Publishing a Series Out of Order & Other Adventures in Publishing

UnderwoodKeyboardThe one thing all newer authors learn pretty quickly is that there is no blueprint, no “how to” guide, to publishing.

We kind of have to feel our way around, gleaning what information we can from conferences and loops while being careful not to ask our editors or agent too many questions for fear of being a pest or looking stupid (at least in my case).

I’m a new-ish author.  Even though I’ve published three books in the past year, I remain a novice in many ways and how I handled my first series certainly attests to that fact.

My debut novel, published in April 2013, was not the first manuscript I wrote; it wasn’t even the first book I sold. The first title I sold was Tempting Bella, the third book in the series. My fabulous agent went to bat for me right away, asking my editor to publish the second book in the series, Seducing Charlotte, first.

Why not the publish the first book in the series first? After all, that would make the most sense as reviewers have certainly pointed out.

One friendly blogger, who had given the first two books nice reviews, wrote this about Compromising Willa:

“Overall, not a bad read once I got past my confusion at the beginning.” 

Another reviewer, who gave all three books excellent reviews, wrote:

“For some reason ‘the men in suits’ that bought these stories, decided they should be published out-of-order. Don’t ask!”

I cringed when I read these comments and I wish I could blame the ‘men in suits’, but the responsibility lies with an insecure author in elastic-waist pants. Yes, that would be me.

Diana Quincy's Accidental Peers series in order of publication, although not in chronological order.

Diana Quincy’s Accidental Peers series in order of publication, although not in chronological order.

Compromising Willa, the first book in the series, was also the first book I ever wrote. It had finaled in contests for unpublished writers but had never won. By contrast, Seducing Charlotte and Tempting Bella racked up a number of contest wins and I thought they were “higher concept” and would sell better. In my mind, Willa was relegated to less-favored child status.

Because of this, I never sent Willa to my agent and my editor wasn’t even aware Willa existed until she asked, “Do you have any other books in this series?”

“Um, yes,” I said and promptly emailed the manuscript. My publisher bought it, along with the unfinished fourth book in the series, demonstrating more confidence in me and my writing than I ever had.

In short, I allowed my insecurities as an author to create confusion for my readers, which, in some cases, clearly diminished their reading enjoyment.

However, looking at the bright side, what I’ve learned from the experience, is that yes, I am an author, but I am also a businesswoman responsible for  charting the journey my books take on their way to publication.

While I’m fortunate to have the backing of a highly-respected agent and a thriving, innovative publishing house, the buck, as they say, stops with me. And I owe it to myself and my readers, to step up to the challenge.

What about you? What writing/publishing lesson do you wish you’d learned before you actually did?

 

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16 Comments

  1. I’ve actually heard of several authors publishing their series out of order. As an author, I understand it, but less as a reader. I’m working on a series now and I wish I had come up with a series name prior to the first one being published. I’m hoping if my editor accepts the second one, we can do just that.

    Reply
    • Diana Quincy

       /  April 7, 2014

      Hi Jennifer – I hope it works out with your series name! I feel the same about series that are published out of order; I don’t like it as a reader even though I’ve read many series out of order because I discover the second or third book before reading the first.

      Reply
  2. “insecure author in elastic-waist pants.” Snort.

    Sometimes things are out of your control. Should you have shelved a book just because it can’t be released in order? I dunno. Seems like a lot of readers are smart enough to figure it out.

    Don’t beat yourself up. Life goes on. There’s always the next series!!

    Reply
    • Diana Quincy

       /  April 7, 2014

      Hi Joanna,

      At least you are smart enough to publish your series in order! Seriously though, I loved my shelved book and its characters so I am very happy that it is out there for people who want to read it. Even if it is out of order!

      Reply
  3. Jenna Blue

     /  April 7, 2014

    Diana, huh. I didn’t know–I assumed that for some reason the editor didn’t want the first one, until later. I’d like to give you a good swat right now, silly woman, but I’m too far away. Never fear–you are a fab writer & plenty smart enough to learn from your mistakes (and btw as far as mistakes go, I’d say this is fairly minor)…I can’t quite chime in, except to say I will surely make loads of mistakes, and I’m certain to be “still learning” for an awfully long time (as in forever!).

    Reply
    • Diana Quincy

       /  April 7, 2014

      Hi Jenna,

      I’m glad I’m too far away to be swatted! Yes, I know it’s not a serious mistake but the untidiness of publishing the series out of order bothers the more compulsive side of me. And yes, I’m sure we all have plenty of mistakes ahead of us!

      Reply
  4. Reblogged this on doingsomereading and commented:
    Something good to know. 🙂

    Reply
  5. Wonderful post Diana! It points out the fact that all the writers I know have insecurities and fears, even the very successful ones. I think we doubt ourselves more than any other profession. The solitude of sitting in our offices writing must have something to do with it, as well as this crazy changing business. But please know that I enjoyed your historicals, and I didn’t know you wrote them out of order either!

    Reply
    • Diana Quincy

       /  April 8, 2014

      Hi Tina – Writing is definitely as insecure business! It certainly takes a while before the positive feedback starts rolling in. And thanks for your kind words about my historicals 🙂

      Reply
  6. Jaye Marie Rome

     /  April 9, 2014

    Diana, this is interesting backstory to your publishing journey. I also didn’t know that CW was first. I am so with you on beating myself up over things I feel I “should” have known, but really, we are babies in this business. How should you have known this?

    Your books stand on their own merits, out-of-order or not, and you can be proud that you’ve churned out three excellent novels, with the fourth to come. I’m certainly proud of you!

    Jaye

    Reply
    • Hi Jaye – Thank you! I didn’t write this to beat myself up but because publishing can be a mystery so I thought I would share. You are so right about us being babies in this business 🙂

      Reply
  7. Bravo, Diana, for sharing this part of your journey with us. It’s hard to know the right steps to make and I, too, am constantly second-guessing myself. Untangle My Heart is the second book I wrote and technically, was intended to be the second in the series. But unlike you, I tried to get the first one pubbed, but it needs re-work. I decided to move forward because UMH is the first of the DiFrancesco siblings. While I don’t regret that decision, a part of me wishes I waited until the next story was under contract before releasing UMH. The new author stuff is time-consuming and has side-tracked me from getting it done as quickly as I had wanted to. But it’s water under the bridge. We all live and learn. Meanwhile, it’s good to share experiences with each other. Thanks for sharing yours!

    Reply
  8. Diana Quincy

     /  April 13, 2014

    Maria – I think you hit on another challenge for newer authors: finding the right balance between writing time and promo/social media time. The promo really can get all-consuming and exhausting! I do worry constantly about finding enough time to do the actual writing.

    Reply
  9. RoseAnn DeFranco

     /  April 23, 2014

    Mystery solved! I read your books in the order they were published, and also remember reading the reviews you sited as well. It was pretty much a two second blink for me. I also sold the 2nd book in my series first, but my publisher chose to publish the stories in order once I came clean that there were more. It is something I had a bit of a hard time with for the same reasons as you. I felt stories number two and three were stronger. Stay confident in those elastic-waist pants. You are charting a long history in publishing.

    Reply

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