Monday, January 25, 2010
Philosophically, What Would Constitute the Ideal Romance Series?
There are strong marketing reasons why a romance author should write books that are part of a series.
If one author is writing all the books in the series, then the basic research only needs to be done once. This is a great time saver. Additionally, well developed secondary characters can be used over and over again. This efficiency should allow the author to write more books each year. This in turn produces more publicity for the author, more book reviews, and more reasons to appear on the various romance websites.
From a marketing point of view, each book in a series acts as a gateway to the author’s other works. If the reader likes the first book, then she has a very good reason to buy more books in the series -- both now and in the future.
This will become even more important as eBooks begin to dominate the delivery system for romance novels. (Downloads are now becoming the dominant method of music distribution). An author will be in a much better marketing position in the future when all her books are always in ‘print’ and available as eBooks.
If the series varies in location and/or themes, then the likelihood is greater that the reader will find at least one book in the series to be highly desirable and buy it. Thus another reader enters the author’s world.
This is very important.
Romance fans do not need a reason to buy a romance. However, they do need a reason to buy a specific romance title. Each author needs to ask this question: “What will make fans buy my titles as opposed to the thousands of other titles available?”
Many Types of Series are Possible – But Which Would Be Ideal from a Marketing POV?
Philosophically, this is what I think would make an ideal series:
1. Forward and backward compatibility. That is, the reader should be able to read the books in any order and still feel a part of the enjoyable whole.
2. Open ended expandability. That is, there should be no limit to the number of books that can be added to the series.
3. Action simultaneity. That is, all actions in all the books should happen within the same time span. What happens to characters in one book should not influence what happens to characters in all the other books. Everything is happing at the same time. Simultaneity produces an equality between books since no reader has an advantage by virtue of the order in which she reads the books.
4. Loyalty & Emotional Attachment to a central hub. That is, the reader feels emotionally invested in some central hub which makes her want to read additional books. If you do not have a continuity of characters through time, then you need something else to engage the reader’s emotional investment in the story concept.
For example, each story could begin at an emotional event that takes place on Wednesday, April 17, 1906 -- the day before the San Francisco earthquake. The series might be called “Earthquake”. The stories could show how different heroes and heroines deal with the chaos of the earthquake’s aftermath.
Each book might end with an epilogue involving a survivor’s reunion at some logical point in the future. (When you go to such a reunion, it is not expected that you will know everyone there. The reader who has only read one book will experience one version of the reunion. Readers who have read more books in the series will have a different reunion experience. Anyway that’s the idea.)
The Challenge for Authors
It’s one thing to philosophically create the framework for an ideal system. It is quite another thing to instantiate the theory with concrete examples. I would be very interested if any authors can come up with a series that can actually meet the above criteria for the ideal series.
I’ll start with this idea:
Frontier Hospital: female nurses, midwives, doctors, and veterinarians, from back east, head west to find husbands and career satisfaction. Each goes out on assignment, from the hospital, to her own adventure. The hubs can be the arrival reception and the wedding reception.