Why is a series the not-so-secret weapon for making a decent living with your writing? What’s the difference between episodic series and one with a clear arc across the books? What are some of the best ways to market a series? Sara Rosett talks about all these things and more.
In the intro, Facebook shuts down news organizations (and a lot more) in Australia [The Guardian]; The possible impact of Facebook changes on author advertising [Author Media]; my Author Website and Email List Tutorial; my tutorial on how to sell ebooks and audiobooks direct with Payhip and Bookfunnel; and tips on dictation.
Today’s show is sponsored by Draft2Digital, where you can get free ebook formatting, free distribution to multiple stores, and a host of other benefits. Get your free Author Marketing Guide at www.draft2digital.com/penn
You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and full transcript below.
- Finding time to write with small children in the house
- The pros and cons of writing a series
- How the hero’s journey fits in with a series
- On the different types of series and where they work best
- How to plan a series
- How to keep track of character continuity in a series
- Different ideas for marketing a book series
You can find Sara Rosett at SaraRosett.com and on Twitter @SaraRosett
Transcript of Interview with Sara Rosett
Joanna: Sara Rosett is the USA Today best-selling author of cozy mysteries, travel and historical mysteries, as well as books and courses for writers, including How to Write a Series, and, How to Outline a Cozy Mystery. She’s also a podcaster at Wish I’d Known Then with co-host, Jami Albright. Welcome to the show, Sara.
Sara: Hi, Joanna. It’s great to be here.
Joanna: Oh, it’s so exciting to have you on the show. So let’s get started.
Tell us a bit more about you and how you got into writing.
Sara: I’ve always loved reading. I’ve always loved books. I’ve always loved mysteries. And so I read so many books when I was a kid and my dream was to write a fiction novel. So what did I do? I went to school and got a degree in language and literature and spent my time writing essays instead of fiction.
That was kind of the way you did it, then, it was like you’ll just do your writing on the side. So I got a job. I had jobs where I worked writing, travel copy. I worked at a company that did tours, and so I wrote copy, and I did other writing related jobs.
But I was not writing fiction. And that was always in the back of my mind but I couldn’t quite figure out, like, what type of book. And then I found cozies. And I was like, ‘Oh, I think I could write one of these.’
So I was just consuming all these cozies and kind of figuring out how the plot worked in those. And then I’d gotten married, and we had little kids. And my husband said, ‘I think it’s about time one of us went back to school and got a master’s degree.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, well, I’m not doing that. If I’m going to take time to do something else besides parent and keep up with the kids, I want to write a book.’
He said, ‘Okay, go for it.’ Because he knew that I wanted to do that. And so I started. I had two kids under four. And I just carved out little bits of time when they were napping or in preschool and started working on a book and I went to writers conferences. And it was quite a long process.
It took about five years to write the book and edit at that point. That was, like, 2004, 2005. And I found an agent, she sold it. And that became the first series I wrote. And there were 10 books in that series.
And then several books into that, about 2010, I heard that indie publishing, and I was hearing about people that were paying their mortgage with the money they were making on eBooks and self-publishing. And I was, like, ‘I definitely need to look into this because that’s not what…’ If you’re a midlist author, you’re not paying your mortgage with your royalties.
So I checked into that. And I wanted to do it. I tested it out with some short stories. I had no intellectual property that I controlled so I wrote a new series and became an indie, became a hybrid publisher for a while, and now I’m all indie.
Joanna: Wow, that is quite a journey. And it’s very interesting. I want to pick up on you said you carved out bits of time while raising your kids. I know this is a question that a lot of people have. And you said 10 books that you did with that first publisher.
How did you find those bits of time then and how are you managing your time as an author now?
Sara: When my kids were little, I knew that I had certain bits of time during the day that I could get maybe 10 or 15 minutes. One of my kids, when she was a little bit older, I’d take her, drop her off at preschool, go back home, put my younger son down for a nap. And then I knew I had 20 minutes.
When you have that, you don’t have time to dilly dally. And it’s actually great because it makes you focus so much. I would just dive in and I would just get the words down. I would think before about what I wanted to write, and that helped me because I’m a thinker and I have to process. If I just knew, I’m just going to try and get down one page or half a scene, that’s what I would do.
