In the coming months I will have to make a decision as to which novel to write next. Do I work on the second Joshua Jones mystery or do I start the next science fiction novel, Starforgers? I like writing both series, so it make little difference to me personally which to write next. So how do I decide which one to spend the rest of the year working on? It all comes down to numbers.
My first SF novel, Starstrikers is outselling my first Mystery novel, Null_Pointer by four to one. Why is that? Is Starstrikers a much better novel? Was I marketing it any differently? Well, no and yes. Starstrikers as it stands now, is a great space opera story that suffers from many first novel symptoms: It needs a good edit and it has some minor structural issues. It has NEVER been marketed with anything other than a few mentions on this blog that hardly anyone reads. It never got a formal release party and I rarely recommend it to anyone. It has also been available for free on my web page for almost two years now.
Null_Pointer, is my second novel and it got a much better launch. I have done several signings and talks in which it has sold fairly well in paperback, but left to its own devices online, it hardly sells at all. I do a fair amount of talking about it on this blog and on social websites. It was offered for free on Scribd and on this website. It has done really well on Scribd many thousands of people have looked at it and hundreds of people have downloaded it. Being my second novel, it reads much better than the first one and is technically a big improvement in many respects. So why doesn’t it sell as good as the first one?
I really don’t know. The first novel has been around longer and appeals to male geeks more than the second novel, even though the second novel is in fact about a male geek. Yeah, what the monkey, right? I had hoped to bring the geeks into the mystery genre with my story about programmers. That has not happened, at least not yet. Anyone who knows anything about the mystery genre knows that it appeals primarily to middle aged women. So I guess you can’t really bring the younger male readers into that fold very easily. I’ve tried to to get respectable tech industry men to read Null_Pointer and so far have been rejected. On the other hand, many lower level programmers have read it and loved it. It’s clear to me, the story is solid and appealing to the primary audience. The problem remains one of finding a supporter in the industry who is willing to blog about it and champion it in visible ways. The chances of that happening are slim to none, as my contact with such people is very limited.
So the problem remains, what to write next? This year I will be re-releasing Starstrikers with a solid edit and promoting it all that I can. I also have a short story anthology coming out in e-book format this summer, and this fall a completely new SF novel – Tyrmia. So this time next year, I should see continued growth in sales for my SF novels. Meanwhile, the mystery novel will stand on its own. If I write another mystery it would come out next fall. It’s possible that if that series were to take off, I would have to write several more in order for it to gain some momentum. I think that could happen, but I also think that given my target audience within the mystery genre, it might not happen.
The low risk and greater payoff of sticking to one genre and continuing to come out with new product in the next couple of years, is the smarter business decision. So I will be writing another space opera and carrying on with that genre, working to build up an audience and a name for myself. The other mystery novels in the Joshua Jones series are not going away. They are still in my head and if interest grows, I can always write them later on in my career. I still believe that there is a bigger audience for them, but right now, I have to go where the audience is, and that’s in SF.