Friday, March 25, 2016
Sequels: The Good, The Bad, & The Great!
I have written some Book Two's and I am writing a couple of Book Three's. Here are some things I have learned by doing so.
A Book Two doesn't sell as many copies as Book One. Think about it. Not everybody is going to like the first book well enough to buy the second one. Sometimes they may even buy the first book and it will sit in their Kindle library waiting to be read until eventually it is forgotten. I have a few of these in my Kindle now that for some reason I just have not gotten to. Sometimes they start reading the first one and get side-tracked and never even finish the first book. You may have a few people buy the second book without reading the first one but that just doesn't happen that often. So if the first book in the series hasn't sold many copies then the odds are the second one won't sell many either.
However, sometimes a second book may spur sales of the first one, leading to more sales of book one and eventually sales of the second book. I saw this happen with Jane (sequel to Jade). When Jane published, all of a sudden I sold as many copies of Jade in that first month of Jane's release as I had in the six months previous. That's a nice bonus. Still, if I look at total sales of Jade & Jane, Jade (Book One) has sold almost double the units compared to Jane (Book Two). I have a little better Book Two numbers in my second series (Norma Jean's School of Witchery), where I have sold almost 70% as many copies of Book Two as Book One. I also had an increase in Book One (Jewel) sales when Book Two (Ghost School) published.
Of course, publishing anything new should (hopefully) help the sales of your previous books. I even see a good bit of crossover from one series to another with a lot of people reading one series and then going on to read the other one.
It's easier to write a sequel than to come up with a completely new set of characters and story line. The world you have created along with your main character as well as some of your minor characters have already been introduced, it is just a matter of writing a new adventure. What I have found is that it is a good idea to go back and read the first book and make some notes so you don't embarrass yourself by getting characters mixed up or even bringing back a character you killed off already (too funny). Making a character list with the names and a brief description is a good thing to do before starting that next book. In Jade, I had named a character after one of my friends, killed him off, brought him back in the same book under his pen name, and killed him off again. Then in Jane, I brought him back as an anagram, and even let him live. If you kill off a lot of characters, it's probably a good idea to make a list. When my editing team reviewed Ghost School, they found one character that started as female and later somehow had become a male. My memory is not perfect and I learn as I continue to write. Making a document with some brief character notes as you write your book is something I will do on-going.
The cover art is easier with a Book Two. Your cover artist can match the style of the first book and they look really good together. This helps with promotion and marketing of your series. You have a built in fan base of those that have read the first book so you are guaranteed at least some initial sales of your sequel and those sales will come quickly upon your release and in bunches. That's the great part.
I would love to hear about your experience with sequels and what you may have learned during that process. Be sure and leave a comment!