At that point, I had a lot of things where I was taking the kids places, to the dentist, and to the sports things, or wait in the carpool line to pick them up. I would print out my manuscript and take it with me to edit it. I was always carrying around this big binder that was about two inches thick with tons of pages and scribbling all over it.
I don’t do that now. But as my kids have gotten older, it’s gotten easier because there’s more time. But then I think it just changes as your kids get older, you’re not taking care of them every day. But there are certain things where, like, ‘Oh, now we need to go help them move from one apartment to another,’ or something like that.
I learned to write in the time that I could make and it was a slow process. I didn’t have the pressures that people have now with starting out and trying to write several books or trying to produce several books a year. I was writing one book a year. It worked out well for me. But I’m glad I had to do it because it taught me how to make the most of little bits of time.
Joanna: I don’t think anyone starts out writing several books a year. That first book can take a long time. Did you say it took five years to do your first book?
Sara: Yes, it did. And that was learning how to write a book and learning and researching the publishing industry and how all that worked and what my options were. So I was doing both at the same time.
Joanna: Now, I think you’ve got four series, is that right?
Sara: Yes. A couple of them have ended.
Joanna: Great. We’re going to talk about writing a series.
Why is writing a series a good idea, as opposed to a standalone? And what are the pros and cons?
Sara: I think the first reason would be the readers love a series. And you want to keep your readers happy.
With a series, if you can get your readers hooked on book one, then it’s book two and three on down the road is an easier sell, perhaps, than a standalone, because your readers are familiar with the characters in the world.
That’s one reason to do it is that readers are looking for those and they want that. If they enjoy the experience, they want to return to that same world again.
And then there’s some financial stability with writing a series. If you know that book one made a certain amount of money, then maybe book two and three may not be that exact amount, but you can kind of predict a little bit. It gives you some predictability in your financial planning.
And not always, but sometimes, writing a familiar series and characters can be a little bit easier and it can go faster because you already know the world. So you’re not world-building with each book. But each book has its own process.
Sometimes you may think, ‘Oh, this, I’ve thought,’ ‘Oh, this will go fast. It’s book five.’ And sometimes it just doesn’t, and it takes longer, but you do have the basics, that structure that you can go back to that you don’t have to rebuild every time.
Another thing is you can go really deep with themes, if you want, across books, because you can extend it out across a series instead of just having one book.
And there are marketing reasons for promotion that make a series a good thing to have. You can save time. You can focus on book one in your marketing, and then you’re not trying to run ads to all the books in your catalog. You can focus on one, and hopefully, as readers come into that book one, if they like it, they’ll continue on and you don’t have to put as much time into marketing the other books in a series.
Joanna: We’ll come back on marketing a series. But on writing, so you’ve got several and you said some are finished, which I think some people might not get what that means, especially mystery. If you think Poirot, for example, mystery series can go on forever because the detective is just always solving something or whoever is solving the crime can solve them over and over again.
What are the different kinds of series that people write, and does anything work particularly well in different genres?
Sara: This is something that I didn’t understand when I first became a writer. And when I searched for information on writing a series, I couldn’t really find that much. It seemed like all the writing information was focused on the hero’s journey and how to write a good book. And I was, like, ‘But how do you make it where you have a series of good books?’
What I’ve discovered is that there are different types of series, and that there are two main types, the multi protagonist, which is usually you have a different main character in each book and they’re linked in some way, like through a family or location, or even a job setting. Like the ‘Bridgerton’ series and books that are out now, like the ‘Bridgerton’ Netflix series, that would be a multi protagonist because it’s the same family but each story is a different character. Each character has their own book. So you’ve got the multi protagonists.
And then you’ve also got the single protagonist series, which, just follows one character. And there are tons of different variations that can be used in any type of genre. But then underneath kind of the single protagonist, you can have a robust character arc, which is more of the hero’s journey. There’s a big change from beginning to end, like, ‘Harry Potter.’
But those types of series, they do have an endpoint. And if you’ve reached the end of the hero’s journey, you’ve reached the end of the series, usually, and then you have the flat arc character, and that main character essentially stays the same.
