Friday, April 24, 2009

Three On a Match

A writing friend called last week for advice. She'd found an agent, her book had been sent out to publishers and she was waiting. Agonizing, this waiting. Soul deadening. She wanted to know what to do with herself while she waited.

My answer wasn't very inspired or original. Write, I said. Write. What else are you going to do?

It was a good answer, but my reasoning was off. Over the weekend, at the International Quilt Festival in Chicago, I found the real reason why an unpublished author should be working on the next book, and the next.

Three books are easier to sell than one.

Midnight Ink has published three of my quilting mysteries in fourteen months. This was the first time I was selling all three at a major show. I've hand sold my books on these big festivals before. Quilters stream by the booth, I engage them in conversation and tell them about my quilting mystery. If I talk enough and am engaging enough, they buy a book. It's hard work.

This time was different. People were more excited than ever. Despite the economy, I sold several hundred books in about 8 hours. Mostly in threes.

I think there are several reasons why we sold many sets of the series.

#1. Readers love series. They love owning all the books in the series. No one wants to get the third book and have to hunt for the first two.

#2. Three books tells the first time buyer that you're worth reading. The reader is comforted by the fact that a publisher decided to spend its money on you.

And in case you're thinking this only works at quilt shows, I gave a talk at the Milpitas Alliance for the Arts luncheon. Only a handful of quilters in the crowd. We sold 70 books.

So keep writing. Write that series. If you're lucky, your publisher will get the books out quickly, put eye-catching covers on them and you can sell, three at a time.


Sheila Connolly said...

Wow-terrific sales. And you raise some good points about series as a selling point in themselves (you mean Berkley's three-book deals actually have a rational basis?). Having more than one in hand means that somebody who is not you or your mother or your best friend thinks the first book is good. It's an official stamp of approval.

The second aspect is interesting, because a reader must take a gamble. Will s/he like the book? Is it worth the price of one or two more, just to have them if you really, really like that first book? (When the author is sitting right in front of you smiling, pen in hand.) You're telling us the answer is "yes."

Betty Hechtman said...

Great that you sold so many books. Come to think of it, when I've gone to a book signing and the author had more than one book available, I bought them all.

Camille Minichino said...

This matches my experience, Terri ... there's nothing like a series to attract attention and give credibility to the author.
I have also experienced a "middle child" syndrome however - where people will buy number one to try the series, or number three, which they've been waiting for. Number two often sits there -- half of the readers have it already, the other half is checking out number one first!

Terri Thayer said...

I do think my middle child was feeling a bit left out, too. I didn't sell as many of that one.

I found that people were more willing to take a chance on a new author because there were 3 available. It gave me a certain amount of street cred, I guess.