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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So, this has been weighing on my mind lately.

I have three series out atm. My latest and by far most successful series is a comedy urban fantasy, Brian Helsing. Working on the eleventh book atm. Well received so far, with 245 reviews/4.4 avg on the permafree first in series. Two years ago, before life intervened and I stopped writing, it was getting to the point where it was earning almost day-job money. Now, following my Bookbub, it's earning me more than dayjob money, and I'm hoping to keep that going with new releases.

After this eleventh book is out, I'm taking a short break from the series to work on another series, one I've been planning for a while. People seem to enjoy the snark, the humour, the lightheartedness and short, easy reads of the Helsing series, so I'm taking all of those lessons and writing a Red Dwarf-esque comedy sci-fi series. If it can match the success of this series, I'll be hopefully be well on my way to making something of a living out of writing. I'll then alternate between the two, giving me two series to promote and help gain fans.

Now, the meat of the question - with Helsing being comedy, and my new planned series being comedy, it kinda makes me feel like my previous two series are... redundant. And worse, may even detract from my newer series.

My first series was a grimdark epic fantasy. I loved it, got very engrossed in writing it and fleshing it out, but it was riddled with storytelling errors and wasn't very well receieved. The permafree is 3.5/5 and only 25 reviews. People liked it more the more they read through the series, but not enough people read past the first one to make it earn out.

The second series was a small fantasy-horror series closely tied-in to the fantasy series. Better reviews, but less than stellar sales.

I get maybe a download or two a day of each of the series' respective permafrees, compared to 50-100 downloads of Helsing book one.

My question is... what do I do with these first two series? I feel like people might read through the Helsing books, enjoy them, then go on to read the others, only to be left with a bitter taste in their mouths. They're not as funny, not as lighthearted, and - given that I wrote them many thousands of words earlier - not as well-crafted.

Should I take them down? Are they detracting from my later, better material? Or is it worth keeping them up, just for the sake of having a back catalogue?

Or should I take them down, re-do them, then re-upload them at a later date newer, better, more chocolately, and with a chance of starting afresh with hopefully better reviews?

All opinions are welcome. I'm sure many of you have been through the same scenario before.

Cheers guys!

Gaz

 

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Gareth K Pengelly said:
My question is... what do I do with these first two series? I feel like people might read through the Helsing books, enjoy them, then go on to read the others, only to be left with a bitter taste in their mouths. They're not as funny, not as lighthearted, and - given that I wrote them many thousands of words earlier - not as well-crafted.

Should I take them down? Are they detracting from my later, better material? Or is it worth keeping them up, just for the sake of having a back catalogue?

Or should I take them down, re-do them, then re-upload them at a later date newer, better, more chocolately, and with a chance of starting afresh with hopefully better reviews?
I think it's an unnecessary fear. It's clear from the numbers you quoted that not a lot of people are crossing over and having a negative reaction to these other series.

Leave them be, or just do a slight penname modification like "GK Pengelly"or similar to put a modest wall up between the genres/tones. But it seems like your readers are having no trouble distinguishing other books from you they aren't interested in and avoiding them.

Do overs on old stuff would be slowing your forward momentum. Move on to your new series.
 
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~ do a slight penname modification like "GK Pengelly"

I like this idea.  The earlier books won't be on the same author page, but they'll be easy enough to find if people want to read more.  Maybe have this name as a separate page/category on your website. 
 

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Lorri Moulton [Lavender Lass Books] said:
~ do a slight penname modification like "GK Pengelly"

I like this idea. The earlier books won't be on the same author page, but they'll be easy enough to find if people want to read more. Maybe have this name as a separate page/category on your website.
That's a really good suggestion from J. Tanner. It might be a great work around. I honestly don't think that having the books around is the worst thing. You have the long running series for people who like that first book and you have something different for people who like you're writing. Maybe confusion will lead to some people having a negative experience, but you will probably see a lot of readers who saw your book and were curious about your different work. I think the fact that you have plenty more in the Helsing series helps. That way readers can easily always get what they want if they just want another Helsing book.

As long as the blurbs are clear about the tone of the book, it should be okay. People would probably understand that not everything you wrote was the same. But at the same time it might be super important to be as up front as possible in a blurb to say, hey, this is something completely different. Plus, who knows, years from now when you've got some free time and you're trying to think about what to work on, it might be fun to go back and rework some of those first books. Kind of a MemoryLane.doc

I guess the problem is feedback. Like, if someone does read the other books and is disappointed after the Helsing books, you sure will hear about it. But if someone reads the Helsing books and then checks out the others, you may never really know about it. So, who knows, right? I just don't think that I'd bust my butt to go back and rework those first books just to avoid some criticism. I'd only do it if I had fun with it.
 

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Pareto Principle. 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. If the main series is what's earning you your money, you need to focus most if not ALL of your efforts on that.

Way back in the day, I had a series that was earning A LOT of money. People loved the characters, the world, and the action. For whatever reason, it was a mix of ingredients that sold pretty well. Enough to quit my job even.