It would be like a Jason Bourne, a Jack Reacher type character, where they come in and they stay the same, but the story world changes around them or they influence the characters in a story world, and those characters change. And that type is more episodic.
It can be endless, like you were saying. As long as you can keep coming up with problems that need to be solved, mysteries that need to be solved, murders that need to be solved, things like that, you can keep going. And that last type has been most successful for me and it really fits with the mystery genre expectations. And it’s what I like to read. So it’s a nice blend of what I like and what the readers expect.
Joanna: That’s a really good load of explanation there. I started writing my ARKANE series. That was the first novel, Stone of Fire. And what I did was I found an author who I really liked, James Rollins, who writes the ‘Sigma’ series, and I was like, ‘What does he do?’ I’ll do something like that.
I also love James Bond movies. I’m definitely the sort of the episodic or, I guess, you call it a flat arc, where there is a small amount of character development, but you can’t kill off your main characters unless you’re going to really end something. But doing that really scuppers the whole thing unless you’re trying to bring them back and you have something paranormal.
But it’s interesting because, of course, you mentioned the mystery series is very much similar in that people often want to see the same detective over and over. Romance, obviously, generally has a finished happy ending for one character, as you said, with ‘Bridgerton,’ and then you have to pick different characters for the next one because you’ve kind of done that unless you’re going to start with a divorce or something, so then you’ve sort of broken the tropes.
You mentioned there about themes extending across the series. I think that sounds really interesting. Do you have an example of that?
Sara: One that comes to mind is Enola Holmes, the books and the Netflix series. They both are very similar in that they start out when her mother leaves. And so she’s trying to figure out what happened to her mother. In the Netflix series, they give you some resolution at the end of the first series, but in the books you don’t know.
She has a complete story that she gets involved in this mystery and solves the mystery. But then at the end of that, there are more clues, more things related to her mother that she’s still searching for. So a search or a quest type thing could go across several books.
A romance could go across several books, as long as it’s not a romance series, that would kind of defeat the purpose of that. But there are just different things that you can draw out over the course of a series that will pull readers from one book to the other.
Joanna: How does this work if you’re a detailed plotter or if you’re more of a discovery writer?
Because I thought I was writing a third series with my ‘Mapwalker’ fantasy books. And then when I was writing book three, I realized that it was a trilogy. And I was like, ‘Oh, right. Okay, well, that means this is ended.’
Now I could write more in the world but that is a trilogy. It’s done. The main protagonist’s story is kind of done. No spoilers, obviously. Do you plot more than one book in a series or…because of your book’s episode that you don’t really have to? How do you know what you’re writing?
Sara: This is something I’ve learned over time. When I first started out, and I had that first book that was sold, I knew it would be a series because it was a cozy, and cozies are almost always a series. I had some ideas for different mysteries that could be in the next books, but I didn’t have a big, overarching plan.
Now I think more in terms of a general plan. Like the historical mysteries that I’m writing right now is about a woman who is finding her way in the world. She’s becoming independent. And she realizes she’s good at this detective thing. The first three books are all about her learning that, finding her feet. And then I thought, ‘Okay, if that does well, that’s a nice enclosed thing. And if it doesn’t do well, I can end it there. But if it does, I can go on.’
And so the next three books, I planned, ‘Okay, she can gather her team. She can have people come to her, like friends will refer people to her. And that will be she’s getting established. And then in the next three books, strangers will come to her. And she will be an established detective at that point, kind of a discreet detective for the upper class in London because maybe they don’t want to hire a private detective.’
That gave me a general framework that I could work within. But it wasn’t too restrictive that I couldn’t make adjustments. And then if a series hadn’t done well, I could have ended it at book three. And I didn’t leave readers with all these open loops that they had no answers to.
Joanna: That’s really good because I don’t plot and/or outline, although I keep trying. I keep trying. People who’ve listened to this show for years will have heard me over and over again try this.
But then, obviously, Lindsay Buroker, does fantasy and came on to talk about her series.
And she really does seem to have in mind, right, this is a six-book series or an eight-book series, and then writes the whole thing and then releases it, which to me seems like something I would love to be able to do, but that’s just not me.
