Are one-book authors dead in the water?
November 21, 2015
ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS someone told me when I embarked on the writing gig is that a key component to success, whatever that is, in the writing business is multiple titles.
To the first time author that advice seems formidable, intimidating.
It is intimidating because most writers have obsessed over book one for years, perhaps decades. As they near the end of that first manuscript they have a great sense of elation, accomplishment and loss.
Loss because they know an end of a dream is approaching.
And they wonder if they possess the wherewithal to press reset and do it all over again.
Then a person at a writers conference taps them on the shoulder, grins a knowing grin, and says, “You know that one book authors are dead in the water, don’t you?”
That’s the sort of encouragement that populates the world of publishing.
The truth is a bitch.
One book is fine, two books are better, three better yet.
So the poor schmuck of an author scratches his head.
What should he write next?
Her options are simple.
Either she tries her hand at a work altogether different from her first one, or she carries some of her characters forward in a series.
I have tried both approaches, but as I see it at this stage in my writing process the better one is to conceive of a set of books that hang together.
Sales data also suggests, at least when it comes to digital genre fiction, that readers enjoy series.
As a reader, I think this notion is intuitive.
If I find a character that appeals to me, if I come to know him, to understand his back story, to wonder where life will take him next, I develop an affinity with him, and with the author. I know about the tragedy that befell the character a couple of years ago. I know how he dealt with it, how it knocked him flat, but he refused to succumb to it. Maybe I know about a lost love of his. Maybe I’ve seen him suffer his way in, through and out of addiction.
Maybe he’s just a lovable smart ass.
But the point is that the author who has created such a character, if he has done his job well, already has a step up for his next book.
He, too, is invested in the character, the person created from whole cloth who will not fade away just because the author typed “The End.”
For an author’s characters there is never an end.
Just another episode on the horizon.
So why not take advantage of work already performed and follow those characters down the next winding road that looms before them?
Makes sense to me.