7 Tips for Making the Most of Your Book Series (Part 2 – Troubleshooting)
By Julianne MacLean
Continued from 7 Tips for Making the Most of Your Book Series (Part 1)
In the previous post, I listed the 7 Tips for Making the Most of Your Book Series. And, as I concluded, as an independent author, there are no rules or limits around what you can do with a series. But sometimes you are not always in full control and things don’t always work according to plan. For that reason, I thought it would be good to look at how you can troubleshoot issues that I have had to deal with.
What if your series was left unfinished by a traditional publisher? Should you continue it independently?
There are a few different schools of thought on this. Some authors believe it’s too difficult to effectively manage a series when half the books are controlled by a publisher. Maybe you don’t even have cover continuity for those earlier books. You can’t change the prices and readers may not want to pay the higher price that a traditional publisher demands. Also, you can’t make the first book in the series free, so you lose that opportunity to hook readers into your series with a freebie.
Personally, I disagree agree with the notion that it’s not worth doing—especially if it’s something your readers are asking for. It may not be a perfect scenario, but you do have choices.
Some authors recommend writing a spinoff series and labeling your first indie book as Book 1, even if it’s a continuation. The good news is, you can craft it any way you like.
In my situation, I had to give up writing my Pembroke Palace Series after the third book because my publisher wasn’t interested in continuing it, even though there were two more siblings in the family who were left hanging romantically, and the family curse wasn’t yet solved.
Over the next few years, I received many letters from readers asking when I was going to finish the series. I was surprised by how passionate and relentless they were in their communications with me. For that reason, I chose to write the story my readers were waiting for.
Married by Midnight became Book 4 and I went on to write titles 5 and 6 as well. I did my best to achieve cover continuity of my own while striving to maintain some consistency with the Avon books. Here’s what they looked like (Avons are across the top, mine are across the bottom)
As soon as I had those last three indie titles available for sale, I changed the price of Married by Midnight to free and the spillover sales to the first three Avon books were substantial, despite the higher prices. I gained thousands of new readers and was able to breathe new life into those allegedly dead backlist books controlled by my publisher.
Nine months later, I received a terrific royalty check from Avon. My agent was shocked. At first glance, she thought Avon had reissued the books or something.
I have no regrets about that, as those publisher-controlled books have now earned out, thanks to my continuation of the series, and I will receive more generous royalties from Avon for many years to come. I take full credit for that bump in revenue on those books, and my readers are happy. Sure, I would have made more money if I controlled all six books and was earning 60% or 70% royalties – but I can’t change the situation. I’ll likely never get those rights back, but that doesn’t mean I have to give up on those stories. I love those books! I have a large body of work controlled by publishers that I can’t afford to write off or ignore, even if the royalty rate is less than optimal.
At the same time, every situation is different. Maybe your contract says you can get your rights back if the books fall below a certain level of sales. If that’s the case, you might be better off to let your series backlist languish for a little while if it means you’ll be able to get your rights back. Then you can independently publish more books in the series and maintain total control.
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I think that covers everything, but I always love to hear from other authors about what works and doesn’t work for you. Self-publishing is a learning curve that never ends, so if you have any tips or words of wisdom, please share in the comments. I’m all ears!
Julianne MacLean is a USA Today bestselling author who has sold more than 1.3 million books in North America, and her novels have also been translated into Spanish, German, Portugese, French, Japanese, Turkish, Russian, Dutch, and others. Her twenty historical romance novels include the bestselling Highlander Trilogy with St. Martin’s Press and her popular Pembroke Palace Series with Avon/Harper Collins.
Julianne’s latest book in the Color of Heaven series, The Color of the Season, is released on November 11, 2014 (and YES, as she suggests in Tip #2 you CAN pre-order it)