I was scrolling through my facebook feed this morning when I spotted a photo taken at a workshop on how to develop a series. The speaker in the photo is a talented and knowledgeable author. I will not mention her by name because you might mistakenly draw the conclusion that I am speaking ill of that author. I am not.
But, the photo…
In the photo, on a screen behind the author we can see her power point. The list of tips for developing a series includes such items as blog tours and facebook friends, book contests and giveaways. I want to give the speaker the benefit of the doubt; I want to believe that had the photo been taken ten minutes earlier, the tips onscreen would have had something to do with the writing, perhaps about what makes a good premise for a series, or how to create a character that readers will want to return to, or simply how writing a series is different from writing a standalone.
I’d like to believe that, but the truth is we spend far too much time talking to aspiring writers about marketing and promotion, about creating buzz on social media, when we should be talking about how to write the best book we’re capable of writing. Instead we teach them how to capture email addresses for their newsletter.
And, as long as I’m being cranky, why is it that people who have yet to write a book believe that they should be writing a series? I know, everything today is designed to push series, or at least sequels, but how about we start by writing one really good book. When I first read Kurt Vonnegut, I believe I started with God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, I didn’t wait with baited breath for the second in a Mr. Rosewater series. When I read Another Roadside Attraction, the extraordinary first book from Tom Robbins, I didn’t pine for the release of Yet Another Roadside Attraction. But today, every aspiring writer is writing a trilogy (I blame Lord of the Rings).
Quite a few years ago, a gentleman came to see me at a bookstore signing. He was an aspiring writer. A mutual friend had suggested he talk to me. He monopolized my time at the signing, or at least he tried to, telling me all about the book he was going to write, a fictional account of the sub-prime mortgage scandal. And there were Nazis. I don’t know how they figured into the story, but there they were. And, at some point in our conversation, at a time when he had not yet written a word, he wanted my suggestions about where to submit his manuscript, telling me proudly, “It’s going to be a trilogy.”
By the way, if you’re going to show up at an author’s book event because you want to pick his brain, have the decency to buy his book.