote the Crossfire series. She wrote three books in Eva’s POV only, then incorporated Gideon’s POV into the remaining books. I’m betting because fans wanted his POV and her publisher told her to start writing in his POV. Unless she started just to round out the remaining books, but I doubt I’ll never know the real answer. She, too, was unable to leave behind Gideon and Eva so easily when she wrote Butterfly in Frost, where the female main character is friends and co-workers with Eva. We get a glimpse of how, seven years later, Eva and Gideon are doing, and what happened to Cary, Trey, Tatiana, and the baby they were going to have together. The first Crossfire book was published in 2012 and she came out with Butterfly in Frost in 2019.
I’m only bringing this up because I can’t fathom still being interested in a world I created seven years later. I may need to get over that as backlist books are bread and butter to a lot of authors, both indie and traditionally published, and doing promotions on older books, particularly first in a completed series, can bring in a steady stream of sales. I’m not going to stop running ads to my 3rd person books, but I know that not taking a personal interest in them any longer won’t help sales. Don’t get me wrong, I love all my books and all my characters, but when I give them their happily ever afters, their stories are done in my mind. Bad thing? Good thing? I have no idea.
How do you feel about looking back? As readers, it’s natural to have a favorite book, I’ve read The Sun Also Rises several times, but I wonder how often Ernest Hemingway thought of it after his career took off and he was immersed in writing other books. I’ve read several of Nora Roberts’ books over and over again as well. Nora’s publicist is in charge of her social media, so it’s Laura (or her assistant) who pulls quotes and makes graphics from Nora’s backlist to keep the buzz going. Nora, with help, has her mind free to always be thinking forward. To me, and to many other authors who can’t afford a virtual assistant, that’s a luxury.
Anyway, you have sat through 1600 words of musing, and for that, I thank you. I was thinking of going into a personal update, but I’ll do that on Thursday. Have a great week everyone!
Until next time!