Wednesday, October 3, 2018

In for the long haul? by Cathy Ace

Business - Overheard at Bouchercon in Florida last month: "I don't write series *or* standalones; I write books." Do you love/hate/mind/notice/use/ignore the publishers' and booksellers' classifications of your work?

Well now, isn’t this an interesting one…and something I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to over the past few months. 

I definitely write two series: The Cait Morgan Mysteries with eight books in it to date; the WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries with four books in it to date. Each individual book within each series has a beginning, middle and end, and I don’t write any cliffhangers at the end of a book to “encourage” readers to read the next one…I don’t like it when authors do that to me as a reader, so I don’t do it to mine. 

Definitely a series, all the Cait Morgan Mysteries feature Cait Morgan and Bud Anderson

Each book has a satisfying conclusion to the case/s within it, and readers can choose to share the company of my recurring characters again, in another book, if they choose. 

Definitely a series, each book features the four WISE women, and the inhabitants of both Chellingworth Hall and the village of Anwen-by-Wye

There can be no doubt that each of the two “sets” of my work to date is, in fact, a series, as both were planned as such from the start. I was delighted to work with two different publishers, one for each series, and we were all pretty certain from the outset that the idea was to bring recurring characters to books to allow for a “series” to be promoted to readers.

That said, the most recent book I’ve been working on may, or may not, be the first in a new series. Why don’t I know yet? Because I don’t know how the book will sell. If it sells well, and if readers want to know what happens to “some” of the characters within it (I cannot say which ones, because that would involve spoilers) then I am more than happy to write future books featuring said character/s. But if there isn’t the appetite for that from readers then…no, I won’t push it, I’ll allow THE WRONG BOY to become a de facto standalone (it will be released on January 9th 2019, so if you read it you can help me make a decision!).

My new "novel" will be released on January 9th 2019

As a reader I enjoy series books, but I also enjoy standalones. I also am not especially bothered by which it is when I begin to read; I don’t need to start a series at the first book. If I enjoy a series book I am likely to go back to the first in the series and work my way forward from there if I have the time/ability to do so, but I use the library a great deal, so that’s not always possible.

I don’t mind my books being categorized as series or standalone…the classifications that bother me more are the “cozy”, “traditional”, “suspense”, “thriller” type labels that are assigned to books. That’s where I would say “I am writing a book, not a classification”, rather than railing against “series or standalone”…which, to me, is a pretty obvious differentiation. 

I'd be honoured if you'd consider reading my work - you can find out about it, and me, here:



Paul D. Marks said...

"I am writing a book, not a classification." I like that, Cathy. Good way of putting it.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

I'm with you, Cathy. I like to read a series, and I like standalones. All that matters is that the writing appeals to me.

Cathy Ace said...

Thanks Paul, yes, that is how I feel. However, I have honestly felt, at certain points, that I want to choose to meet the expectations of readers vs publishers.

Cathy Ace said...

Yes, Dietrich, I read both...quite happily. Sometimes I read standalones by the same author back to back because their writing so much :-)

Terry said...

Cathy, I'm curious to know why the classifications within the mystery genre bother you. I think people ought to have some sense of what kind of mystery they are picking up. That's why the cover is so important--and that's often where the classification is made clear. Some people love what's known as cozies and are horrified by any graphic violence; others, the opposite. Why not let them know what they are in for before they put down their hard-earned cash? (Or trot him with an armload of books the library). On the other hand, they may be enticed out of their preferences if they get a surprise. Your thoughts?

I'm with you on series. I don't care where I start in a series. I love Deb Crombie's books and have never attempted to read them in order. I like the backstory, but knowing what happened in later books doesn't keep me from getting immersed in earlier books.

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Terry - I understand that readers want to know what "classification" of book they're picking up. What I find difficult is when a publisher says "this will be pitched as a cozy series, but it's not cozy enough" when I didn't know I was writing, and didn't want to write, a cozy series/book at all. I understand your point. Good one.

Susan C Shea said...

Cathy, in the comment above, you touched on the same issue I had - being pushed into the cozy niche I had not written in, to make the marketing department's job simpler if not more successful. Terry points out that cover art can and should make some basic types clear - no cartoon covers for thrillers, no ultra high tech typeface for historicals. But why do we need further parsing? Let the reader happily browse and figure it out!

Cathy Ace said...

Yes, that's the thing, Susan...getting shoehorned into a shoe that doesn't really fit.

Terry said...

I understand what Cathy and Susan are saying--being shoehorned into a genre you don't fit into is stultifying (don't you love that word?) And I agree about browsing as a way of broadening a reader's interest.