I’ve been asked many times why I’ve delayed finishing up either of my first two series. I’ve tried to answer folks directly on this, but my answers often felt short (mostly because of time) and seemed incomplete. With a newly planned series launch coming soon, I thought this would be a good time to cover in some detail many of the reasons why I’ve so delayed these two final releases. With this, I also thought it might be useful for readers to understand a crazy author’s reasoning (at least this one’s) when it comes to choosing which book to launch next. In other words, here’s my best attempt to explain away, my deadbeat tendencies.
Okay, I’ve done it twice now! I’ve ended the last book (so far) in a series with a cliffhanger. Worse yet, I’ve left readers hanging for a long time: as one reader just pointed out, it’s been two years since CICADA (Stone Age Book #4) was released. And I know because of this, I’m persona non grata to a lot of readers. In many ways, I can’t blame them. It’s almost as bad as a TV series that draws you in, drops the cliffhanger at the season finale, but then cancels the damned series before it’s been wrapped up with a tidy conclusion. I hate that!
Fear not those of you whom are patient, I have every intention of completing the last book in each series. I just don’t know when exactly.
So why not just do it now?
There are many reasons why I haven’t finished them, and why I know it will be a bit longer before I do. Here are a few, in their order of importance.
Success of the Last Book
This is by far the greatest contributer to whether or not the next book gets released. If the last book sells really well, it changes everything for an author. When I released Highway, as a complete novel, I wasn’t sure if I’d write a sequel, even though there was a lot more of the story left to tell. Still, learning from my experiences with STONE AGE, I left it in a good place: a solid ending, but open for the next chapter. My thinking then was, if the book was successful, I’d move forward with the sequels; if it didn’t, I could move on to the next story (and there are so many) that needed to be told. Highway, it turned out, sold really well and even won awards. So naturally I moved onto the sequel. When I wrote Endurance, I fully expected to get to work on the final book in the trilogy. Unfortunately, Endurance did not sell well. When this happened, I had to consider what it meant. You see, I really believe in the marketplace. Maybe readers were telling me that this book was not that interesting, or at least could have been better. Perhaps, I took the series in the wrong direction. Or was the market telling me to do something different? Could it be the storyline was lacking? Could the characters have been better? It all made me wonder, even though the reviews were good, did this book actually suck? Regardless, I had to reconsider my next move and not launch Resistance (the working title of the last book) until I examined this a little more closely.
Please don’t think writing books is all about the money. It’s not. In fact, if I were independantly wealthy, I’d still write books. I absolutely love writing! But because I am not wealthy, and because I’m self-publishing my books, which means I have to completely underwrite a book’s cost from start to finish, I have to seriously weigh which book I’m going to invest my time and money into next. This is what publishers do. And as a business owner, it’s what I must do as well.
Most readers don’t realize the substantal investment of time and money that goes into the production of just one book. Although, its obvious (from what I’ve seen on Amazon) that many indie authors don’t invest much money in their book’s production, I do. Between cover artists, editors, proofreaders, formatters, audio narrrators/producers, book copies, book-launch marketing, etc., it costs me upwards of $5000 to launch one new book. And that doesn’t include the couple hundred hours of time invested in writing it. If that book doesn’t sell well, it would be foolish to just roll into the next book in the series, without considering alternatives. That’s what happend with both CICADA (the last book—so far—in the Stone Age Series) and Endurance.
Take a step back
When CICADA didn’t sell very well, even though STONE AGE and DESOLATION sold phenomenally well, I wanted to take a step back and reconsider the series and my approach to it. Sometimes it’s just not the right time to finish the story. And with STONE AGE, I really wanted to get it right. So I thought it better to put the story aside—it wasn’t going anywhere—and pick it up at a later date, when I could do the best job possible.
Try something new
Often a new story or a new way to approach a story hits me, and so I decide to try something new. This is what happened with HELL’S REQUIEM. I had the concept in my mind (a story driven by music) for a while. Plus, I wanted to add something to the STONE AGE Series codex for those who wanted more and as a lead in to the final book. But I still wasn’t ready to complete the final book. I had been writing this story (HELL’S REQUIEM) for over a year, and it seemed like a good time to finish it up, and see how it might do on Amazon. For me, it was sort of a test-drive again for the STONE AGE Series storyline to project how the final book might do. Unfortunately, it too didn’t sell as well as I had hoped. And so I decided to focus all of my writing energy on the next story, and put STONE AGE aside for a while longer.
