Author Topic: Looking for some encouragement...Update!  (Read 11554 times)  

Offline JaclynDolamore

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What would be wisdom? To rewrite the series that didn't satisfy fan demands or to start with a new series altogether? Has anyone ties to rewrite a whole series? Did the fans buy into it then?

I'm rewriting my YA series into an adult urban fantasy this year. So we'll see how that goes. I would hesitate to do it without a clear plan.

In my case, I started my indie career with quirky YA fantasy, because I've been published traditionally in YA for years and I thought it was my wheelhouse. But then I decided to try my hand at an adult fantasy romance. This turned into the most successful book I've ever written. It did pick up sales for the YA a little, but for the most part, my also-boughts don't have a LOT of YA. My readers do seem to read urban fantasy. Also, my YA characters were adults originally, but I "teen-ified" them years ago for my agent. So I was actually reverting back to how the story originally was. At this point, I just want my brand to be all adult fantasy romance with the only deviation being whether the setting of a series is contemporary/urban fantasy or more epic/traditional fantasy. I'd only published two books in the YA series and had sold very few, so I felt like it wasn't too late to walk it back and get everything in line.

This has been such a great thread.

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Online AlexaKang

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Annie,

Stopping by and again to say "hang in there!!!" We're all rooting for you and I for one believe that you can make a come back. Write to please your original readers, yes. But write what you like too. It's really the only way to produce the best work. I don't think writers can ever be "has beens". Otherwise we would never have any classics!!!  We always have new chances.

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Nobody knows anything.

AnnieJo, I suspect that one of the toughest things you've done was hit publish when you finished your original post. You might have spent many sleepless nights worrying and condemning yourself, but coming here now took guts and heart and humility. You might not be earning as much as before, but the experience has done you no damage as a human being. You're a star.


Love this!

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The fact is that we are entertainers. I know some people imagine themselves artists. But readers of genre fiction want to be entertained. So if they want a certain type of book from you, give it to them. Be entertaining. You just can't take your fans where you think they should go if they don't want to go there. I'm not saying abandon other types of stories. But I think the lesson you have learned is you had better dance with the one that brung ya...

I sometimes joke that my employer in this business is my customer base. I survey them. They tell me what they want. I create it for them. They buy it.

It's a solid business model. :)
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." - Thomas Edison

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Online Gentleman Zombie

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The fact is that we are entertainers. I know some people imagine themselves artists. But readers of genre fiction want to be entertained. So if they want a certain type of book from you, give it to them. Be entertaining. You just can't take your fans where you think they should go if they don't want to go there. I'm not saying abandon other types of stories. But I think the lesson you have learned is you had better dance with the one that brung ya...

I can't like this quote  hard enough. Thank you!

Offline Stacy Claflin

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Hi Annie,

I'm really sorry you're going through this season, but I know you'll pull out of it! I love a lot of the advice given in the thread - some of it is phenomenal. It's helped me to understand why my sweet romance series doesn't do as well my other stuff. My PNR and contemporary suspense have enough in common (promise to the readers: themes, emotions, etc.) that reader crossover is natural a lot of the time, though some refuse to leave their preferred genre. More often than not, I've heard readers say they tried a new genre because I wrote it, and they found a new genre they love.

Finding the balance between writing what you love and what your readers love is the ideal place to be. You've been there before, and you'll get there again. Thanks so much for your open, honest post. I can't wait to see what successes await you!
 

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Online elizabethbarone

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Oh, Annie. It must've been really hard to post this. *hugs* I completely get it... I've been struggling for a while. I had a successful release in 2015 and I just can't get back there, never mind surpass it. This gig is hard. I suspect it's tenacity more than anything else that makes a lasting career. Hang in there. *hugs you tight*
 
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Online Crystal_

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Thanks so much for sharing this, Annie. You gave me some great advice when I was first starting out and I hope I can return the favor.