It sounds like you basically don’t think eight books in advance.
Sara: No. The idea of ending a series…I was a little afraid of that because, like you’re saying, mystery and thriller series can go on for 20 books. And readers sort of expect that. I think different genres have different expectations.
Sci-fi and fantasy, there’s more of an expectation of a three-book series or a six-book series, and it’s done. Whereas mystery readers seem to assume that the series can go on and will go on. But as writers, I know that some of my books in my series, I’ve come to the end of my ideas and my plot possibilities. And so, for me, that means it’s time to end it.
But I think it does depend on what genre you’re in and how you work as a writer. I’m not super detailed in my planning, but I do like to have a point that I’m going to. That makes me feel better.
Joanna: I know what you mean because some of the series I love, like, to mention James Rollins, again, his ‘Sigma’ series I love. But ‘Preston & Child’ with the Pendergast series is a kind of mystery. And what I find, as you say, they’re both over 20 books by now, I think, obviously, that reaches over 20 books.
It’s interesting because I feel like some books in a series that long hit all the genre tropes that I want. And I’m like, ‘Yes, this is awesome.’ And then some of the books feel like they haven’t quite hit the mark. It may have just been personal taste, but it may have also been that the authors were a bit sick of the characters when they had to write a book. I feel that happens sometimes.
I put out Tree Of Life just before Christmas. And that was two years after the previous ARKANE book because I just wasn’t ready to write those characters again.
How do you keep your series characters fresh for you in the writing, but also fresh in terms of the books, so they’re not repetitive?
Sara: When I first started out, and I knew I figured out I was writing a flat arc character, and she wasn’t going to have this big, huge character change. But I thought in each book, I’ll give her just like a little challenge, something that she needs to learn or overcome, or just something small. That helped with that type of series.
But now I like the idea of having bigger themes that run throughout the series. I have a romance theme, just writing through my current series, and readers love that, especially in mystery. I get more email about the romance than about the mystery. So obviously, they’re in for that.
I also like the entrepreneurial theme. I had another series where I thought, like you, this book is done. It’s a three-book series, it’s done. And I got to the end of that, and the readers were interested and they said, ‘We want more.’
And at that point, I was, like, ‘Well, yes. If you’re asking for it, yes.’ I figured out a way to write a fourth book. Kind of the characters were together, the problems were solved, it was them launching a new life together. And there was a mystery, they solved it.
I got to the end of that book, and I thought, ‘Oh, this could be a new career for my main character.’ And it turned into a series about art theft and recovery of priceless things. She worked as a consultant for that. So that launched her in a whole new kind of business economic type field. Could she solve her first case? Could she work on her own? So that launched a new series arc for her.
The different types of arcs, that’s how I like to do it. I like to have something that is interesting, that people are interested in. And sometimes that can be even in the secondary characters. Especially in cozy mystery, people get really involved in the cast of characters around your main character, and they want to know, ‘What’s happened with the lady who owns the bookstore? And that person that left on the trip to England, do they come back, are they still there?’ They want to know all these things. I think that can give you things to carry from book to book as well.
Joanna: And these secondary character types, as you say, they’re kind of archetypes. And again, I’m trying not to give any spoilers for my books. But in one of my books, one of the significant secondary characters, I just felt the story demanded that he did die. But then what’s happened is there’s a hole in my archetypes.
So I am now trying to fill that hole with another secondary character who will fill that kind of role. But it is really interesting how the secondary characters go. And as you say, you can write more about that character of people particularly like them.
One of the things, because I’ve got a pair, Morgan and Jake, and it’s funny, you actually mentioned romance because one of my things is that there’s some romantic tension, but they’re never going to get together. And I think of ‘Bones.’ Did you watch? You must have watched ‘Bones.’ I love ‘Bones,’ and ‘Castle’ as well?
While those characters never got together, those series were really good. And then as soon as anything actually happened, that’s when the tension went. I think having romantic tension between your characters in something that’s not a romance where they never get together is a good way. But I’ll get and read an email that say, ‘When are Morgan and Jake going to get together?’ And of course, my answer has to be never.
