Sequel Power! by Debbie Bennett

//Sequel Power! by Debbie Bennett

After contending with Amazon’s ruthless removal of ebook reviews that don’t follow its bizarre terms & conditions, independent authors publishing on Amazon now have to deal with the apparently random removal of the “like” button and the ability to tag books with meaningful keywords.

It probably doesn’t mean much to authors who have published with traditional publishers. And in reality it probably doesn’t mean much to independent writers either, but it did feel like we had a modicum of control, an ability to influence a book’s rise or fall – when done in the correct manner of course. I “like” books I actually do like and I add tags where appropriate. I try to review when I can and leave a balanced and fair comment.

Amazon certainly seems to have levelled the playing field over recent months. Almost all the writers I know have noticed a significant fall-off in sales and are subsequently sliding into oblivion on Amazon’s ranking system. Does it matter? Well, we don’t have a “shop front” in which to display our goods and most of us can’t afford to hire publicists, so often end up resorting to paid adverts, reviews, free promotions – and facebook and twitter. The latter two are, of course, just ways of procrastinating, when what we really should be doing to sell books is write more books!

I see posts on facebook where writers claim they can get a book out in a couple of months. Really? A whole novel? Properly edited and interesting to read? I find that hard to believe. It took me two years to get my latest thriller out – eighteen months of writing and six months of editing/beta reading etc. I have a day job too, plus I freelance for a publisher and run a house and family. I could have got it out quicker, but would it achieve anything to publish something that isn’t ready? Books (mine anyway) need time to mature and settle – it’s only then you can get the distance to see the bits that aren’t earning their keep.

So should you write sequels? Many authors do it very successfully and in crime and thriller territory it can work well, especially if the focus is a detective, journalist, forensic specialist or other person on the periphery of the action. To have your main character as a professional in his or her field requires an intimate knowledge of that work area which is often gained only by having done the job yourself or having close contacts; it’s near-impossible to achieve that level of authenticity via Wikipedia and Google alone. But if your characters are ordinary people thrown into extraordinary situations, a sequel becomes that much harder – how many crises can one person suffer in their lifetime? I could never understand why any (fictional) person would ever want to live in Midsomer, considering the number of people who get murdered there!

I’ve written two books now about Michael, an eighteen year-old finding it harder and harder to stay on the right side of the law. People want more, but realistically I’m not sure there is anywhere else I can take him where he hasn’t already been and back again. It’d just be rehashing the same plots and that’s cheating, in my view. Or else I’d have to go further, darker and deeper into plotlines and that’s territory I’m uncomfortable with. Yet familiarity is often what the readers want and it can be difficult to come up with “the same but new” every time. But I’m working on it. It might take a year to come up with a new twist, or it might never happen at all. Maybe it’s time to come up with some new ideas instead? Find a new person to throw problems at and see how long it takes me to upset his or her life. Such fun!

Debbie’s new thriller Paying The Piper is out now at amazon and other ebook retailers and will be out in paperback in a few weeks.


One Comment

  1. Marj 18/02/2013 at 10:29 pm

    I agree with you about those books written in a couple of months. A few might be good, ‘Six Weeks’ by Jessica Degarmo is good, but most are poor. They tend to be trite, with plot holes a mile wide, non engaging, and sometimes with far too many errors (usually politely called ‘typos.’)

    And I still wait hopefully for the final one in a Michael trilogy. I want him to come out decisively on top. Happy to wait a year if that’s what it takes. 🙂

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