Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Self vs Trad Publishing: 5 Reasons to Continue a Failing Series

Since Jeffe's post hits all the big differences between traditional and self-publishing, I'm going to focus on one segment of it: Writing a Series

Disclaimer: I'm not traditionally published, I'm not a hybrid. I'm fully in the self-published camp.

In my genre of Fantasy, readers have a Big Thing about series being completed. They get quite peeved when the series doesn't wrap up in a timely manner. Don't get me wrong, some are willing to wait the 18-24 months trad publishing requires to get the next book; hell they'll even forgive a date slip. One slip. But boy, oh boy, oh boy do they get pissed when the series just...stops. There are many who won't start a series until it's completed because they've been burned so often.

From the creative perspective, the author usually knows whether they're writing a series or a standalone. Whether the series is a duology, trilogy, or the neverending story, the author usually has an idea. That idea is not always shared by the publisher.

Thing is, many new-author trad-publisher contracts are for two books. Sink or swim. 30 days (or really a mere two weeks) to show ROI for the publisher. If the books don't sell well out of the gate, there will be no third book. The contract determines whether the author has the right to continue the series on their own. 

Why would an author continue a series that a publisher deemed a bust?

Same reasons a self-published author continues a series that hasn't paid off yet. Here are my Top 5:

  1. We love the series. We personally love the world, the characters, the plots. We know where the story is going and can't wait to get there. Books of the heart, as some would call it.
  2. We know finding an audience takes time, a lot more time than a publisher is willing to give. It's not uncommon to hear of series that didn't take off for three to five years after release.
  3. We control our backlists, so our books never have to go out of "print." We also control our marketing cycles, so we know when to push and when to throttle back. We have our hands on sales and marketing data, so again, we know what to push and when.
  4. Our business models aren't built around shelflife. We don't assume that once we lose the endcap at Target, that our sales are done. (Hell, most of us don't get placement in any brick and mortar store ever.) Sure, grabbing the Top 10 slot on Amazon or B&N is amazing, but it's not a business model. It's simply a marker.
  5. Our fans demand closure. The last thing we want to do is piss off our loyal readership. We rely on them to come with us from book to book, series to series, genre to genre. We're constantly looking to gain readers, not lose them. The fastest way to lose them is to leave them hanging. 
Now, the theoretical benefit of trad publishing a series is eyeballs and accolades. The risk is getting to finish that series.