Sara: Can you tell your readers that, though?
Joanna: No, I don’t. Of course, I don’t say that. I’d say, ‘Well, we’ll see in the next book.’
But the other thing I’ve done is I have had books where Morgan has gone off. In Day of the Vikings, she goes off her own and actually has an adventure with a character from another book from my Desecration series. Or Jake went off on his own and had a book on his own with another character in One Day in New York.
Sara: I’ve done that too, where you separate them, especially if they’ve gotten a little bit closer. If the relationship is inched a little bit closer then somebody has to go out of town now, for at least half the next book.
Joanna: Let’s talk about marketing because speed is one thing. I definitely know that I don’t have to reinvent my character. Although I’ll tell you what I do or have to do. I’m not one of those people who have a world Bible. So what I did find after that two-year break was, ‘Oh, my goodness, I can’t even remember the basics about my character.’
I actually had to almost skim. I’ve got a Vellum file that has all the books in and I’ll just be doing Ctrl+F and finding the different characters. And I know I should have a world Bible but whenever I start it, I just can’t get there.
What do you do to remember all those things between the books?
Sara: What I’ve started doing lately with my most recent series is I’m trying to write books, at least one and two, back to back before I release one. With the last historical series, I wrote one, two, and three. And that really helped with the continuity.
And then also I had things to happen in book three that I was like, ‘Oh, let me go back and fix that in book one so it makes more sense.’ So I liked that. And that was helpful.
But I know not everybody can do that. And I may not be able to do that every time but I’ve done the same thing. I still don’t have a series Bible where I list everything. Some people have incredibly complicated spreadsheets. And there are VAs that will do that for you. They’ll go through and they’ll create a series Bible for you.
Sara: Yes. It’s a great idea. So what I actually have now is I have a Trello board that I keep with…and I put the images of the character. I find an image of what I think the character would look like, and I’ll put a description of that from the book in there, and I have the characters, and then I have the places that they visit, the country homes, or if they go on a trip, what the train looked like.
I’m very visual. So that helps me because I can go and look at the image and read the quick description. That helps me. But I’ve also done just Ctrl+F and go back into the old stories and refresh my memory like that. I’ve heard of other authors that have listened to their audiobooks again, which that’s a big-time commitment.
Joanna: Yes, exactly. I’m on book 12 and I have thought about getting someone to do my story Bible. But then the other thing is, what I do find is when I do go back and look at things, I discover threads myself that spark off ideas or it’s almost reading your own work that can give you more ideas for new work, and someone else would never be able to give me that spark. They would just be able to take what’s there.
Whereas I don’t know if I have any insight into the brain of Joanna Penn who wrote Stone of Fire back when it was Pentecost back in 2009. I think I’m such a different person now. So when I read the words I wrote back then, I actually get new ideas and think, ‘Oh, I could do this, that, and the other.’ So it’s actually dangerous to reread your own work.
Sara: Right. And are you surprised sometimes? I find I go back and I’m thinking, ‘Oh, I had forgotten I made this character had this little quirk.’ And it makes me want to bring things back or do things that I had forgotten. I was like, ‘Oh, I could fill in this story plot here. I didn’t really describe this whole thing.’ And that could be a whole another plotline.
Joanna: I literally can’t remember most of what I’ve ever written! That’s actually one of the reasons I say to people, and I’ve said to you because I’m coming on your podcast as well, it’s like, ‘Can you let me know what we’re talking about?’ Even with my nonfiction, I’m like, ‘Okay, if you want to talk about this book, I need to basically go back and check so I remember what I said.’ I wonder if this is part of being a writer.
It’s like the only way for me to know what I think is by writing. I need to remind myself what I think by reading what I wrote.
Sara: Yes, me too. And I find that when I’m in the book, I’m all about that book and I’m just totally immersed in it. And then later, I’ll get an email from somebody and they’ll say, ‘I really enjoyed Mona in book seven,’ and I’m like, ‘Who is Mona? I can’t remember her.’ And then I have to go, ‘Oh, yes, she was a very important character.’ It’s like my mind is always in the story I’m writing. So, yes, I do have to go back and refresh my memory.