Do you actually want to write slow burn romances? If it's been two years since you've had a romance hit, then you've probably lost a huge chunk of your romance readers. I think you should approach this as if you are starting over (unless you have a really easy way to speak to your fans--like a newsletter of 15k or something). What would you do if you were starting over? What do you actually want to write that will actually sell?

New adult is incredibly saturated and competitive right now. I think New Adult and PNR are probably the most competitive genres, and they're filled with .99 KU books. Big authors are spending five-figures a month on Facebook ads and releasing constantly at .99. Midlist authors are also spending tons and releasing regularly, and at .99. It's effing hard to sell a 2.99+ book in New Adult, even if your book is really on market. If I didn't love writing sexy NA, I would run from the genre for one where people price to make money off sales and not just off (stuffed) KU reads. And I made six figures of profit last year.

If legal thrillers are what call your name, I would start writing legal thrillers under a pen name (granted, I know nothing about legal thrillers). If you want to stick with romance, I would approach this as a big rebrand. Maybe start a new pen. Maybe revise and re-release (under new names/with new covers the series that didn't do well).

Yeah, I started to doubt myself. And I wanted to write to market, so I wanted to get in on the E-Rom action. Big mistake. I didn't enjoy writing it because I don't really enjoy writing about sex nearly as much as I like writing about emotions and story elements. As for Temptations - I don't know what I was thinking there. That's a book that doesn't know what it wants to be when it grows up. Murder mystery or erotic romance? Either way, my fans didn't want to touch it. Lesson learned! :)

I see this sort of talk in romance (sub)forums all the time and it's always a This Person Doesn't Actually Like/Read Romance red flag. The sex in romance should always be about the emotions. Especially in erotic romance. Romance readers enjoy hot sex scenes, absolutely, but they are there for the emotional connection.

Romance is a really broad genre with a lot of different tones, heat levels, and subject matters. I started writing in a niche I really love, and that is when my sales really took off. I'm on the same wavelength as these readers, so I instinctively know what they want in books (and I get more experience every book). Even so, my second series isn't doing nearly as well as my first did. My numbers are great by most people's definitions, but I am greedy and I want more. It's frustrating trouble shooting. Things change constantly. Permafree stops working. BookBub doesn't perform as well. Facebook CPCs go up. In my case, I don't think it's the books, the covers, or the blurbs, but I can't be sure. I think it's increasing competition/more expensive FB ads, but I don't know. Even though I made five-figures last month without a release, I spent the whole month stressing about this.

So I get it. Sales are mysterious. The market is mysterious. Even when you think you know what's working with Amazon and/or advertisers, it can change at any moment. My last two BookBubs were lackluster (but still profitable).

I write rock star romance specifically, but at it's heart, the books are really family romances with tattooed, manwh*re heroes. It's just that the family isn't always a blood family. It's the band. Having a specific niche is great in that I have less competition, but it also limits my mainstream appeal. Which is why I'm going to try a family romance series next-- one that captures the same fun, sexy, a little bit angsty, damaged characters helping each other heal tone. That might fail epically or it might be awesome. The only way to find out is to do it.

It took me a lot of books to figure out what I wanted my "brand" to be. Now that I have it, I'm tempted to unpublish/switch pen names of some of my older books (even though many of my readers tell me they love them), but I think as long as the blurbs and covers make the off-brand books really clear, I'm okay.

Online Sapphire

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I just wanted to say how great it was to see names pop up in this thread that I haven't seen in Writers Cafe for a long time.


Offline IreneP

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Reading between the lines, what stands out most to me is that you got away from writing what was easiest to you, away from the kind of stories you really like. And your readers agreed. Good luck. I wrote about 400K words last year, published 61K. My editors just didn't like the first two manuscripts I finished. The third one took off, and it was the easiest to write.

Hi Annie -

You've gotten so much good advice. I don't have anything really to add, except I think that writing what you feel comfortable and happy writing is key. Readers can really sense when you are writing something (sex, for example) that you only include because you think you need it to sell.

