How to keep fans engaged “Between the Books”
I did what most writing experts tell you not to: I wrote the first three books in my mystery series before finding a publisher. Normally if you are planning a series it’s best to perfect the first novel and pitch it before diving head first into writing a series. But alas, I did. So when my first book, Town Red, was picked up and published by Black Opal Books, I already knew what was going to happen in books two and three.
But still, each novel takes multiple revisions, and so there was at least a year’s gap between the publication of Town Red and my second book in the series. Town Red had received very good reviews and immediately garnered fans from all over the country. I wanted to keep my readers engaged so they didn’t lose interest before the next book came on the market, so I decided to write a “Between the Books” short story.
I knew my writing pace, and calculated I could get it out by mid-December. It was perfect timing to go with a holiday theme: What do you get your girlfriend who has thirty-million dollars? But that was the B-story. Since my genre is mystery, I had to create a murder and an investigation as the primary plot line. The series is based in Chicago, and I found during my initial research that most of the homicides in Chicago are gang-related. I believed that would make for a great counterpoint to the detective’s other problem of choosing a gift for his new super-wealthy mate.
Once the story was written and edited, I chose to self-publish through Kindle Direct to make it affordable and accessible to my fans. It also lets readers who aren’t familiar with my work to get a quick feel for my writing and my characters. As in all of the books in my series, you don’t have to read the previous one to enjoy my “Between the Books” mystery, Present Tense, but it helps.
My series is heavily character-driven and was inspired by the old hard-boiled detective stories, but with a metaphysical twist. Detective Ryan Doherty’s love interest, Catharine Lulling, is a psychic empath who has visions of people’s pasts. She also clues in that Ryan’s had conversations with his deceased ex-partner, Jon, all of which has him questioning his evidence-based reality.
Present Tense continues the deep relationships that Ryan has with his current partner, Matt Di Santo, his dead partner, Jon, and his new strange love interest, Catharine. It further develops the characters of Catharine’s twin sons and propels the series forward to prepare the reader for book two, which picks up a couple months later in the characters’ lives.
All in all, it was a successful venture and I’m actually planning a second Between-the-Books mystery that takes place between the fourth and fifth books. If you’re an author in the midst a series and the next one won’t be published for a while, I’d recommend giving your readers a little nugget in between. Writing a short story that continues the continuity of your series can serve as both a gift to your fans, a device to keep them interested, and a marketing tool for new readers.
Present Tense is available on Amazon Kindle and is 30 pages in length.