Sequelmancy: On Being Published (twice!)

Posted by July 22nd, 2013

We’re so excited for Book Country member Michael R. Underwood. Previously, he told us how he spent his time writing since his first book, GEEKOMANCY, was published by Pocket Books. That writing has come to fruition: He just released his latest book, CELEBROMANCY, and we couldn’t be happier for him. (You’ll want to pick it up — it’s a fantastic read!) He’s guest blogging for Book Country today. His words on writing a sequel are below. -BKL.

Michael R. UnderwoodThe sequel is a mainstay of contemporary genre fiction – when you sell one book, the publishing house will almost certainly ask for another book in that same series. Epic fantasy is nearly synonymous with the trilogy, and series are nearly part-and-parcel with urban fantasy (aka what Geekomancy is) these days.

In general, series sell, and while there tends to be a drop-off from book to book, releasing a new book in the series invariably boosts sales of the books in that series that have come before. And in the best cases, a series builds momentum and sales over time, so that each new book sells more books in the first few months than the books before had done, eventually getting onto bestseller lists as the series gains momentum.

So when I sold Geekomancy to Pocket Books, a sequel was inevitable. In fact, I have a very clear memory of sitting in my car in Okemos, MI, on Thursday, February the 2nd, 2012, after a sales call for my day job, tapping away on my laptop so that I’d have some sequel ideas. I was about to take a call from Adam Wilson, this editor with Pocket Books, who wanted to talk to me about Geekomancy. I’d never sold novels before then, but I knew enough about the business that editors didn’t tend to want to talk to you on the phone about novels they had no interest in buying. Knowing this, I wanted to go into the conversation with some ideas for sequels.

Fast-forward several months, when Geekomancy was revised and out of my hands, on the production fast-track to publication to be out for San Diego Comic-Con, leaving me with one more task: write the sequel to Geekomancy. And what’s more, Adam had asked for Book Two to stand alone as much as possible within the series.

Celebromancy

CELEBROMANCY (Ree Reyes #2)

So I asked myself “Self, how does one write a stand-alone sequel that advances the characters, the overall story, and expands the world?”And here’s what I came up with by way of answer when writing Celebromancy:

1. Introduce a new aspect of the world, and focus the action there. This doesn’t mean ignoring what I’ve built before, but what it should do is let me introduce these new elements and let much of the action of the sequel hang on those elements.

2. Sum up the existing relationships when characters are introduced – this can get tricky, because ideally I want the same readers from book 1 to read book 2 and be happy while also bringing in new readers. So when I introduce the new status quo, I can’t be boring about it. In fact, avoid being boring entirely. Make things tense and/or funny whenever possible.

3. Take elements that were in the foreground in book 1 and keep them present, but as the B-plot in book 2. The A-plot (primary plot) in Celebromancy is the pilot of Awakenings and Jane’s curse. The B-plot is Ree’s ongoing Urban Fantasy life and her job at Grognard’s. Keeping Grognard and the Geekomancer world important in Celebromancy meant that the book felt like a step forward, rather than being a total departure or just a ‘once more, without feeling’ kind of bland copy sequel.

4. Re-use the stat blocks/character sheet motif from book one – this lets me re-introduce characters with the established shorthand as well as to show the progression of the characters.

In summary, for me the fine art of Sequelmancy is a balancing act – be bold enough to move forward without leaving behind what has come before. Keep the central awesomenesses of the characters and the setting while escalating, expanding, and moving forward.

Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeRUnderwood and visit him on the web at http://michaelrunderwood.com.

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2 thoughts on “Sequelmancy: On Being Published (twice!)

  1. Kathleen Shaputis

    Excellent article and very pertinent for me as I’m starting a sequel with a huge hole in my confidence of what I’m doing. You’ve boiled down the process into easy steps and for that I am truly grateful.

    Reply

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