Konrath’s Cross-Pollination: What do you think?

This post is eventually going to be about character cameos, guest-appearances, and working with other authors on the same book. It’s inspired by this post on Joe Konrath’s blog. Readers, I would love to hear what you think of these ideas.

I’ve talked a lot about Kindle rank lately and one thing I think about often is that it’s going to be harder and harder to break into those higher numbers as more authors/publishers seriously enter the ebook market. (Seriously as in stop insulting us with higher-prices for digital than paper, $10+ ebooks, etc.) As we continue to analyze what works and more motivated people do what they need to do to move up those ranks more quickly.

And, as Joe Konrath keeps hogging up all the slots and filling more…

Did you read that post? Does it make you grind your teeth how you’re pushing for a few hundred measly words a day, and he’s at a point, reached through a combination of talent, drive, experience, and discipline, at which he makes it look like child’s play.

Yes, I greatly esteem him. And not in an Elinor Dashwood way, though I’ll admit that past posts of his have induced Misery-inspired thoughts from time to time.

But beyond being boggled by the output, and by the amount of different stuff he must be able to hold in his brain at any given time, the massive amounts of creativity, I really enjoyed that post because the concept of working with other authors to cross-promote is one that has been very attractive to me.

Besides talking about his own characters crossing into different series, he also talks about working with other authors, having his characters appear in their series, and vice versa, writing stories together, etc.

Since Kait Nolan and I talk every day, work so closely together, and have complimentary specialties when it comes to writing fiction, we’ve often said that we should write something together. But it never happens. And there are good reasons for that. She has multiple jobs and not enough time to write her own stuff. I have to spend a lot of time spinning my wheels with this whole emo-artist persona that I wear around the house like bunny slippers. But I sort of think that, at the end of the day, we just  might not be ready to do that yet. I think maybe ego-wise, and probably mine more than hers, we might not be ready for that level of sharing and cooperation yet.

We do have a super-seekrit project proposed with a handful of other authors. An over-arching world concept under which each participating author would be able to write their own, autonomous story or stories. Sort of like writing fan fiction, except that the aforementioned concept was an original one that Kait came up with, not something taken from a book, movie, or TV show.

This was a marketing idea that captured my attention when I saw the Legend, TN website, the group of authors who created it, and read their first collection of novellas. I stumbled across that while Googling for something else and was intrigued because the fictional town is where I lived. The concept was able to get me to read not one, but four authors I had never read before. I thought it was quite brilliant.

It was not a new idea for me. Have I ever showed you my wall of Harlequin Intrigues. Remind me to dig up a photo when I have more time. Need a few hundred of those from the 80s and 90s? I need to move them and the idea of recycling them is too sad. Anyway, Harlequin’s done a lot of short series branding, having a few authors write books about the same family or bits of the same over-aching plot. A great idea that had customers looking for the next book in the story, no matter which Harlequin author had written it, possibly generating new readers for some of their authors.

I’m not really optimistic about us getting around to the super-seekrit project any time soon. Everyone is really busy with their own worlds right now, but fictional and real-life.

I’ve recently been offered a spot in an anthology. I would LOVE to be able to participate in that. It was an honor to be asked, as there are really good indie authors involved, and I’m sure it would help me find new readers. And yet, I’m not sure about my ability to write something at the requested length. I’ve never done a short before. But I’m going to try.

Anyway, I’ve gotta wrap up this rambling, so…

Q for writers: What do you think about the idea of working with other authors? Think you could do it? Think you could let another author write YOUR character into her book? Think you could stand back and let someone else tinker in your universe?

Q for readers: What do you think about these ideas? Do you buy anthologies for a single author’s story and find new authors to love? How would you feel about trying a new author in order to follow your favorite character?

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16 Comments

Filed under author blog, books, characters, ideas, Laws of the Universe, self-publishing, Violations, writing

16 responses to “Konrath’s Cross-Pollination: What do you think?

