Today I’m sharing some tips I learned from the “Behind the Big Book Franchise” Workshop given by Ally Carter and Melissa de la Cruz at RWA’s 2010 Convention. The presenters discussed tips for writing big series books.
So what are some tips for building an author brand?
- Create a big world. Even your minor characters should be interesting (and if they are, they may end up getting their own book in the future).
- Whenever possible, have your series compliment each other. Whether it’s similar genres or just keeping the same distinct voice, having the series relate to each other is one of the best ways to build your author brand.
- Have a big story, or if you’re writing a series, a big storyline. Maybe it won’t be the next Harry Potter, but you never know, so don’t be afraid to dream big.
- Leave a few story questions open so that you can pull them into the next book. However, the presenters caution not to wait too long to answer questions (a la Lost, which lost me after Season 3). Try to answer major story arcs within 3 books. Raise new story questions as you go on to keep readers engaged.
- Give your readers your best stuff. Don’t save the better stuff for later on. If you do, you might not get another chance to publish. You can always come up with new, fresh ideas. Write every book as if it’s your last. (What a good tip!)
- It’s okay to end with a cliffhanger every now and again, but you shouldn’t do that with every book, or you risk alienating your readers. (I completely agree with this one. I know a few authors who pissed me off by leaving me hanging, and it eroded my appreciation of their work. Sorry to say, but I’m greedy. I don’t want to wait for my resolutions.)
You don’t have to write series, but if you don’t, your books should have certain things in common, like the themes. Your core readers, the ones who follow you, want the same but different when reading your new work. This becomes your brand.
Who is your favorite author? What sort of brand does he or she have that keeps you going back for more?
My personal favorite is Jeaniene Frost, specifically her urban fantasy series featuring Cat and Bones. Although each book has a different storyline and builds from the last, I know I can expect much to stay the same, like the humor, heat and hot sex between the two main characters. Ms. Frost’s ability to consistently deliver more of the same but different story keeps me anxiously awaiting (and preordering) her next book.