I’m going to preface this post by pointing out that I’m giving you all full disclosure about what’s happening and why (as I did with my 2016 health scares). I have a unique relationship with my amazing fans and I don’t like leaving people hanging. What follows will seem like bad news for some, but there is a silver lining, so read to the end for that!
Because I’m the proprietor of Breakneck Media, the small press that publishes most Jeremy Robinson, Jeremy Bishop and Jeremiah Knight novels, which I write, I have to wear multiple hats. I’m an author, first and foremost, but I also create most of the covers, art-direct the rest, design and maintain the website, create all the video trailers, create the marketing materials, and…run the business. That means, on occasion, I have to mentally sit down with myself, look at the numbers, and make some hard calls.
In that past, that’s meant leaving a publisher. Now it means shifting my focus from writing series titles to standalone novels. While a good number of fans will no doubt disagree with the outcome (I don’t like it, either) the numbers don’t lie. I’m also going to lay out a few reasons for each series’ decline, but then propose a larger, theoretical reason at the end. So if you’re interested in saving any of these series, read to the end.
While I’m not going to reveal sales figures or revenue numbers, I am going to talk in percentages, and reveal which series are being affected, all of which have a core group of fans who are going to be disappointed. I wish it could be avoided, but continuing with these series is unsustainable for me. There are a few series for which I plan on publishing a series finale, and with those books I expect to either break even, or take a loss.
JACK SIGLER THRILLERS
Falling under this banner is the Jack Sigler Thrillers themselves, the Continuum series, and the Cerberus Group books. Does that mean you shouldn’t read Helios, the next Cerberus Group novel? Not at all. The finale for all these books will be linked together in grand fashion, bringing together characters that have been separated for many books now.
So why cut the Chess Team? Many people view them as my most successful series of novels. There was a time, early on, when that was true. The first five novels did amazingly well. Since then, readers have dropped off at a rate of 50% per book. There isn’t a business model I’m aware of that continues to produce a product if that kind of sales trend is sustained.
THE HUNGER SERIES
Book one, Hunger, sold well, got great reviews, and was a strong start to a unique and action-packed series, which I personally loved writing. Book two, Feast, got far fewer reviews, but most declared it was even better than Book One. The problem was that sales fell by about 70%. Not continuing the series is a no-brainer. That said, I’m still hoping to write the finale and will be shifting the author name from Jeremiah Knight to Jeremy Robinson. With that, the Knight name will come to an end as well.
UPDATE (3/14/2019): The third book in the HUNGER series is BACK ON THE SCHEDULE!! Changing the name from Jeremiah Knight to Jeremy Robinson, and some changes in the pricing led to increased sales and I’ve received a large number of e-mails and messages asking for book 3. We’re looking at an early 2020 release right now. Thanks to all who have kept the hunger for HUNGER growing!
Widely regarded, by those who have read it, as one of my best novels, Unity is one of my slowest sellers. I have a few theories as to why. 1) The cover, while amazing, is a painting. My observations of cover style and sales tell me that painted covers, for my audience, are a drawback. 2) It’s ‘young adult’. That didn’t matter for The Last Hunter, but I think the YA tag and cover together turned people off. 3) The subject matter—not Kaiju (Project Nemesis is one of my most successful novels) but robots. The two novels I’ve written featuring robots have not done well. Because of that, Unity is now being treated as a standalone novel. Is there hope for more? I plan to eventually update the cover to something more mainstream and market it as an adult novel featuring teenage characters (which is accurate). If that changes things, maybe there will be more.
Also very well received by readers, Jenna Flood didn’t find an audience, and Flood Rising has been one of my slowest sellers. It was an experiment in mainstream thrillers, trying to reach a large audience that doesn’t pick up monster novels, but that could have also killed momentum as my large monster-loving fanbase passed on it. Also, like Unity, Flood Rising features a young female protagonist. I’d hate to think that had something to do with either book’s decline, but I have a feeling it did. As a result, Flood Rising is now a standalone story.
THE NEMESIS SAGA
“Wait a second,” you say, “didn’t you just say Project Nemesis was one of your most successful novels?” It is, and the series is dear to my heart, and it culminates in a crossover event ten years in the making, something no author has ever done before. But the series also suffered from the 50% decline for every new book situation. That said, five books had always been the plan. I get asked a lot about future Nemesis books, but the answer is complicated. I can’t continue the series by picking up where I left off. The current sales trend says I’ll lose money. But that doesn’t mean sales won’t pick up (Project Legion is still new), and it doesn’t mean I won’t feature the FC-P or Nemesis in other works. But to be clear, Nemesis wasn’t cancelled, it came to a natural and epic conclusion.