Joanna: I hope that encourages people listening. Once you’ve written a certain number of books, you do tend to forget about them. And that’s a good thing, too, because we always want to be writing the next book and everything.
Circling back to marketing because I’ve mentioned it and then went off on a tangent. You mentioned that having several books in a series means that you can do marketing on that first book.
What are some of the things you do to market that first in series?
Sara: If a series has been out for a while, I have one series where book one is free. I have another series that’s $2.99. And that one, I’m thinking of making it 99 cents so I can do some of the promotions, like, David Gaughran has talked about with BookBub. Apparently, 99 cents is a really good price point for that. So I’ll either drop that one soon to 99 cents or free.
My new series, I’m leaving it at full price, but I’ll probably do box sets with that. In my mind, I’ve got like this, ‘Okay, so the books are new, I’m not going to put them on sale for a while, or if I do, it will just be a price drop on book one. And then when I have enough books, I can do a box set, drop the price on that.’ And just use different tactics.
As the books age, then when they’re a little bit older, that’s when I would drop book one to three or start doing discounts. I know authors that rotate through their whole series and just drop the price on each book, if they can get a BookBub or whatever type of promotion they decide to do, they just drop each book, the price on each book, and I don’t usually do that.
I usually drop the first book because my readers, especially in mystery, like to start with book one. So that makes the most sense for me to do sales and focus all my attention on book one. And then hopefully, I get people in, I get them to sign up for my newsletter.
Then I can take them through this series and introduce them to new series that way. And I do also try and keep some low-budget Amazon ads going. I don’t do a whole lot of Facebook. That takes a lot of time. I’d much rather be writing, I think.
Joanna: You mentioned the Bookbub ads. Nine months ago when the pandemic hit and I was like, ‘You know what? Life is too short to do anything I don’t enjoy. How do I make marketing fiction much easier?’ And I decided, as you mentioned, he says drop book one in the series and just run ads to that.
That’s just what I do now pretty much with my fiction, is that first in series, it’s so easy to market first in series with a dropped price. Like you mentioned, people changing prices on different things. As a wide author as I am, it’s impossible.
Sara: It’s kind of a nightmare, it really is.
Joanna: Stone of Fire has been free for basically a decade. It’s a funnel in. And if people don’t like it, there’s no issue, and if they do like it, they’ll try other books. I was going to ask you about box sets.
Do you do box sets?
Sara: I do. Yes. I usually do books one, two, three, and four to six or seven because two of my series have seven. And on Kobo and Apple, you can do the books one to seven, you can have a big box set and price a little bit higher. So I do that and submit it to Kobo promotions. You can submit through their promotions tab.
If the book is free or if it’s 99 cents, then I just can set up a calendar of ads and submit them to the smaller newsletter sites all year long. So it does make it really easy. It doesn’t take as much brain power as Facebook ads. If you know you have this discount and you can apply to a newsletter deal then it’s done and that’s all you have to do.
Joanna: Now I think that’s why you’ve got to find what works for you that is sustainable and easy, otherwise it’s just too complicated. But I was going to ask you as well, because I just can’t help myself, but I have an action-adventure series, a crime thriller series or psychological thriller, and then I have fantasy.
And whereas you have kept your mysteries, even though they’re slightly different, that they are within mystery. I find that readers prefer one over the other and won’t even try something else.
Do you find that your readers cross into your other series?
Sara: What’s funny is, I have three contemporary series and one historical, and I have certain readers that they’re only historical readers. They don’t care about the modern cozies. They’re not into that. And then I have some people who are like, ‘No, I’m not into historical.’
So there is some movement back and forth. But there are readers that are like, ‘Nope, not going there.’ But I do have in my autoresponder, I’m like, ‘Hey, here’s a cozy. If you like cozies, you might like this historical.’ And I do have people who read everything.
But not everybody reads everything. So they each have their own little niches. But I think that there is more movement between cozy and historical mysteries than there would be between historical and fantasy, maybe.
Joanna: I just find that I can’t help myself. And we have to call on the muse, don’t we?