Beyond that, I want to say that have seen so many authors in the past years go through this. Not just indies, trad pub authors who had well-selling series dropped, etc. I've also seen a lot of them work hard and bounce back and sometimes going on to be even more popular than before the slump. It's something few people will tell you - that just because you're selling today doesn't mean you'll be selling tomorrow. Don't give up. It's a very competitive market and it can be hard to get noticed in romance. On the bright side, there are SO  many romance readers with tastes for everything from sweet to erotic. I know you'll be able to find your readers again.

Good luck!

Offline CJArcher

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Hi Annie, I have nothing new to add to the awesome advice you've already received, except to say hang in there. I think your situation is very common, and it's not limited to indie authors. The truth is, it can be hard to back up a popular series with another and another. Readers move on, tastes change, or we can't capture what made our earlier books great, or we just get bored writing the same type of book. This business is SO hard and is full of ups and downs. I sincerely hope you're about to climb up again. Good luck!
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Offline anniejocoby

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Annie,

Stopping by and again to say "hang in there!!!" We're all rooting for you and I for one believe that you can make a come back. Write to please your original readers, yes. But write what you like too. It's really the only way to produce the best work. I don't think writers can ever be "has beens". Otherwise we would never have any classics!!!  We always have new chances.


Thanks, Alexa! :) I think that I might write what I like after all. My very first legal thriller is kinda getting off the ground, thanks to John Ellsworth, who pimped me out to his mailing list. I might just see where that leads and abandon the NA thing right now.
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Offline anniejocoby

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Hi Annie,

I'm really sorry you're going through this season, but I know you'll pull out of it! I love a lot of the advice given in the thread - some of it is phenomenal. It's helped me to understand why my sweet romance series doesn't do as well my other stuff. My PNR and contemporary suspense have enough in common (promise to the readers: themes, emotions, etc.) that reader crossover is natural a lot of the time, though some refuse to leave their preferred genre. More often than not, I've heard readers say they tried a new genre because I wrote it, and they found a new genre they love.

Finding the balance between writing what you love and what your readers love is the ideal place to be. You've been there before, and you'll get there again. Thanks so much for your open, honest post. I can't wait to see what successes await you!

Aw, thanks, Stacy! This has been a learning experience, so much so that I'm tempted to write a book about self-publishing, but specifically focus on all the mistakes I've made. I'm also seeing tentative success with my legal thriller. A lot of posters recommended I stick with that genre, and I think that they might be right about that. I was starting to write my NA, but now I think that I might need to feed the legal thriller beast after all!
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Offline anniejocoby

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Oh, Annie. It must've been really hard to post this. *hugs* I completely get it... I've been struggling for a while. I had a successful release in 2015 and I just can't get back there, never mind surpass it. This gig is hard. I suspect it's tenacity more than anything else that makes a lasting career. Hang in there. *hugs you tight*

It is hard! So hard...you hang in there, too. We'll hang in there together! Thanks for the hugs!
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Offline anniejocoby

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Thanks so much for sharing this, Annie. You gave me some great advice when I was first starting out and I hope I can return the favor.

Do you actually want to write slow burn romances? If it's been two years since you've had a romance hit, then you've probably lost a huge chunk of your romance readers. I think you should approach this as if you are starting over (unless you have a really easy way to speak to your fans--like a newsletter of 15k or something). What would you do if you were starting over? What do you actually want to write that will actually sell?

New adult is incredibly saturated and competitive right now. I think New Adult and PNR are probably the most competitive genres, and they're filled with .99 KU books. Big authors are spending five-figures a month on Facebook ads and releasing constantly at .99. Midlist authors are also spending tons and releasing regularly, and at .99. It's effing hard to sell a 2.99+ book in New Adult, even if your book is really on market. If I didn't love writing sexy NA, I would run from the genre for one where people price to make money off sales and not just off (stuffed) KU reads. And I made six figures of profit last year.

