Where Is (Insert Book Title Here)?

Hardly a day, or week, goes by where I don’t get an email asking “Where is …?” followed by one of the following:

  • “the next WhiteSpace?”
  • Available Darkness: Season Three?”
  • ForNevermore: Season Two?”
  • “the second Monstrous book?”

YesterdaysGoneSeason6-med-682x1024It’s a great problem to have — people liking our stories enough to be waiting for the next one to come out. But it’s still a problem, in that people are waiting patiently for a book we’ve not yet gotten to. And when we don’t write a book in whatever time frame they think we should, readers can take offense, or think you’ve given up on the project.

But it’s not as simple as Sean and I sitting down and writing (insert book title here). No, there’s a lot that goes into deciding which book to write next, so I wanted to explain here so you can appreciate some of the difficulties that go with running a small publishing house.

Rather than respond to every comment or email individually, as I have been doing for the past couple of years, I’ve decided hey, why not just put up a webpage and save myself some time AND have a handy resource for Collective Inkwell readers to bookmark?

So, first an explanation on timing of when we write or release a book.

There are several factors that go into which book Sean and I will write next.

  • How well we think a book will sell to our existing audience (i.e., what most of our readers want the most).
  • How much we want to write that particular story at the time.
  • How difficult the book will be to write.
  • Whether we own the series rights.
  • Can we put other books on sale (within the same series or somehow related) to help market this book?

When Sean and I first started publishing our stories (waaaaaay back in 2011), we started with four serials! That’s four TV shows, basically.

They were (in order of appearance):

  • Available Darkness
  • Yesterday’s Gone
  • ForNevermore
  • WhiteSpace

They were all serials. And we wrote an episode per week (that’s between 15,000 – 25,000 words) in 2012!

Yes, PER WEEK! Madness, I know.

Between the episodes and our short Dark Crossings stories (ranging from 20,000 words to almost 40,000) we released a new episode or story every week in 2012!

We wanted to be Kings of the Serial and worked our asses off to get there!

Then something else happened in 2012 … our serials, particularly Yesterday’s Gone was doing so well that Amazon Publishing’s horror and sci-fi imprint, 47North reached out to us to ask if we’d be part of the Kindle Serials program (rest in peace).

This was our first legit publishing deal and we jumped at the chance to expand our audience reach! More importantly, though, we wanted to be at the forefront of bringing about the second golden age of serials! When we started writing serials, almost nobody else was doing them on Kindle. Certainly nobody doing it like us with “seasons” and “episodes” borrowing TV terminology. So when we saw Amazon decide to enter the serials foray, we had high hopes that we could help them turn it into something HUGE!!

So we signed the deal.

Just one problem … they wanted two series from us — Z 2134 – Z 2136, and Monstrous.

So now this puts us at six serials. And the thing about serials (for us, anyway) is that they’re a whole lot easier to write the first season than it is to keep track of everything that happens as each season builds upon the last! The later in a series we are, the harder it is for us to write it, and the more pressure we feel to make it better.

In 2013, I was feeling burnt out, exhausted from our hectic schedule. We had to slow things down. If we didn’t, the books would suffer for it. Some might argue that some of our books DID suffer for it.

So we slowed down production a bit, but we still produced a LOT of books. We just couldn’t keep up with six series!

z-2134-cover-190Note: when I say slow down, this is just compared to 2012 levels of production. We still write several books and short stories a year and have written more in four years than most writers write in a lifetime! Hell, if you include Johnny B. Truant, Sean’s other writing partner, I’d say we’ve probably written collectively more in a few years than any trio of writers I know of.

If the Z series were ours, we could’ve organized it to where we had more time between seasons of that series, then we could take turns with our other series, giving each a fair chance in the rotation.

However, we signed a contract. We had to deliver on a timeline that wasn’t our own. That meant delays for three of our other series, WhiteSpace, Available Darkness, and ForNevermore.

This means that we were suddenly writing to a publisher’s schedule, not our own as we’d always done. And this hurt sales of our regular series because suddenly we’re watering a garden we don’t own.

To make matters worse, Amazon decided at some point to stop doing serials (so far as we know, anyway, I still don’t know if they’ve ever announced an end to the Kindle Serials program). And in doing so, they barely promoted our books after the first one Z 2134, which hurt us because we could’ve been doing our own promotions for our own stuff! So now not only are the Amazon books not selling terribly well, but we have none of our own books to maintain our momentum coming out of 2012.

Which means we suddenly had to be very strategic about what books we’d write next.

So here is the status of each of our series:

MONSTROUS

Monstrous_cover-190wideThis is the toughest one, so I’ll talk about this first.

47North owns the rights to Monstrous. We were quite unhappy with the lack of promotion for the first book that when it came time to sign up for a second season, we could not do so, not without assurances that the second book WOULD be treated differently in the Serials program.

Long story short, we could not come to terms with the publisher. While the book was a critical success, it didn’t sell very well (during its initial release). We argued that HAD the publisher actually promoted the book (as they had done with the inferior Z 2134) then it would have sold a lot better. History has since proved this as the book DID get some promotion after we walked from their offer, and it’s earned us quite a few readers.

Some who want to know where the continuation is!

So we’re stuck in a position where in order to deliver a conclusion we have to write and publish the book ourselves. No problem. We do that quite well.