One of the things I’ve learned as an independent author, is that if you don’t put out fresh content you will be forgotten. There are just too many other excellent authors with great stories to tell, who are all vying for readership. So if I hope to not fade away into obscurity, I have to produce, and for me that means doing something different. The good news is that I have already rough-outlined nearly 100 different books and/or series’, all of which are just waiting to be written. All of these stories are unique, and would be something I would want to read (my biggest metric for deciding if it’s write-worthy). The bad news… to dive into a new story means something else has to take a back seat: in other words, finishing up either of my two current series will have to wait.
Sometimes the market has changed, and so a self-publisher’s strategy must change as well. I’ve heard the book market compared to a target that’s constantly moving. I’d even add that the target is always changing too.
It used to be satisfactory for an author to drop one book every six to twelve months, and that would generate enough activity (sales and readership) to keep an author focused on one book at a time. But that model is gone for most indie authors now. In addition to staying fresh, it appears that it’s often necessary to release each book of a series much more rapidly to attract the attention of the majority of the currently binge-needy readership (think Kindle Unlimited). This is where I am right now, with my newest three book series (If successful, there maybe six). I’ve been working on this for more than a year now, I’ve done a ton of research, and I’ll be doing some more in November. I’ve already written the first of the three books, I’m working now on the second, and the third is outlined and ready to write. The plan is to release two of the three books at the same time, but only when the third one (and therefore the completion of the trilogy) is written and ready (other than final editing). This method seems to work well for apocalyptic fiction, and I certainly want to give this newest series the greatest chance of success possible. Yet, regardless of the success of this series, it will have finality. No indefinite cliffhangers… I promise! Of course, the big draw back to this method is that there is a long period between book launches, especially with my time for writing being so limited.
Not My Full-Time Endeavor
Here’s my biggest challenge when it comes to writing books: I have a very limited number of hours to apply to the craft of writing, along with the process of producing and marketing my books. During most workdays, I run a couple businesses full time, with all the commitments that entails: managing staff, payroll, and juggling lots of expenses. Just as I’m sure many of you would love to read books full time; I’d love to write them full time. I’m not quite there yet, even though that is my goal. So with a limited amount of time available to me, I have to be very selective about what project will garner all of my creative-writing-juju.
There are other lesser issues which may cause me to delay the release of the next book, which I haven’t really covered here, but they are considerations: needing more time to get a book done because of its complexity; loosing the passion for the story—if I’m not interested, it will come out in my writing; the story needs more research; I’ve made other commitments for writing/releases; and a few others.
So When Will You Finish?
When I wrote my first book, STONE AGE, I never thought past that book. When it became such a success, I pressed forward to write the sequel, DESOLTIAON. To be honest, I had no idea what I was doing. I had just found my passion for writing. I was trying to learn everything about writing and self-publishing, while I attempted to balance it with running other businesses. It was never my intention to leave readers with a cliffhanger (twice), and if I had known all of these considerations then, I would have surely done it different.
What does all this mean to you, my reader, who might be considering what book to buy or not buy next? And, of course I’ve still left unanswered the big question: when will I finish these two series? I wish I could give you a definitive answer, but I cannot. I’m reminded of what Michelangelo said when the Pope kept asking him when he’d finish the Sistine Chapel ceiling. His answer was simply, “When I am finished!”
I’m no Michelangelo; not by any stretch of my imagination. His point was that his work would be “finished” when it was perfect in his mind, and not a moment before this.
So, I offer this promise: I will finish both series’, and when I am finished they will be the best books I can possibly put out, and hopefully worthy of the long wait. I’m not promising you a Sistine-Chapel-levels of perfection (who can?), but they will be exciting and satisfying conclusions. Until then, I can only ask that you be patient with me and enjoy what books come next. I can assure you, a lot of thought and planning went into each one.
As always, thanks for reading!