KDD: Series starter sale

KDD: Series starter sale

One of today’s Kindle Daily Deal‘s (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) is any of twenty first books in a series for $1.99 each.

Series include (ratings shown on for the book being offered, not the entire series):

  • Lost Love by Karen Kingsbury (4.4 stars, 87 customer reviews)
  • Moonlighters by Terri Blackstock (4.7 stars, 277 reviews)
  • The End by Tim LaHaye (Left Behind) and Craig Parshall (3.9 stars, 166 reviews)
  • Hope Beach by Colleen Coble (4.4 stars, 397 reviews)
  • Mia Quinn mysteries by Lis Wiehl (4.4 stars, 212 reviews)
  • Shipshewana Amish by Vannetta Chapman (4.7 stars, 130 reviews)

These series have some things in common: all the ones I checked were from faith-based imprints (Thomas Nelson, Zondervan) of HarperCollins.

This deal brings up some interesting things in my mind.

First, I want to mention that we’ve had discussion here before about whether or not I should identify something as faith-based. For some people, that’s clearly a plus. For others, it’s clearly a negative.

You don’t have to be of the specific religion featured to prefer faith-based fiction. Some people like them simply because they tend to be less graphic, both in terms of violence and sexuality (although the former isn’t always true). They may also be less likely to use profanity, although it can be a bit nuanced: there are some faith-based thrillers that can be pretty shocking.

Other people want to know because they want to avoid them. Some folks feel like they are proselytizing in disguise (although it isn’t much a disguise…generally, it would be like my wearing a “Hello, My Name is Bufo” name tag on top of a Halloween costume).😉 Others think that they may not be as well-written, both because of the constraints placed by writing for a specific audience, and because writing for an audience like that means you are a fish in a smaller pond, where the competition isn’t as fierce.

The same charges, of course, could be leveled at a number of genres: romance; science fiction; mystery; and so on. When something is categorized by the publisher as a “Christian mystery”, does that double the possible effects?

The second thing that came to me is series starters generally.

It used to be that publishing a first novel in a series was a considerable risk, as was publishing any novel (back in the paperbook days). While the cost differential between producing a p-book and an e-book may not be that high for a tradpub (traditional publisher), there was certainly a question of limited shelf space in the stores.

That limited space (and I’m a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager) meant that book had to justify itself with continuing sales, and had to do it quickly. Why? We were paying rent on the space under that book: every day it sat there meant less money we would make on the eventual sale of it.

Shelf space is not an issue with e-books.

E-books also have a much shorter production cycle than p-books. There are authors who crank out an e-book every couple of months (some a lot faster), when in the p-book world, publishers tend to limit you to one a year (that happened to Stephen King, which is why he published under a pseudonym that even the publisher didn’t know, as I understand the Richard Bachman story).

So, if

Dune (at AmazonSmile)

hadn’t been popular, we wouldn’t have gotten the sequels.

Now, though, a publisher might have ten books ready to go when the first one is released.

Some even release them all at once, allowing for “binge reading” (and beating out Netflix to the model).

If you want to make a sale to a tradpub for a young adult book, for example, you may do a lot better if you already have a trilogy you can deliver.

The old larger economic risk model also explains to some extent why a first book may be quite different from the rest of the series, and why the first one may vary from the later ones on whether or not is available in e-book form.

The author, unless already a brand name, doesn’t have much negotiating power with the first book.

If that book becomes a success, the author can then negotiate with more people, get an experienced editor (which can be a big plus)…you know, get more resources provided for a “proven property”.

People find it odd, but the first book in L. Frank Baum’s Oz series (the original Wizard of Oz books) is probably my least favorite.

It’s a lot harsher (there are a whole lot of deaths ((or at least bodily destructions)) in the book…more than 100).

In later books, it is impossible to kill someone in Oz (definitely impossible to kill someone who belongs to Oz…there are sometimes debates about whether or not visitors also get that immunity). The books become more fun, sillier…and for me, a lot more enjoyable. They are also more consistent.

If the first book hadn’t been a smash, though, there probably never would have been a second (and on up to a fourteenth).

What do you think? Is there a series where you like the first book the least? Has e-publishing changed the dynamics on series? Are you more willing to get a novel if you know it is part of a series? Would you ever start a series not at the first book (I do not like to do that, unless they are clearly stand-alones)? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.

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* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

5 Responses to “KDD: Series starter sale”

  1. Harold Delk Says:

    Yes, please identify faith-based very clearly; I wish Amazon would do so more clearly as well. I try my best to avoid it, but too many faith-based authors try to hide their agendas in the text without fully disclosing upfront that they are trying to “spread the word” of their faith. A clear disclosure on the cover and in the description should be required; simple Truth in Advertising is a requirement in ethical marketing.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Harold!

      Generally, Amazon doesn’t identify the books. Amazon creates categories, and the publishers choose those categories.

      I know for sure that’s how it works for indies using their Kindle Direct Publishing platform (since I’m one of those), but I think it works that way as well for tradpubs.

      Publishers make the choice for marketing purposes, quite often. I know I’ve said before that I’ve seen the same book categorized as fiction and non-fiction. There can clearly be an advantage in being a “Number One bestseller” for marketing purposes, so a smaller category can be chosen for that reason.

      When I polled people, the preference was that I identify them, and I generally do that. I think it’s worth noting that many faith-based books aren’t trying to “spread the word”…they aren’t designed to be read by people outside their target market. However, I’ve also seen ones that would fit what you describe…

  2. Lady Galaxy Says:

    I love The Hollows series by Kim Harrison, but I had a really hard time getting into the first book, which came as a freebie. I had almost given up on it when I read a review of one of the later books of the series. So I went back and forced my way through the first book, and found that it got better as it went along. Now we’re almost at the end of the series, and I’m going to be sad to see it end. I’m reading the most recent books slowly, one chapter at a time, to make it last longer.

  3. Lady Galaxy Says:

    I’ve also come in on several series at a point other than the first book. I think I started the Sue Grafton books at “C” and the Marcia Muller’s Sharon McCone series “The Cheshire Cat’s Eye” and I know I started the Travis McGee books with “Dreadful Lemon Sky.” In all three cases, I went back to read the rest of the series, in order, and I kept up with them as they were released. It was a sad day when John MacDonald died because he took Travis and Meyer and the Busted Flush along with him. The final book in the series seemed as if it had been intended as the final book in the series since it tied up loose ends from the first book. I’ve been disappointed with the most recent Grafton alphabet series, but I will keep reading. I just won’t be putting the upcoming books on preorder. I’ll wait for the price to drop. Muller’s books tend to be uneven, but I’m still invested enough in the characters to preorder the books.

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