by Jordyn Redwood
If you are reading this post and unaware, the novel The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s foray into the realm outside of Harry Potter-the YA series that made her a billionaire-literally. First of all, I did read all of the Harry Potter books. I didn’t enjoy the last few as much as I enjoyed the first few. If you line up all of the Potter books, the first thing you notice is each volume gets progressively longer. For me as a reader, it felt like editing lacked in the follow-up books because they knew it would sell once the first few took off.
Lesson #1: Editing matters.
Regardless of your personal opinion of the Harry Potter series, it continues to sell well. The lowest average review of all seven books was 4.3.
From what I can see, four years have passed since Rowling published The Tales of Beedle the Bard in 2008.
The Casual Vacancy was born in September, 2012. Second confession-I have not read this book, nor do I plan to, even though I was a fan of the Harry Potter series.
The Casual Vacancy is an adult dystopian novel-clearly outside her lucrative money-making Harry Potter series. Outside her genre. Outside her brand.
Lesson #2: Going off brand will disappoint your readers.
What I noticed first was the price of the e-book on pre-orders. It was expensive. Don’t quote me but the price was $17.99 or more which shocked me. Since then, the price has been dropped to $14.99 which is more in-line with other general market heavy hitters like King, Koontz, Coben, and Slaughter.
Lesson #3: If going off brand, offer your new product for a very reasonable price so readers will take a chance and buy your book considering Lesson #2.
Lesson #4: There is a price point for e-books, even if you’re a bestselling mega-hitter and it is between $9.99-$14.99 at most. It is lower in the CBA-somewhere between $7.99-$11.99.
Once the book was published, I began to read the reviews. The winning overall category was sadly one star reviews numbering 242. WOW. That hurts. The overall rating for the book was 2.8.
Interestingly, of the ten or so one star reviews that I read, most gave her latitude for ignoring my lesson #2-maybe. They were interested in seeing if she could do something different than Harry Potter but just as good as Harry Potter.
What was repeated over and over was that the characters were not likeable. Everyone is miserable. Too much foul language. Too much badness-several reviewers mentioning you don’t need every single miserable condition mentioned in one book-maybe one or two will suffice.
Lesson #5: Regardless of everything-you must have likeable (not perfect) characters the readers can emotionally connect to. This may be the biggest downfall of the book.
Lesson #6: If you’re a billionaire-you can probably take the risk of writing outside your genre to see what happens.
Sadly, most authors are not billionaires or even millionaires so think smartly about writing outside your genre and brand. If so, it may be best to go with a pen name-as countless authors have done before.
Any thoughts on The Casual Vacancy and what it can teach us about writing?
Jordyn Redwood is a pediatric ER nurse and suspense novelist. She hosts Redwood’s Medical Edge, a blog that helps authors write medically accurate fiction. Her debut novel, Proof, garnered a starred review from Library Journal. The second book in the Bloodline Trilogy, Poison, releases Feb, 2013. Connect with Jordyn via her website at www.jordynredwood.net.