When readers reached the epilogue in Cajun Kiss of Death, my 7th Cajun Country Mystery, they realized it was the last book in the series. Many emailed me to share their sadness about the series’ demise. I thanked them and shared that I was sad too. While sometimes authors make the choice to end a series, often the choice is out of their hands. This got me thinking…
Publishing is a business. And like most retail businesses, sales determine the future of a product. Besides buy books – and bless everyone who pulls out a credit card or library card to claim one of our tomes — if we love a series, what else can we do to make sure it thrives and is evergreen? How do we save a series from this…
And turn it into this…
For thoughts on this topic, I reached out to four author friends who like me have had a series go to the Resting Shelf in the Sky: Leslie Karst, Daryl Wood Gerber, Sherry Harris, and Edith Maxwell/Maddie Day. Read on for the wonderful conversation that ensued…
LESLIE: Write reviews on Goodreads and Amazon! Even if it’s only “I loved this book!” Because the number of reviews counts as much as what’s in them. Talk about the author on social media. Did you enjoy the book? Say so! Are you excited she has a new book coming out? Say so! Do you love her new cover? Say so! (And share it!) Ask your local library to buy your favorite authors’ books. Ask your local bookstore to stock them. (And note that my Sally Solari series, which was dropped by my publisher two years ago, has now been picked up by a new publisher! No. 5 in the series, The Fragrance of Death, will be released by Severn House this coming August!)
DARYL: My two cents: Word of mouth matters. That’s what Leslie is saying. We authors need our reading fans to tell people about our work. That means write reviews. Post an Instagram of you reading your author’s book. Post pictures of your favorite authors’ books. Share, share, share. If you talk to a bookstore, ask if the author could do a virtual event with the store and maybe send bookmarks to those who attend. Pre-order. This is major in making sure a series gets picked up. Right now, my publisher is looking at pre-sales trying to decide whether to pick up the next Fairy Garden Mystery. Pre-sales show enthusiasm!
EDITH: Yes, all of that. I always say to fans that a short positive review anywhere (everywhere) means so much to the author. Also, word of mouth can take many forms. Church newsletters. Book groups. Interest groups, whether it’s gardening, bicycling, knitting, baking, heck, even Quakers! The main point is to share, share, share. I love it when a fan snaps a photo of themself with my book or takes a shot of my book “in the wild” in a bookstore or on the New Books table in their library. Even better when they share the picture with everyone they know.
As Daryl said, pre-orders are huge. Readers don’t have to order from the yellow giant. Pre-orders from any independent bookstore count. And they mean so much for a publisher trying to decide whether to renew a series contract.
DARYL: I love Edith’s idea of mentioning books to other groups…even Quakers. Our readers are diverse. They come from all walks of life. They belong to churches, sororities, the DAR. They have the ability to tell lots more people than we do about our books. Yes, they might be one of the rare few who read 300 books a year (and mentioning 300 books would be daunting), but if they’re more like us and read 30-50 books a year, they could mention those favorites to their groups. Start a book club with one of our books. We’ll Skype or Zoom with them. A friend of mine recently recommended my book to her local newspaper’s book reviewer. A small paper I would never have thought to contact. The reviewer then reached out to me for a quote and reviewed the book. How cool was that? A new audience for sure.
SHERRY: Daryl is so right that we are willing to Zoom, Skype or even meet in person if it’s safe. I just met with a book group in Florida and we had so much fun talking about writing and books. Sign up for an author’s newsletter, follow them on social media. If you have a blog or podcast don’t be shy about asking an author to do a blog post or interview for you. I can be reluctant to ask but always appreciate being asked.
And like everyone said photos of books and recommending books is very helpful. When I put out the news that my Sarah Winston Garage Sale mysteries series was canceled a woman started a campaign to get people to write the publisher to ask for more books. It was lovely.
DARYL: Sherry, it’s so true that if readers would start campaigns, that could really help authors. I know a couple of authors who have street teams that readers created to help them foster their books. Readers created it. Not authors. That is invaluable. They promote. They do giveaways. They do all the PR the author feels she should do but just doesn’t have the time to do because she’s writing books!
SHERRY: Excellent point! Readers also help those of us who are shy about PR and feel like we are always shouting, “buy my book, buy my book.” No one likes that, but it does help. I saw an author ask on social media to buy her book so the publisher would pick up the second one and it worked. The author was renewed. The message is really “read my book” and “talk about by book” and “thank you so much for helping.”
ELLEN: Promotion does fall into our own laps these days. I joke that I have two careers: Ellen Byron, author; and Ellen Byron, Marketing Director for Ellen Byron Author. My discomfort with self-promotion led to me owning it through my Shameless Shilling campaigns for my releases.
LESLIE: It’s SOOOO hard to promote yourself. Ugh. I know some authors who have street teams, and it seems like a great idea. But then again, you have to ask folks to be on your street team (unless you’re lucky enough to have readers do it on their own), which brings you once again back to selling yourself.
ELLEN: A simple way readers and fellow authors can help a series is by sharing the posts we create to sell ourselves. Sharing posts taps into a potential readership beyond our own base and that growth can extend the life of a series.
EDITH/MADDIE: Julie Hennrikus, aka Julia Henry, always says social media is ninety percent about others and ten percent about yourself. Share, retweet, and share some more!
DARYL: For those of us who are PR shy, it’s hard to always sell. It just feels fake at times. We want to write. We all wish we had a magical PR fairy to take care of our promotion. But, alas, PR fairies don’t exist. Other fairies do. 😉
Thank you all so much for weighing in with your incredibly helpful thoughts! Readers, do you have any ideas to add on how to help a series thrive? Any questions for us?