And we should say about book cover is a critical part of marketing, making it very clear that these books are in a series, and I highly advise people to go look at your book covers, because to me, they do reflect that these books have some similarities, but they’re still quite clear on series, right?
Sara: Yes. And that’s all to my cover artist because I’m not artistic at all. And I always say, I want these to show that they’re a group, that they are a series.
Joanna: That is really important. They have to. And this is what you see with people who are in traditional publishing, who might move between publishers, and their books look completely different from one publisher to another, even if they’re the same series, which never makes sense to me. But obviously, everyone has their in-house cover designers, and they want to come up with something different to last time.
I definitely think indie authors have more ease of use here because we can change things up and even change the whole series. So, definitely, the cover is an important part of marketing.
I did want to ask you, we’re almost out of time, but cozy is a big genre, mystery is a big genre, obviously a massive genre. But I wondered if you’d seen an uplift during the pandemic or off the back of even something like ‘Bridgerton’ that feel good area.
I definitely feel at the moment that there might be a sort of backlash against darker books.
Sara: I don’t write dark. So I can’t compare this series did well and this series did not because all mine are pretty lighthearted. But I have had so many emails from people saying, ‘Thank you for giving us something to escape.’ And lots of people are saying, ‘I just need something that’s not stressful to read right now.’
I have seen that and the sales have been good all year long. I think we all felt when everybody went into lockdown at first time, we all thought, ‘Oh, my goodness, what’s happening? What will happen with the market?’ But cozies have done well.
I think there’s something about that escaping into a world that even though there’s a murder and there’s a mystery, you still feel safe there. And if you like those characters, you want to come back to it. And I think that’s the appeal of a cozy mystery or a historical, and you’re escaping to another time, where they don’t have cell phones, 24-hour news cycles, and things like that.
Joanna: Yes. I think that’s really interesting. And, of course, we’re definitely not saying that you should only write what’s popular in the moment because no one can really time that and also things change.
It seems to me that cozies and mysteries are perennial happy sellers, right? People just love mysteries.
Sara: Yes, I always have. And there’s a big controversy about how cozy or mysteries, in general, tend to skew a little bit older. And every once in a while I see these articles about, ‘Oh, no. What will we do when they all die?’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t know. I think we’re okay.’
I don’t know if people turn to mysteries as they get older. I don’t think we’re going to run out of mystery readers. I think there will always be plenty.
Joanna: That sounds crazy to me, because if you look at Netflix, obviously we’re spending a lot of time on the streaming services at the moment. Can you have a paranormal cozy?
Sara: Oh, yes. That’s a huge, huge sub-genre.
Joanna: But they’re good. There’s a lot of those.
Sara: Yes. Witch cozies. There’s a ton of witch cozies.
Joanna: Oh, there we go, witch cozies. Witch knitting cozies.
Sara: Oh, my goodness, yes. I saw one the other day, I can’t remember the name of it, but it was a blend of witch cozy and something else, and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s new.’ So there are all kinds of variation.
Joanna: Okay, that is brilliant. And I think that’s really important. Mystery can be a subplot in something like a romance as well. Mystery as a genre sort of crosses a lot of things. I call my books thrillers, which they are, across all of them. But mystery is an important aspect in solving crime and all of that type of thing. So, yeah, I think it’s so interesting.
Where can people find you and your books or courses and everything you do online?
Sara: You can find all my books, they’re wide, they’re on all the retailers. My website is sararosett.com. Just Sara without an H.
And the website or the podcast that I do for authors is called wishidknownthenpodcast.com. And that, we just talk to authors about what they wished they had known, lessons they’ve learned, mistakes they’ve made. We share our own. I do that with Jami Albright.
I’m trying the content marketing thing and I’m doing a podcast for mystery readers, and it’s called ‘Mystery Books Podcast.’ And that’s a seasonal podcast. I should have a new season of that coming up soon. And you can find that on your podcast directory.
Joanna: Fantastic. Well, thanks so much for your time, Sara. That was great.
Sara: Thanks for having me. It’s fun to talk to you.
The post Writing Tips: How To Structure And Write A Series With Sara Rosett first appeared on The Creative Penn.
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Author: Joanna Penn