Friday, April 20, 2012

Series Books and Shorter Books

It is no secret that readers seem to prefer series titles nowadays, falling in love w/franchise characters who they can't seem to get enough of. Some publishers are signing authors to more series deals, i.e. this link Karen Fox posts on recent deals - ( Deals - click romance deals) - and unlike years ago when an author's titles would be released annually, the trend now is to release every six months, sometimes sooner. And a lot of these titles are actually novellas, approximately 30k+ words, so authors are writing a 70k+ word books and cutting them in half - releasing half as part 1, the other half as part 2, and so on. Another trend is anthologies, authors coming together to write shorter stories together that add up to the 70k+ word count. It's almost as if most authors are making less money with the ebooks so we either write more titles to keep up, or write shorter titles for the same money.

Just further evidence of this ever changing world of publishing we live in. Gotta give the people what they want, but also be true to our characters, and to our livelihoods.

Your thoughts?


KeVin K. said...

When writing in a shared universe as I have everything is part of a series. But they aren't just interested in the stars of the series - if you introduce new characters readers are always interested in learning more about them. A series of short stories, novellas, or novels establishes a long-term relationship with readers. I've been very fortunate that members of the BattleCorps fiction site embraced my Chaos Irregulars series. (In the constant combat of the BattleTech universe, the CI are a third-rate company working hard to be a second-rate company.) Interacting with the readers has been one of my favorite experiences as a writer.

However, breaking a longer work into pieces to earn more money is not fair to the readers. I think I recall C.J. Cherryh saying she was not happy with her publisher's decision to release her longish novel Cyteen as three shorter novels - I think this was SOP for longer works back when novels averaged 60k or less.

That said, one of my novels - Dragons of Despair - had to be published as two serials (Dragons of Despair and Djinn of Despair) but that was not a marketing decision. The license WizKids, the property owner, had granted InMediaRes, the publisher, restricted them to works of 40k and under. They had to break my 79k novel into two sections released far enough apart to not be obviously together. (And for six months readers thought I'd written a story with a really weak ending.)

I think any writer would be wise to consider multi-novel arcs for characters they want to keep working with. Odds are readers will want to come along for the ride.

Marissa Monteilh said...

Thanks KeVin,

I do agree that readers will want to come along for the ride, novel, novella or not, if they enjoy the story. I enjoyed your example of what happened w/Dragons of Despair. We all have the carefully thought out discussions about what will bring the reader back, and in what formats. I didn't want to give the impression that breaking stories into novellas is a way to bottom-line get more money from readers unfairly. I was communicating the trend to release shorter works - it does come down to giving the readers what they want and not overcharging them to fatten our pockets. When we do consider a release, paying careful attention to what to charge fairly does matters, and some 90k word ebooks are $.99, so I do think readers get the lower priced options more than ever nowadays. In that case, we are charging less/making less in some cases. That's a reality.

In particular, given the short nature of the popular novellas, some want to build an audience by delivering a continuation of storylines much more than the traditional once a year seems to do. Readers wants titles faster and if we're writing 80k word books faster, we will burn out. That's another reason why I mentioned anthologies - teaming up, yet still delivering.

As with C.J,. Cherryh, she made a decision based on her opinions about breaking up her book, but I can see her publisher wanting to go with the trend, taking a shot at what seems to be working, though that doesn't mean it's right for everyone, or that it's guaranteed to work.

Times are changing and the greatest hope is that readers will indeed come back for more - trend or traditional.