What I'm reading: Stay Close, by Harlan Coben; Dutch Me Deadly, by Maddy Hunter (bike); Contest entry 1 of 4.
First, a brief summary of my second week at Barnes & Noble. The program puts your book on the home pages for two weeks of the 30 days you've committed to the exclusive, so the first two weeks are where I expected to see the greatest sales. I wasn't disappointed. (If you haven't read my summary of Week 1, click here.)
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For Week 2, I had two books on the Top 100 in the Nook Store. All my books moved well up in the rankings, four of them under 500. (Note: my best-selling Amazon titles are in the 3000 – 5000 range, and I've always been happy with that.) I sold over 5000 books that week.
Week 3 is almost over as I write this, and, as expected, my sales have dropped. However, let's put things in perspective. Prior to Nook First, I was thrilled to sell 10 or 20 books a day at Barnes & Noble. In Week 3, my sales are still in the hundreds. So, just because it's not as spectacular as it was, I'm still seeing more sales per day at B&N than I am at Amazon. Who'd have thought I'd ever say, "Oh, darn. I only sold 300 books today." Or, "Oh, darn. I need a tax accountant."
As for writing, I'm gearing up for my next Mapleton Mystery. This is the first time I've committed to an actual "series". Yes, I have my Pine Hills Police "series" and my Blackthorne, Inc. "series." But in reality most of those are spin-offs and connected books. HIDDEN FIRE is a true sequel to FINDING SARAH, but although the rest do feature a recurring cast of characters, they're merely set in the same general universe.
With a mystery series, you follow the same characters as protagonists, and, for the most part, books should be read in order. But what about revealing too much to the readers?
I recently won a book by C.J. Box, who writes, among other stand-alone novels, a series featuring Joe Pickett, a game warden. The book I won was somewhere around number 10 in the series. I enjoyed it, and am going back and starting with Book 1 (I'm up to #5 now). However, knowing what's happened in the "future" does take away some of the tension Box sets up. If a character disappears in Book 2, but I already know he's alive and well from reading Book 10, then I'm not as fully engaged as I would be if I were reading in order.
In a more extreme example, I read a second book by a best-selling author who recapped so much of Book 1 that I had absolutely no desire to go back and read the first. And in another book, also a series, the protagonist has recapped the killer as well as who the red herrings were in the first chapters. All the 'mystery' is gone, so why would I read the first book?
On the flip side, I recently re-read Michael Connelly's first Harry Bosch book. In that book, he talks about a case that's happened in the past. Enough so, that I had to verify that I hadn't missed a book. He's setting things up so he can write about that case, and he's careful not to reveal much more than Bosch solved the case, and it was high profile.
So, for my next Mapleton Mystery, I'm going to have to decide how much to reveal. I know not everyone reads in order. For example, I would definitely avoid telling readers who the killer was in Book 1, although that crime is going to have to be mentioned in some roundabout way, since it was the first homicide in the town's collective memory. Solving it becomes part of what shapes Gordon's character. But let's say I introduce a character who has taken over the job the killer held. Do I mention why the new character is here? Or do I not even bring the "new" character into the book? (You'll probably notice that I'm pointedly avoiding mentioning who the killer was, or what job he/she held, for those of you who might still want to read the book.)
I think it's important in a mystery series, perhaps more than in other series, since knowing who is or who isn't the villain can spoil the read if you're backtracking.
How do you feel about reading series? How much do you like to know about what happened before? Or do you even care?
Tomorrow, my guest is Karla Brandenburg. Her topic: Writing as Therapy. For those of us who write because we have to, this is an enlightening post.
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