|Celebrating the joy of Sherlock Holmes with BBC Radio Gloucestershire earlier this year (Photo: Dominic Cotter)|
A great way for authors to build readership and to enamour loyal fans is to write series of books about popular characters and settings. It's much easier to sell stories about familiar heroes and heroines than to persuade readers to try new ones.
As the author of the first in a proposed series of seven Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries, I have naturally been happy to learn of easy marketing tactics to sell series:
- You can offer the first in the series at a reduced price to get the reader sufficiently hooked to buy the rest at full market price.
- Even better, if you're marketing ebooks (and most indie authors, like me, will make the bulk of their sales in digital form), you can even offer the first in the series for free, because you have no production costs to cover once you've set up the digital file.
- Then there are the prequels you can use as mailing list magnets or special offer giveaways, and the seasonal specials. (I'm currently planning Murder in the Manger for my Christmas release.)
- You might even run to spin-off series about subsidiary characters. (I'm thinking of the back story of Great Auntie May, who has died before my first novel, Best Murder in Show, even begins.)
Acquiring the Habit
I sometimes refer to marketing series as "the drug-pusher's tactic", because all authors of series hope their readers will become addicted.
But there's a downside too: you may end up enslaved to your readers, obliged to keep churning out stories about the same old characters, when you hunger to move on to new territory. After all, there are only so many books we can write in this life, no matter how many thousands of words a day we can set down. (And there are some authors out there who claim somestartlingly productive daily habits.)
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, weary of writing about Sherlock Holmes, with some relish pushed him over the edge of the Reichenbach Falls, Switzerland, in "The Final Problem". Baying fans enforced his return, however, and he carried on solving crimes for another twenty-five years.
- M C Beaton, now in her eighties, is still contractually bound to write one new Hamish Macbeth novel and another Agatha Raisin one every single year, and there are plenty of readers who will automatically buy each new one as it comes out, or even preorder it prior to publication date, because they can't wait to return to their next fix of their favourite characters.
|Having fun with M C Beaton at the Nailsworth Festival a few years ago|
Of course, it's early days yet for me, having published just the first book of my proposed series so far. I'm still at the honeymoon stage of loving my characters (hero and heroine are aspiring author Sophie Sayers and bookseller Hector Munro) and my setting (Wendlebury Barrow, a small Cotswold village similar to the one in which I live in real life). Every time I sit down to edit Trick or Murder?, the second in the series, I feel a warm rush of comfort like plunging into a hot bubble bath.
|The beginning of a journey with the Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries|
One of my male readers told me he loves Sophie Sayers so much he wants to meet her. Female readers seem to fall in love with Hector Munro, and I confess I rather fancy him myself.
Early reviewers are already saying that they can't wait for the next one. A neighbour even told me I'm not allowed out of the house till book two's finished.
At this rate, my writing arm won't need much twisting to launch into books eight and nine and ten...
But watch this space: you never know, a few years down the line I may be buying Sophie Sayers a one-way ticket to Switzerland...
Other Book Series That I Love Reading
Celia Boyd's English Civil War "Reason From the Stars" series, starting with First Dry Rattle
Anita Davison's Flora Maguire historical mysteries, starting with Flora's Secret
David Ebsworth's Spanish Civil War mysteries, starting with The Assassin's Mark
Rosalind Minett's WWII Relative Invasion series, starting with Intrusion
Alison Morton's Roma Nova alternative history series, starting with Inceptio
David Penny's Thomas Berrington historical mysteries, starting with The Red Hill
Dorothy L Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey classic detective stories, starting with Whose Body?
And here's the first of the Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries, Best Murder in Show
|I'm hoping this will leave you wanting more...|
For more information about Debbie Young,
visit her website www.authordebbieyoung.com,
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or track her on Twitter at @DebbieYoungBN.