Friday, May 19, 2017

Let's talk for a moment about sequels

I'm in the middle of writing a new young adult novel that I'll refer to as the Secret Project, but long before any official announcements appear about the book, I want to get something out of the way:

The new novel is not a sequel to Odd & True. 

I know that the cover of Odd &True looks like it's the beginning of a series, and I know that people who read it might wonder if there will be either a sequel or a prequel (more on that topic in a sec). And I also know that the title of Secret Project might even have people questioning if it's a sequel to In the Shadow of Blackbirds (another bird is involved in the name). But, no, like all my other books, Secret Project is a standalone, and I'm extremely excited about it.

So, why don't I ever write sequels? 

There are two main reasons.

1. I really like standalone novels. As a reader, I prefer them.

2. My books aren't quite successful enough to merit sequels. They haven't yet made it onto a bestseller list. Moreover, I write historical fiction, which isn't necessarily associated with series in the world of YA publishing (unless you're a bestseller). To be able to convince a publisher to buy my historical series, even one that involves monsters or ghosts, my books would need a stellar debut.

My novels have sold well, largely because of library sales, awards, and word of mouth (thank you librarians, award committees, and readers!), but those types of sales, while wonderful, are more gradual, less flashy. The chances of my books "breaking out" and achieving bestseller status are much slimmer than the odds for novels with major publicity budgets supporting them.

I do often consider writing sequels. In fact, I've written the first chapter of a sequel for In the Shadow of Blackbirds, but I quickly tucked it away, realizing I'd put my protagonist through enough in the first book. I preferred to leave her story on a note of hope.

I've thought about writing a sequel to The Cure for Dreaming set ten years after that novel ends, but that particular book, despite gathering a strong feminist following, has been my least successful one financially. It would be a struggle to convince anyone to publish a second book.

I have proposed the idea of an Odd & True sequel to my agent, but again it all comes down to sales. I don't yet know how Odd & True will do. Right now it's safer if I write another standalone and put the idea of a sequel on the back burner.

I'm certainly not the only author in this situation. I've talked to novelists whose publishers originally asked for a three-book series, but sales for the first books were so low (there are many factors that contribute to both high and low book sales) that the series were cut after the first or second book, sometimes leaving readers with dangling cliffhangers.

Yes, self-publishing the second or third book is an option, but when writing is an author's full-time job that puts food on the table, taking a year off to write a book with no publisher backing it is equivalent to you working your job for free for a year, with the hope that someone might pay you eventually.

What can you as a reader do to help your favorite authors release their series? For starters, buy the authors' books. Pre-order sales are crucial to a book's success; they count for bestseller lists. If you can't afford to pre-order, then request the books from your local library.  Library orders do help immensely. And leave reviews for books on online ordering sites like Amazon.

Don't stock up on free ARCs (advance reading copies) if you don't have the means to promote your reviews to a wide audience (see this Twitter thread from bookseller Nicole Brinkley and this thread from Justina Ireland for more info on this subject). Most importantly, don't download free books from sites offering illegal copies. Every time you do so, you're decreasing your favorite authors' chances of being able to continue writing more books.

Publishers look carefully at sales, and if an author's books aren't selling well enough, even though the books are popular in the online community, the publisher may stop buying the author's books or at the very least lower their advances.

The bottom line: publishing is a challenging business, and competition is fierce. Becoming a published author does not guarantee that every book an author wants to write will get published.

If I do decide to create more Odd & True books, and if the first novel does find success, I will certainly share that news as soon as I can. Until then, rest assured Odd & True can stand on its own.

More info on the Secret Project to follow. I think fans of dark literature will be excited about the subject matter . . .

Odd & True is coming 
Sept. 12, 2017, from Abrams.


1 comment:

Carina Olsen said...

Hugs. <3 Thank you for sharing this lovely post Cat. I do want sequels to all your books, hih :) But I fully understand why this might not be possible. Aw. But I still have hope it might happen one day. <3 Because your books are amazing and your writing is stunning and I really hope more people will realize that soon :D I love your books and you and I love supporting you. <3