Out of the Box

Posted January 18th, 2011

dominoesWhy is it that most publishers push their authors to keep writing the same book, over and over again, but with a different title? (I’m not wrong here, am I?) The argument goes that it is easier to market a new book by an author when it is like that author’s previous book. I think that’s why the eyes of a publicist light up at the launch of a book series. The phrase “easy money” comes to mind. I get it. But would it be such a terrible thing for marketing departments to tax their creativity by developing individual marketing strategies for different types of books? But maybe that’s asking too much.

To be fair, the limited promotional budgets of most marketing departments force them into a juggling act as they attempt to promote all the books on their list. Exactly how they divide up the pie is something I take issue with, but I do understand that their difficulties, especially in the current economy, are legitimate. That said, my concern is for the good of the author, not the marketing division.

We authors have needs. We need to stretch ourselves, to challenge our creativity, to sharpen our skill-set, to master our chosen genre(s). If we aren’t attempting something new each time out, how can we ever hope to grow?

There’s certainly nothing inherently limiting about the rhythm of a series, so long as an author digs deep each time and finds something fresh and exciting to explore. And, to be sure, readers love series. It’s understandable that, once they’ve bonded with a particular character, they’re anxious to connect with him or her again. (Nancy Drew, anyone?) However, for many authors, moving beyond the known is what allows us to raise the bar within our own body of work. Why not encourage that?

I honestly don’t imagine publishers will jump on this particular bandwagon anytime soon, so I think we authors are on our own. Three cheers for us rebels, I say! May we continue to sidestep the latest trend and take the path less traveled, creating surprising new works for our readers, and ourselves, along the way.