  1. Lauralynn Elliott

    First of all, I wonder how many people got the Elinor Dashwood reference. I know exactly what you meant. LOL

    I’ve been approached by another author with an idea for a story for us to write together. I just don’t know if I can do it. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a control freak or if it’s because I’m afraid I would let the other author down. Or maybe a little of both.

    I usually won’t buy anthologies unless I’m familiar with at least two or three of the authors. As a general rule, I don’t like short stories anyway. I have found that they usually end in an unsatisfying way. There are exceptions, though.

    • I loved Emma Thompson’s Elinor, how she blubbers at the end and it’s pretty messy.

      Yes, definitely a bit of both on my part.
      I’m not much of a short story reader either, so it’s not something I really know how to craft. But I do want to give it a try.

  2. I just read DRACULAS, which Konrath did with three other authors. Since it’s an ebook, they put a ton of bonus content in the back, including the email exchanges negotiating who was going to be in the book and why. The pertinent point to this post is that Konrath decided to work with the other authors because he didn’t have enough time to write the book on his own. Each person only had to write 15,000 or so words, and voila, a book! Now, the premise was straightforward, so there wasn’t a ton of world-building to do necessarily, so that no doubt helped a great deal. Anyway, it’s a fascinating look into the process of collaboration (and the book was hella fun, too).

    • I hadn’t heard the part about the email exchanges. That sounds really interesting to read. I didn’t get in on the review thing wagon with that because I’ve just had too many other things and knew I didn’t have the time to take that on. And it’s not a genre I read much, so it was less of a draw. But I’m always interested in how he thinks and how he does things, so I’d like to get to it someday. Glad to hear it was a fun read.

  3. Andrew Mocete

    As a fan of comics this is nothing new to me, it happens ALL the time. And as a reader it makes me feel like I’m part of something extra special.

    Once I had a little juice going I thought of approaching some authors to do a cross-over story or an anthology. I also played around with the idea of doing an online serial with some authors. Probably the easiest thing to do would be for a character to pop in for a chapter in someone else’s story. Like say if one of my characters ran into Joss and her friends at the Pizza Pit? *hint hint* 😉

    • Comics are a good example. After I walked away from the computer I was thinking about how I had been looking over Netflix the other day at the Superman/Batman stuff, and then one with them and Supergirl? and Superman/Shazam. I know, I am so far behind. And with DC it can be so hard to figure out what I can watch with my small child around and what I have to hide away until after she goes to bed. But that’s another topic.

      I like what you said about how you feel as a reader. Because yeah, I get that. It does make me feel special, like that feeling you get when you’re in on an inside joke, when you recognize something. Like, above, Lauralynn and I feel like we’re in the same club because we know things that Elinor Dashwood says. It’s fun.

      I hope the juice is coming soon!

  4. Carolyn Williamson

    I have a Kindle, but with so many books listed, just browsing isn’t going to let new author’s books jump out at me. I typed in the names of the books I wanted (yours was one), and the page jumped to those. There must be a better way of gaining attention. Perhaps guest blogging will lead to more readers trying out new authors. I sold my cookbook, There IS Life After Lettuce, the old fashioned way, by doing book signings and speaking engagements until it was out of print, but it’s a whole new market today.
    Carolyn Williamson

    • One method I do like is adding excerpts to the back of books from other authors. I finished reading Blood Lust a few weeks ago and found a chapter of Kait Nolan’s book. It put her work on my radar. And since I already had it as my fingertips, I didn’t have to go through the hassle of tracking it down.

      • I’ve had really good luck with that too. I’ve seen in someone’s stream on Goodreads, where she finished one book and rated it, and then the time lag between that and a later status update to rate my book was pretty much the time it would take someone to read my excerpt at the back of the first book, go buy it, and read it through to the end. It was awesome to see it work like that, like that girl just couldn’t stop reading that day!

