Should Readers say which Book you Write next?

Your book is published and it’s time to think about the next one. You have lots of great ideas, but wait… is it your place to choose your new book, or your readers?

“What’re you talking about, Graeme?” I hear you cry. “I’ll write what I want to.”

Agreed, it is usually the case that the author decides what comes next. It’s probably been planned and outlined even while the last book was being edited. Sometimes your contract may dictate this for you, if you have signed with a publisher for a multi-book deal.

If you are writing a series, then it ‘s a “no-brainer”: You write the next book.

But what, if you are like me, you don’t want to be tied down to one setting or set of characters for the next few years? You want to try something different. Can you veer off course, write a book or two, and then come back to continue the series?

Yes, you can, but this is where you need to think about your readers. If you were to give them the choice of the sequel or something else, if they truly enjoyed your previous book then I bet they’d vote for the sequel. Oh dear, now you’re no longer in control. :)

You might get away with jumping ship if you haven’t declared a series. Even though you’ve left your book open for a sequel, the readers don’t know if there’ll be one or not. Often, authors come back years later to write a sequel, a prequel, or other books in the same world or featuring the same characters.

The advantage of this is that you could write several standalone books, and see which one(s) your readers prefer before delivering a sequel. Not only are you capitalizing on your best-received book, but you can make it look like you listened to your fans and wrote a sequel for them. Manipulative? I don’t think so – you’re not harming anyone.

The disadvantage is that if you wait too long between books in a series, you’ll upset your readers. A well-known example is when Stephen King took 5 or 6 years between each volume of the Dark Tower. Fans got upset that it forced them to re-read the entire series each time, to remind themselves. Not everyone likes to re-read books.

In summary, I would say if you have declared a series, write them back to back. If not, readers are usually fine if you return later and write a sequel.

It has been suggested by some that authors poll their readers with several book ideas, and let their fans pick the one they want to read. This idea hasn’t gone down well, I suspect because writers perform best when their passion is high. Sometimes you just know what book you want/need to write – a particular story has to be told. But if you really can’t select between two of your greatest ideas, why not ask your readers. They’ll love you for it.

How much would you be swayed by your readers? Would you trust them to tell you which book to write next?


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