I decided after seven books that the series was over. It was a risky ending. I killed off the MC and he thereby saved the world. So, no more books in that series. I wrote another series set in the same universe. It was different enough that a lot of readers stopped after the main series. My conversion rate was about 25% from the first series to the second. Not at all what I expected/wanted.

I was actually warned by a veteran author friend of mine who has written well over 150 books in his career. He told me success was fickle, and if I had something people liked, I needed to keep doing that. But I said my fans would follow me anywhere. Years later, I recognize how right he was.

As far as your other series, I wouldn't worry about them "detracting." If you have the money you can give them an edit and a cover rebrand, but if they're already not selling, there's a good chance they won't be later. At best, you can hope for organic sales made through your Also By page.

 

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Good luck deciding. I think you can dilute your brand.

Not the same circumstances, and I'm not as prolific as you, but at one time I had around 30 short stories in and among my full length books. I came to the conclusion that the shorts were diluting my brand and disappointing readers who landed on my page after reading a full length, then buying a short without realizing it was so. so deleted the shorts. I did better after doing that.
 

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.

Leave the other books for now. If you have clearly written descriptions and genre appropriate covers then readers will know what to expect from your different titles.

Rather than the Red Dwarf type genre ... I'd dream up another sibling to your Helsing hero as a spin-off. You are getting preferential search engine traffic with 'Helsing', then buyers see the blurb humor and take a chance. Does Brian have a sister? Or a second cousin twice removed?

.
 

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How much time would it take you to update the books and fix the mistakes to bring them up to todays standard for you? Would they be worth the effort and is the material 'there' to rework it like that`?

I often find authors where you can see in the first book that they are good they just need more work done - and usually the later books are better. i wish they would go back and rework the previous ones to be better.

(btw in the de store your helsing first book is only available as .99 cents whereas all others are KU - i am unlikely to start on book two as a KU reader).

If not, just prune them away. Your author profile has enough to read from, so it is not like you only have 3 books, and better to leave people waiting than disappointed. ;) 
 

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I tried once to make some old titles of mine disappear from Amazon, b/c I didn't like them. Amazon said no. Long story short, they said they don't like removing book listings, even if I made the books no longer for sale.

Then I tried a second time, to remove a title from my catalog under a different pen name. After hearing the same stock response from Amazon I replied basically "Look, we'll make more money together if you just make this book disappear," and I offered arguments. Then they said ok. And the book disappeared, to my relief.

If you decide to bin your books that don't fit, you may want to have an argument ready for them as to why they should make the listings vanish. Financial self-interest on their part seemed to do the trick with me.
 

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I think readers will figure out on their own that it's your earlier work. It's like movies and directors. We all know they improve. That doesn't mean you should pull past work. If you're going to do that, then the advice above of changing your pen name would be best, imo.

Another thing to consider: you feel like your older work is not as good. That doesn't mean readers will. My favorite book sells worse in the market than all my others.
 

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I would think about if its worth redoing them to your new style of writing.  Your biggest assets is your back catalog so I would be hesitant to rebrand/name them under a new pen name.  So work on fixing errors, updating them to your new style/what readers want. So for now just leave them be and then work on them when you have time.



 

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We may not know how much these other books are affecting sales, but we do know that your brand is being diluted to some degree because your messaging is inconsistent and therefore confusing. And confusing branding is rarely beneficial to sales.

When we discuss modern marketing, brand is everything, and at its core is a singular messaging strategy. Do that thing you do. Do it well. And do it a lot. This is how you build brand loyalty (fans) because they know what to expect. Your marketing message is a promise to honor that expectation. This doesn't mean you can't do all kinds of unique and crazy things with your stories, just that the overall vibe, that thing that defines who you are as an author, needs to be consistent. In 2020, that typically means sticking to your sub-genre as well.

From a business perspective, everything you do, post and publish should be brand-centric; so, I'd recommend unpublishing everything that's not consistent with what you want your brand to be moving forward, and then revise your author pages, web site, etc., to reflect that message.

Once you've reached Big Fish status, you can do anything you want. Until then, pick a lane and stay in it.
 

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My usual advice:

Make your branding very clear. Readers should know they're getting something different.

If the grimdark series is different enough most of your readers will feel it breaks your brand promise (whatever that is), then change your pen name on it. If it's different but still you, if it still has all the qualities that make your books special (and lacks any qualities that are in direct conflict with what makes your brand special i.e. if humor is your thing, this book is not humorless. It may be dark, but it still has humor), then keep it up but make your branding very, very clear.

I don't know enough about these subgenres to say, but I am wary of keeping grimdark and comedic stuff on the same pen name. As someone who stopped watching GoT because it was so unpleasant all the time... I know first-hand that many readers who like fun/playful books don't like the tone of grimdark. And visa versa.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
As always, huge amounts of very helpful advice, thank you all.

I think the message is clear - stick to one sub-genre, make the brand clear.

My original stories didn't work. My new tactic (writing fantasy with a funny twist) seems to.

So I think I will unpublish everything I did before this current series, rejig my website etc, and forge ahead with a) this series and b) more series in a similar vein.

Thanks all.
 
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