If legal thrillers are what call your name, I would start writing legal thrillers under a pen name (granted, I know nothing about legal thrillers). If you want to stick with romance, I would approach this as a big rebrand. Maybe start a new pen. Maybe revise and re-release (under new names/with new covers the series that didn't do well).

I see this sort of talk in romance (sub)forums all the time and it's always a This Person Doesn't Actually Like/Read Romance red flag. The sex in romance should always be about the emotions. Especially in erotic romance. Romance readers enjoy hot sex scenes, absolutely, but they are there for the emotional connection.

Romance is a really broad genre with a lot of different tones, heat levels, and subject matters. I started writing in a niche I really love, and that is when my sales really took off. I'm on the same wavelength as these readers, so I instinctively know what they want in books (and I get more experience every book). Even so, my second series isn't doing nearly as well as my first did. My numbers are great by most people's definitions, but I am greedy and I want more. It's frustrating trouble shooting. Things change constantly. Permafree stops working. BookBub doesn't perform as well. Facebook CPCs go up. In my case, I don't think it's the books, the covers, or the blurbs, but I can't be sure. I think it's increasing competition/more expensive FB ads, but I don't know. Even though I made five-figures last month without a release, I spent the whole month stressing about this.

So I get it. Sales are mysterious. The market is mysterious. Even when you think you know what's working with Amazon and/or advertisers, it can change at any moment. My last two BookBubs were lackluster (but still profitable).

I write rock star romance specifically, but at it's heart, the books are really family romances with tattooed, manwh*re heroes. It's just that the family isn't always a blood family. It's the band. Having a specific niche is great in that I have less competition, but it also limits my mainstream appeal. Which is why I'm going to try a family romance series next-- one that captures the same fun, sexy, a little bit angsty, damaged characters helping each other heal tone. That might fail epically or it might be awesome. The only way to find out is to do it.

It took me a lot of books to figure out what I wanted my "brand" to be. Now that I have it, I'm tempted to unpublish/switch pen names of some of my older books (even though many of my readers tell me they love them), but I think as long as the blurbs and covers make the off-brand books really clear, I'm okay.

You always give such awesome advice! It's helpful to know what's going on with the market, and you always have the goods on that. In fact, after reading your post, I'm rethinking the NA part of my plan altogether. I have one started, but I might go ahead and just shift all my focus to my legal thriller series. That was my plan to begin with, but then I thought I might write something for my not-huge fan base - something that is similar in tone and feel to my biggest hit. But since it's so hard to get traction in NA right now - and the great Bella Andre even confirmed this - perhaps I do need to completely shift my focus to making my legal thriller series work right now.

The good news is that I tentatively have a bit of traction on that book. John Ellsworth pimped me out, and I got 260 sales yesterday. That's actually my best launch ever, and John's been getting good comments already. I have to admit, I like "Bad Faith." I think that it hits the market well. I just didn't think that I could get traction on it right out of the gate - I just figured that I would write a bunch of books in that series, make the first one free, and hope that the series takes off then. But it looks like maybe, just maybe, the series might have traction already. I'll have to see. At any rate, I'm going to feed that beast and abandon NA for now.

Thanks for all your help over the years! 
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Offline anniejocoby

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Hi Annie -

You've gotten so much good advice. I don't have anything really to add, except I think that writing what you feel comfortable and happy writing is key. Readers can really sense when you are writing something (sex, for example) that you only include because you think you need it to sell.

Beyond that, I want to say that have seen so many authors in the past years go through this. Not just indies, trad pub authors who had well-selling series dropped, etc. I've also seen a lot of them work hard and bounce back and sometimes going on to be even more popular than before the slump. It's something few people will tell you - that just because you're selling today doesn't mean you'll be selling tomorrow. Don't give up. It's a very competitive market and it can be hard to get noticed in romance. On the bright side, there are SO  many romance readers with tastes for everything from sweet to erotic. I know you'll be able to find your readers again.