    • Thank you, Carolyn. And I LOVE that cookbook title, btw. I’m sure you’ve heard that a lot.

  5. I see a lot of cross promotion going on and I’m pretty sure Draculas is going to inspire a lot more co-writing. (I read it and it was actually better than I expected – despite the desire to outdo each other on grossness LOL) It sounds like fun and if you find the right people then I’m certain it would work. I honestly don’t know if I could do it, I’ve never tried. 🙂 In theory it sounds awesome, less writing, more editors, more ways to promote, less of the loner effort but then you get egos and the odd tendencies some people have to take criticism or a difference of opinion as a personal slight. That makes me nervous.

    But, I don’t have any writer friends so I’m looking at it as writing with strangers or people you’re barely acquainted with – it’s a lot easier if you already know the others well, especially if you’re their CP or even a beta reader. I can see it working very well if you are already very clear on their strengths/weaknesses and how they work.

    Go for the anthology, it’s another way of getting your name out there, why not give it a go. 🙂

    • The nice thing about working with Kait, for me, would be that we have years of mutual criticism behind us and we’re used to hearing, “um, no sweetie, this does not work” from each other. We’re very much a part of each others’ work at this point all the time. I don’t know why I’d hesitate to think we could step back and really share one story. And maybe it’s because we are so co-dependent, but are still really opinionated about what we each want to do. Such that, no matter how much we work in each others’ stuff, I think it’s still obvious to the readers that mine is mine and hers is hers.

      I don’t know if that made any sense, and was kind of babbly, sorry. But anyway, what you say about other people’s tendencies…yeah. And I’m sorry to be sexist, but I’ve always felt that women are worse at taking crit from each other than men are. Not sure where I get that; it just feels that way to me.

      Group dynamics are just complicated. I have a feeling that the more the writers involved are able to distance themselves from the work, the easier it might be.

  6. I think all of the ideas are great. I buy anthologies for one author (if I’m lucky two or three) with the hope I’ll find another I love. Unfortunately, the trend with traditional publishers is to insert one big name in big bold letters…and that story generally rocks. Then the other authors who get their names added as mouse type submit crappy stories. It’s really a shame. Because it’s an opportunity to reel me in, but the author blows it, and I never purchase the other books.

    I think the indie scene would be different though. Most Indie writers aren’t riding on their name to pull in readers, they’re relying on producing kickass work folks want to buy. I’d hope the same is true for an anthology put together by indie writers.

    As far as putting your character in another writer’s series and vice versa, I think it’s a wonderful way to advertise. I’ve never worked with another author, so not sure how it’d go. But Moira Rogers is two people, the Left Behind series folks are two people. People do it, so it can be done.

    I know all my unwritten series have a connection. It may be one or two people, it may be a restaurant location or company owned by a person in another series. I love cameos even if readers don’t recognize them.

    I do wonder how the reader will be clued in that the character is from another book though.

    • Speaking of successful, multi-author series, how many writers were involved in Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley High?

      I love making connections amongst my characters. The more the better. Maybe it comes from my soap-opera obsession Days. But I’ve never really thought to let any of them wander into someone else’s world.

      If anyone needs a big jerk-face, lemme know, and maybe Joss can kick Marco’s ass all the way out of the Chronicles. LOL.

  7. I couldn’t loan out Zellie, because she’s me, but I could definitely loan out Claire. Check it: Claire’s parents are opening a new luxury hotel and she’s transferred to Joss’ school. Because she’s Claire, she immediately figures out that the other characters have talents. She’s all, “Dude. I’m familiar with this craziness. I’ll furnish the superhero costumes and pop. Just don’t ask me to drive you all anywhere.” 🙂

    Don’t be silly. Do the anthology. I didn’t think I could write a short story either and then I did and it was fun. More dialogue, less description. That’s what it takes.

    I like anthologies and usually only have to know one writer in it to want to pick it up. Although, if I’m really into the subject matter, I don’t have to know any of the authors.

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