Today I stumbled over a thread at kboards regarding an author who had written a three book series and had about 40 good solid reviews and was disappointed with her current sales.
A lot of people gave an awful lot of advice. The majority felt that it was the fault of the covers, which looked a lot more GAME OF THRONES, OUTLANDER, OTHER BOLEYN CHICK inspired. Unfortunately, the series was primarily YA and so the covers did her no service at all.
Now, I went along with the whole cover theory – but I also offered this advice to her.
Do NOT freaking give up on yourself. That’s an order – and it is coming from a dude with a beard on his chin and you do NOT want to peeve off a dude with a beard on his chin.
(shoot, I really do need a smiley bearded icon…)
First off, the covers. Dang, they are absolutely freaking gorgeous – but they scream of adulthood. First thing I looked at was the cover and I thought to myself – “Dang, that looks like the sort of thing a stodgy old bearded dude like myself might really get into.”
And then I read the part about it being YA.
Understand, there isn’t anything wrong with YA. Heck, I read a lot of YA. I like it, too. But when I pick up a book with the sort of cover that your books are wearing right now I am expecting something entirely heavier and stodgier than YA.
In effect, you have gone and wrapped a perfectly good cheeseburger and root beer in a hydroponically grown, vitamin-enriched way-too-healthy salad.
Fortunately, that is an easy fix. Save up a bit and replace them when you can and you ought to see a bit more of a rebound.
Still, that doesn’t replace the fact that you are hanging all of your literary hopes and dreams upon this one single series that was dressed by its mother.
Admit it – you have gone and dressed your three kids (your three books) in a suit and tie and sent them off to hip hop class with a note pinned to each of their suits reading something along the lines of “Please don’t stuff me in a locker, mister bully sir”
Besides that, you really need to diversify a little bit.
You need another series. You need a series that you start out writing to actually BE a freaking series – not three books that you hadn’t really intended to be a series in the first place.
So this summer get to work on a new series. A new character, and a new arena. I’d still aim at the YA crowd, to help fish those hungry little readers back towards your first three books. Grab a big old sheet of bristle board and sketch yourself out a big freaking major story arc. Then squint at that story arc until your eyeballs begin to bleed a little bit and then carve that big story arc into three smaller story arcs.
Just like this.
Big story arc = JACK (or Jacqueline) HAS TO KILL THE GIANT THAT STOLE HIS FAVORITE BILLY GOAT.
Little story arc one = JACK (or Jacqueline) HUNTS AND FINDS THE BILLY-GOAT-STEALING GIANT.
Little story arc two = JACK (or Jacqueline) HUNTS AND STEALS THE SWORD THAT HAS THE MAGIC TO KILL THE BILLY-GOAT-STEALING GIANT.
Little story arc three = JACK (or Jacqueline) AND HIS FRESHLY-STOLEN-MAGIC-SWORD HUNTS AND KILLS THE BILLY-GOAT-STEALING GIANT AND THEN GOES HOME AND MARRIES HIS BILLY GOAT AND LIVES HAPPILY EVER AFTER, AMEN.
Get three good covers featuring a billy goat, Jack or Jacqueline, and maybe the shadow of a fierce and ugly billy-goat-stealing giant and then wrap those covers around three wild and rollicking 50-60K YA-aimed novels and there’s your second series.
THEN…when the sky has clouded up and is raining on your first series, your second series will be tearing up the Amazon bestselling lists – and when that second series slumps you’ll have re-issued your first series with brand new YA-aimed covers and they’ll be clambering up the Amazon beanstalk and you won’t care because by then you’ll already be working on your third series and by then you and your true love will have gotten together after jumping through all of those technical legality flaming hoops – or else you’ll have run off and eloped with a billy goat.
I’m not going to link this blog entry to the original question, because the writer who asked for advice is still thinking things over and I would rather not carpet bomb with any further suggestions – STILL, I thought that you writer-types out there might get some enjoyment out of my answer and my example of how to plot a fantasy trilogy.
Now, if you have any further questions I’ll be sitting here in the corner writing me a billy goat saga.
yours in storytelling,