Good luck!


Thanks for the kind words! I'm hanging in there for sure! :)
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Offline anniejocoby

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Hi Annie, I have nothing new to add to the awesome advice you've already received, except to say hang in there. I think your situation is very common, and it's not limited to indie authors. The truth is, it can be hard to back up a popular series with another and another. Readers move on, tastes change, or we can't capture what made our earlier books great, or we just get bored writing the same type of book. This business is SO hard and is full of ups and downs. I sincerely hope you're about to climb up again. Good luck!

Thanks CJ! If I could have the kind of year after year success you've had, I would be happy indeed! :)
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Offline JaclynDolamore

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.Beyond that, I want to say that have seen so many authors in the past years go through this. Not just indies, trad pub authors who had well-selling series dropped, etc. I've also seen a lot of them work hard and bounce back and sometimes going on to be even more popular than before the slump. It's something few people will tell you - that just because you're selling today doesn't mean you'll be selling tomorrow.

This is a good point, too, that maybe isn't discussed enough. Success is not just rare, it's also usually fleeting. My first traditionally published novel came out in December 2009. I was part of a Livejournal (haha, so long ago) group of debut young adult authors. The authors ran the gamut from a girl who got a seven figure advance and sold a ton of copies, to small press authors with tiny advances. For several years after, I did an informal survey of "where are they now" for everyone in the group. Some authors had one little book and then withdrew from the business. Some authors started small but had a breakout novel a few years later. Some switched genres or wrote under pen names later and found a steady groove. And some authors hit big but struggled to find success later. But one thing is true across the board: not a single person from that group consistently released novels and had hit after hit.

But the authors I know who make a living, who stay in the game, are the ones who don't let discouragement paralyze them, who keep writing and keep putting their work out there, adapting to different market conditions and trying new things when necessary...sometimes stumbling along the way, but not letting that get them down either. Annie, it sounds like you have THAT quality, whatever mistakes you might have made, and more than anything else that will probably assure you'll see success again in the future.

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Offline anniejocoby

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This is a good point, too, that maybe isn't discussed enough. Success is not just rare, it's also usually fleeting. My first traditionally published novel came out in December 2009. I was part of a Livejournal (haha, so long ago) group of debut young adult authors. The authors ran the gamut from a girl who got a seven figure advance and sold a ton of copies, to small press authors with tiny advances. For several years after, I did an informal survey of "where are they now" for everyone in the group. Some authors had one little book and then withdrew from the business. Some authors started small but had a breakout novel a few years later. Some switched genres or wrote under pen names later and found a steady groove. And some authors hit big but struggled to find success later. But one thing is true across the board: not a single person from that group consistently released novels and had hit after hit.

But the authors I know who make a living, who stay in the game, are the ones who don't let discouragement paralyze them, who keep writing and keep putting their work out there, adapting to different market conditions and trying new things when necessary...sometimes stumbling along the way, but not letting that get them down either. Annie, it sounds like you have THAT quality, whatever mistakes you might have made, and more than anything else that will probably assure you'll see success again in the future.

Aw, thanks Jaclyn! I hope that you're right! But you are right about one thing for sure - success is hard to hang onto. Really, really, hard. And it's so frustrating trying to figure it out. But the support on this board really touches my heart! We're all in this together!
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Offline BellaJames

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The fact is that we are entertainers. I know some people imagine themselves artists. But readers of genre fiction want to be entertained. So if they want a certain type of book from you, give it to them. Be entertaining. You just can't take your fans where you think they should go if they don't want to go there. I'm not saying abandon other types of stories. But I think the lesson you have learned is you had better dance with the one that brung ya...

This.

When I hang out on different forums, blogs or even just reading comments on youtube from authors, I am surprised by how many authors don't understand that they are entertainers.

