Monday, November 21, 2011

Spacing Books

melodi2 4.25pmI recently found out that I’ll be writing a fourth Memphis Barbeque book. Good news! I'm really excited about spending more time with Lulu.

The tricky part was figuring out when I can deliver the manuscript to Penguin.

I’ve got the second book for the Southern Quilting series due in May (book one, Quilt or Innocence debuts in June 2012).

I also have a project I was working on independently. Let’s just say that that’s the one that’s now been put off until probably late summer of next year.

I’ve found that I can comfortably write three books a year. That’s just without me completely freaking out about deadlines and promo.

I was a little nervous about setting a deadline for the Memphis book that was too close to the Quilting series book. Although in that amount of time, I should be able to write a couple of books, sometimes life (holidays, kids, boring-but-essential stuff) knocks me a little off-track.

My editor for the Memphis series brought up a very good point to my agent—production time. Production time is really what’s trouble in publishing. There’s marketing and covers and catalogs and it all takes time. Usually, it takes about a year.

So I just had a release November 1, which was the third book in the Memphis Barbeque series. If I turned the book over to Penguin in, let’s say, October 2012 (which would be a piece of cake for me to make) …it would be another year for the book to launch. An October 2013 release…and the last book came out November 2011. Nearly two years between books. No. Not a good idea.

Obviously, keeping that in mind, I bumped up the time that I agreed to deliver it by. And I’m hoping that I can hand it in earlier than I'm contracted for because I immediately got what seemed like a really solid idea for the book and several different angles to work the mystery. In fact, I started making some real progress on it and had to stop and switch back to the other book (which is due first.)

On the reader end of things, lag time between books can be frustrating. My son was fussing about one of his favorite authors who is writing two series at once and how long it was between his releases. “Can’t he write faster?” he complained.

It made me wince. I explained to him that an author can write really quickly and still have a long period of time between books, especially if he had more than one series. There’s such a thing as quality control, too.

But then my mother pointed out that I just released a Myrtle Clover book, myself…the first one since 2009. That was a two-year gap, too. Sales have been brisk for Progressive Dinner Deadly, but—I believe most of the readers are new to the series. In fact, I’ve noticed a decided uptick in the sales for the 2009 Pretty is as Pretty Dies as a result.

I think I’ve come to the conclusion that you might sacrifice some of your old readers if you have too much space between books…although, with the right promotion, you may pick up new readers willing to read the books out of order.

With that in mind, I think it must be very important to write books as stand-alones if you’re going to have long spaces between them. The spacing with the next Memphis book won't be that long, but I'm still planning to make sure no one gets completely lost when they read it.

How far apart do you space your books? As a reader, when do you start looking for a new release in a favorite series?

Please remember I'm giving away a 1000-word critique from The Bookshelf Muse. Just send an email to me at elizabethspanncraig (at)gmail (dot) com with “contest” in the subject to enter. Entries accepted through November 21. The randomly-chosen winner will be announced here November 22. Thanks, Angela and Becca!}