However, there is one slight problem.

We don’t own the rights to the first season. Which means the book is ONLY available on Amazon (except in print, where some other stores have the print version). That means when we write the sequel, we pretty much HAVE TO KEEP IT AMAZON EXCLUSIVE.

What’s the point in releasing the SECOND BOOK IN A SERIES on Apple, Nook, or Kobo when you can’t publish the first book there? It’s a big “Fuck You” to readers to do that.

Hey, wanna check out our awesome new book, Monstrous Two? What’s that? Oh, you want to read the beginning of the story? Hah, funny story — you can’t! Unless you go to Amazon.

You can see why this would be a problem, right?

Well, that’s not all.

In addition to being limited to where we can publish the second book, we also have ZERO control over pricing on the first book.

Want to put the first book on sale to get people interested in the sequel? Too bad. You don’t have the rights! 

Also, we can’t update the back of the book or the product page to tell people a second book is out.

So, in essence, whenever we publish this book, we’re doing so at a severe disadvantage. We’ll basically spend months and lots of money to write a book that may not sell. Or will take a while to sell because we have no way to tell all the people who bought the first book that the second one will be out (aside from our mailing list).

A book isn’t just an investment in time, but also money. Not just the money you put into it but the money you’re not making by publishing something else.

So, basically the question here isn’t when do we WANT to write the next Monstrous book, but when can we afford to lose a lot of money for a few months?

And make no mistake, we ARE dedicated to finishing the story, to losing money just to ensure YOU get the ending you deserve, but it has to make financial sense within the company. In other words, we need to have a few hits to support the possible misses. If our books don’t pay our bills then we’re unable to write.

So, yes, a second Monstrous book will be coming out. But I can’t say when.

FORNEVERMORE

ForNevermoreForNevermore is the series that we owe its readers another book in the worst way! The first ForNevermore came out before Monstrous, if that means anything.

With ForNevermore it was simply us botching the pitch to our readers. ForNevermore was our first young adult book and we basically apologized for it being so, rather than celebrating how awesome the story was! We were so afraid people would compare us to the bad young adult books in the genre that we didn’t make a case for why our book was great!

And that hurt our sales bad.

We are returning to ForNevermore in 2016. We’ve got some cool plans, and while the book may not sell as well as others, we think we can change that.

WHITESPACE

WhiteSpaceSeasonOneWhiteSpace is my favorite series that we’ve done.

That’s exactly why I’m NOT going to rush out a book before we’re ready. We were going to write the third season in 2015, but I didn’t feel the timing was right for us to write it. I need for the story to feel right to me before I can tackle it.

Yeah, we could’ve written another season last year, but it wouldn’t have been as good as it will be when I’m ready to write it.

That meant spending more time on the pre-production, which means we’ll now be writing the third season in 2016.

AVAILABLE DARKNESS

AvailableDarkness-BookTwoAvailable Darkness is in the same boat as WhiteSpace. This is the final season, and I wanted to make sure we wrap things up nicely. Like I said before, it’s a lot easier to write in the early going of a series.

There’s a lot of threads to weave together and I want you to enjoy it as much as I do. We WILL finish AD in 2016.

LESSONS LEARNED

When we started writing, there were no role models doing the kinds of things we’re doing who could provide a road map for us to follow. We learned, and made mistakes as went, hopefully making us better writers.

Hopefully making for a better reading experience for you.

So, here’s what we’re doing to make 2016 kick all kinds of ass!

  • We’re ending serials. We’ll finish off the two we have, Available Darkness and WhiteSpace, and turn Monstrous and ForNevermore into standalone series books.
  • We’re doing more standalone series books. These books will have beginnings, middles, and ends. A proper book. There will be some over arching series stuff which may continue over the course of the series, but we’re not ending with a “to be continued” and then having the story go away for two to three years. This will make for a better reader experience and require less for you to remember when you pick up the next book.
  • We’re writing some shorter series books and releasing more of them in a year. I’m VERY excited about this. We’ve already written drafts for three books in an upcoming series [Karma Police] about a person who wakes in another body every day or so (sort of like Quantum Leap without time travel meets EveryDay by David Levithan.) We’ve released three so far with another three coming soon.
  • We’re writing more standalone novels. Crash and 12 got GREAT feedback from readers! We want to write even more standalone novels. People often compare us to Stephen King and Dean Koontz, which I love, since they’re among our favorite writers (with Clive Barker), and while serials helped us get our name, we think series and standalone books will help make our readership even stronger!
  • We’re also writing more Dark Crossings short stories this year, so we’ll have a more consistent release schedule. It won’t be the glory days of one book per week like 2012, but we’ll have regular releases that you can count on.

Lastly, I’d like to say thank you. Whether you’re someone that has only read Yesterday’s Gone so far and don’t yet know our other stuff, or a diehard who has been (patiently freaking waiting!) for ForNevermore or Monstrous, we appreciate your patience and your support.

I know it can be hard to wait for the next book in a series, just ask George R.R. Martin fans, but know that we’re not resting on our asses, or just making people wait because we’re jerks. We want you to know the reasons we’ve taken longer on some projects than others, and that means being more communicative with you on a regular basis, which we’ll be doing in the coming year.

Also, know that in 2016 we’ll deliver most, if not all, of the books you’ve been waiting for.

As always, thank you for reading,

dave and sean