Also a very well received series that stopped after two books. This one is a little different, as the first two books are with a publisher, and I would have to publish Book Three on my own. Sales are not sufficient for the publisher to have me do a Book Three, but I would love to. Like Hunger, I love writing Jane Harper, and I hate leaving things open ended. Right now, it would likely mean taking a loss, and the cover for Book Three wouldn’t match the first two, meaning a loss in audience. Probably not going to happen until sales justify it, the publisher requests it, or the rights revert back to me.
Now, there is a little hope for this one, as sales haven’t been horrible. They haven’t been amazing, but it could justify a second book. The real challenge is that the format of this book is complicated. Merging five stories by five authors into one story was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done as an author. I love how it came out, and I would like to see a second book, but I need to be mentally prepared to handle that job before leaping into it. Could I write a second book on my own? Sure, but that feels like a betrayal to what made Refuge an original and cool concept.
THE BERSERKER SAGA
I’ve been sitting on this crazy, post-apocalyptic Viking epic (along with Cerberus Group Book 2, Helios) for about a year, mostly because I’ve been aware of this growing problem with series books and wanted to figure things out. Currently, Viking Tomorrow (Book One of three) is slated to come out in the next few months. If sales are great, we’ll get three books. If not, we’ll tell the story in two books. Why say this up front? Either way, this series will not hang. You don’t have to fear an open ended, cancelled series. Assuming Viking Tomorrow sells at least okay, we’ll have a definite ending. The question is, will it be in two books, or three? Read lower to find out how you can help make that happen.
WELL GEEZ, THAT’S DEPRESSING. WHERE IS THE SILVER LINING?!
Over the past year, I have released three standalone novels. If you’re a fan, you’ve probably read them along with some or most of these series titles. They are Apocalypse Machine, The Distance, and Infinite. The key here is that all three books have reached audiences far larger than my series books, and have received a LOT more reviews, which helps reach even more readers. If not for those three books, I’d be considering a career change to romantic thrillers. So what do these novels have in common?
In terms of story, not a lot, but they are all heavy on the sci-fi. They are all character driven, and they’re all standalone. They’re generally regarded as being more well written, more meaningful, and just as entertaining as my other books. And sales have reflected that this is what my readers want—fresh, original stories with all the action from before, but with more substance. And honestly, it’s what I prefer to write.
Over the next year, as Breakneck Media shifts from series titles to standalones, I’m writing fewer novels (5 – 6 per year, max…which is still a frikkin ton…instead of 9ish), and publishing a novel every two months, rather than every month as I’ve done in years past (to keep up with all the series). They will all be a bit more on the sci-fi side, featuring aliens, kaiju, time travel, subterranean realms, and monsters. They will also be character driven, involving motivations beyond stopping bad guys (though bad guys will still be stopped in crazy ways). And each will be a standalone story.
Here are the titles for the standalone novels currently in the pipe: Forbidden Island, The Divide, Highway 37, The Hollow, and Flux.
HOW CAN WE HELP?
Glad you asked (just pretend you did). The one observation of series that failed to take off, tanked after book one, or declined over time is the number of reviews. I think that readers, excited about a new series, post a lot of reviews for Book One, which helps sales take off. If you’re wondering how that’s possible, you can read my post about writing book reviews here. But when it comes to future books in a series, fewer readers post reviews, even if they liked the second book just as much or more than the first.
The way Amazon works now is that sales are pretty well connected to the number of reviews received. The more reviews a book gets, the more they recommend it. If readers of a Book One aren’t following me on Facebook or Twitter, or aren’t subscribed to my newsletter, they’ll likely not remember to look for Book Two a year later. But when enough people write reviews for a Book Two, Amazon will let people know about it.
So, if you want to help a series, or a novel (by any author) the best thing you can do aside from telling people naturally, is by posting a review on Amazon (and Goodreads, B&N, Kobo, etc). I’m not expecting a hundred people to run out and post reviews for Feast, but I’m pretty sure if it happened, sales would leap. That said, posting reviews for standalone novels is also critical (and Infinite could use some more). 😉
There WILL be one more Jack Sigler Thriller, wrapping up the Chess Team and Cerberus stories. I have hopes that all of these series will find success down the line, allowing me to finish them. Nemesis could return, but not in a ‘Book Six’. Viking Tomorrow could launch a new three-book series, but not without your help. Standalone novels are currently the future, and that future is bright! Despite having to stop so many different series, I’m really looking forward to telling more original and creative stories.
I get a lot of messages about all these series, so I hope this makes sense to everyone and leaves all your questions answered. If not, please comment, and I’ll reply!