Essay–The “Collection” Problem
Dear reader: I want you to take a chance on these 6 stories which are all less than novel length. Two are novelettes, the rest novellas. I hope you understand and give them a chance.
So here’s an interesting conundrum. I, like many authors, write short works. I don’t believe in writing door-stops. Perhaps it’s because I’m not that great at putting together mammoth plots or feel I need to drag out a story just for word count. Maybe it’s because I dislike reading them for the same reasons.
Either way, it presents a marketing problem. Garaaga’s Children, for instance, is a mammoth series spanning thousands of years of history. And yet, the current works in the series are only 110k words for 6 stories. What I attempted to do for the first installment was separate them into e-books that were isolated by time period. This meant “The Last Hunter” and “Keepers” were collected in a volume called Legends. Lovers, Interlopers, and Scrolls were all presented as stand-alone novellas. Ama has yet to even be published.
Why is this? Because I wasn’t sure how else to put them together. Last year I launched Garaaga’s Children: Ancients which was a limited edition hardcover. This was my second entry into hardcover land and I seriously doubt I’ll ever do it again. But that’s another blog post.
Garaaga’s Children should be selling like hotcakes. An “evil” god, haunted protagonists, and succubi/incubi running amuck through ancient history? Seems like that would definitely catch a reader’s eye and drive them insane with book-lust.
But what I keep hearing is this: no one wants a collection. They want a series that has multiple books, one story-line per book, repeat characters, and for everything to be nice and neat. Sorry. That’s not how this series is put together and it’s definitely not something I’m interested in revising just to satisfy the market.
So what can I do, fair reader, to get you to purchase these tales, spread the word, and write reviews? Well, that’s the trillion dollar question, now isn’t it?
The artwork is terrible for the first e-book in the series. I know that now. The artwork for the other books? Very well done. But I’ve been told over and over again that those covers do no justice to the stories within. They do not catch the eye of readers of dark fantasy. The titles? Same thing. Blurbs? Eek. I suck at them.
This is the year of re-branding everything I’ve previously published. It’s not an easy nor inexpensive task. It costs money for new artwork, new layouts, and new everything. It just does. But will it be worthwhile?
What I am going to do is keep the idea of “collections,” but make them larger. Ancients consists of four stories from the human perspective, and two from the perspective of Garaaga’s spawn. So I’m going to split them accordingly.
Yes, it will make the timelines somewhat inconsistent, but who cares if it helps the stories sell? This is a series I’m damned proud of. I think they’re the best tales I’ve ever written. They are the culmination of nearly four years of work and most of my readers love them.
The e-book “revolution” has some faults. Serious ones. The advent of “free” stories out there has so polluted the streams that it’s nearly impossible for a single author to stand out. You are found more by accident or the right keywords. Or if you’re in bed with Amazon, which I refuse to do. KDP Select? Screw that. My readers should be able to purchase and read my work from whatever market they choose and on whatever device they choose. Yes, it’s an ethical decision. Probably not a smart one, but I refuse to sacrifice those ideals for money.
So trade paperbacks plus e-books plus audio-books is how I’m going to roll from now on. More expenses, more marketing, more blurbs, more artwork, blah blah blah. But what else am I supposed to do?
Perspective readers: please take a chance on something different. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. But there are many well-written books out there that are NOT doorstops. I hope mine fit in that category.
Stephen King wrote in the foreword for Different Seasons that he wrote those novellas fearing they’d never be published because they were novellas. But, he’s Stephen f’ing King and his publisher grabbed them as a collection and put them out there. Instant bestseller, as per usual. Strangely enough, I think two of those stories, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, and The Body, are also his best writing.
So those books, those tales, would today be sold as separate novellas in e-book form before being collected in a full book, if he wasn’t, of course, Stephen King. The market has changed and so has reading. But it doesn’t matter if you can’t be found.
Writers need to find what works to bring in readers. I’m obviously still figuring it out. But one day, dammit, I will. And then we’ll see if I can get some reviews that’ll bring more people in. Perhaps one day, I can resign my tech job and write full time. Well, one can dream, can’t he?