You are providing entertainment to people and so listening to your readers, looking at what readers are resonating with and building a brand/formula is important like:

-BellaAndre (big family romances)
-Rosalind J (something quite different like hot New Zealand Rugby players)
-Colleen Hoover (thought provoking tearjerker na romances)
- Alexa Riley (OTT insta-love novellas)
- Kylie Scott (sexy rockstar romances)

Other authors with a strong brand:

- James Patterson
-Nicholas Sparks
-Nora Roberts
etc.......
« Last Edit: March 07, 2017, 05:06:47 PM by BellaJames »

Offline AgnesWebb

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ANNIE!
I met you at the HM Ward event in Oxnard a couple years back, when apparently both of us were doing much better! I had purple hair back then lol. Anyway, I have been focused mainly on billionaire romance for the past three years, but I am going to start a new pen name (my FOURTH! lol) and try and write some conspiracy thrillers. Something's gotta give with these sales numbers.
Wishing you every bit of luck in the world, and use those Uber stories as inspiration!! Praying that we can both get back to our happy sales places soon.

Online Crystal_

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This.

When I hang out on different forums, blogs or even just reading comments on youtube from authors, I am surprised by how many authors don't understand that they are entertainers.

You are providing entertainment to people and so listening to your readers, looking at what readers are resonating with and building a brand/formula is important like:

-BellaAndre (big family romances)
-Rosalind J (something quite different like hot New Zealand Rugby players)
-Colleen Hoover (thought provoking tearjerker na romances)
- Alexa Riley (OTT insta-love novellas)
- Kylie Scott (sexy rockstar romances)

Other authors with a strong brand:

- James Patterson
-Nicholas Sparks
-Nora Roberts
etc.......

The fact is that we are entertainers. I know some people imagine themselves artists. But readers of genre fiction want to be entertained. So if they want a certain type of book from you, give it to them. Be entertaining. You just can't take your fans where you think they should go if they don't want to go there. I'm not saying abandon other types of stories. But I think the lesson you have learned is you had better dance with the one that brung ya...

IMO, artist vs. entertainer is a false dichotomy. We can do all the things art is supposed to while entertaining people. We can make them think, make them feel, touch their lives, etc. Maybe I'm pretentious, but once I start my book, it's not about me or about art or about entertaining. It's about the characters. They're the ones in charge.

Offline valeriec80

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Since getting out of romance was the best thing I did for my career, I'm of course cheering you on for your move into thrillers, but if you really love romance, you should stay.

But if you branch out, you'll find that you don't miss the churn, or the fact that your covers are no longer on trend after two weeks, or the pressure to have 100+ reviews on release day, etc.

My advice for the thriller market would be to carefully study what's selling now and do your best to emulate that style. And to definitely not keeping writing FIVE books if the first one doesn't do anything. If it were me, and the first one tanked, I'd have an exit strategy for book two and then start something new right after. I would definitely not continue a low-selling series past book three, but that is just me. Still, I doubt you'll have to worry. You'll probably blow it out of the water with your first try.

You are awesome, and you got this!
 

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I would definitely not continue a low-selling series past book three...

How should we define low selling?

Offline This_Way_Down

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IMO, artist vs. entertainer is a false dichotomy. We can do all the things art is supposed to while entertaining people. We can make them think, make them feel, touch their lives, etc. Maybe I'm pretentious, but once I start my book, it's not about me or about art or about entertaining. It's about the characters. They're the ones in charge.
Why is "art" so much more important that entertainment? It's not likely a crime novel is going to change the world, or a readers perceptions. A romance novel isn't about a helping the reader along on a journey of self discovery. It's there to provide some joy; a bit of fun. Why is that less important than art? As an entertainer, I make people happy. I find there to be genuine value in what I do. I don't need to fill my ego with delusions that I'm doing anything more than that. My fantasy novels are not deep or insightful. There is no lesson to be learned. They're exciting and a thrill for the reader (at least that's the goal). I'll leave the art to the literary fiction writers. They care more about being clever than I do.