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Writing A Prequel: Why Write It And How To Market It

Writing a Prequel: Why Write It and How to Market It

 

Headshot of Pamela Boles Eglinski

American novelist Pamela Boles Eglinski

Sometimes, despite your best-laid plans to write and self-publish series of novels, an out-of-sequence idea leaps out of nowhere demanding to be written – whether a prequel or a volume that fits in between your already carefully numbered set of books. US author Pamela Eglinski describes how that happened to her, and how she benefitted from submitting to the urge to write book 0 in her series.

Cover of the Third Knife

The Third Knife – but the first book in the sequence

Some readers might ask, “Why write a prequel?” The answer is simple. As I wrote the second and third novels in the series (formerly the first and second), I realized there was a fascinating backstory to be told, and the prequel was born.

I enjoyed writing The Third Knife for a number of reasons. It was my first historical novel, and because it was a prequel, I was able to reference scenes and characters from French Blue, and She Rides with Genghis Khan. Some characters in French Blue and She Rides gained fame in an earlier time, during World War II. Nonna and Edouard were members of the French Resistance, and helped shape the lives and passions of their offspring, a granddaughter and son, Catalina and Bonhomme. Simply said, The Third Knife set the stage for the next two novels.

How to Present a Prequel

Image of the box set

Once the prequel was completed, I packaged all three novels in a Kindle boxed set: Catalina & Bonhomme, International Spy Series.

I know authors are told that a writer’s reputation and popularity are greatly enhanced once a third novel is written, so it made sense to package all three, and also sell them as stand-alone books.  

The Third Knife was published in November 2015, and the boxed set in January 2016.

How Do Prequel Sales Compare?

Cover of book 1

Written first, to be read second

Cover of book three in series

Written second, to be read third

What about sales, you might wonder? Anything unexpected? Definitely. Since The Third Knife was published Pam has sold nearly 500 books, most of them the prequel. There must have been a hunger for the story!

But, there is one more unexplained curiosity.  Almost all copies of the prequel have sold to readers in the UK, Canada, and other Commonwealth nations. To date I’ve had one marketing campaign for The Third Knife, in early December. This was a give-away, and 1,600 books were downloaded. Since then the price has remained at $2.99. If you can shed light on the reason for this geographical pattern, I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment.

I plan to write two more novellas this year, and will box them together with my existing special-ops novella, so am on the lookout now for marketing advice about selling boxed sets!

OVER TO YOU Have you written a prequel? We’d love to hear about your experience of writing and promoting a “book zero”.

For #ww: thinking of #selfpublising a #prequel? Read @PamEglinski's case study of hers: Click To Tweet

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Pam Eglinski

Pamela Boles Eglinski (“Pam”) was born in San Francisco and raised on the Peninsula in northern California. She holds a master’s degree in Asian Art History from the University of Kansas, and two additional masters degrees from Colorado State University—one in counseling, and a second in comparative history. Much of her professional career was spent in higher education and in non-profit management. She has been writing full-time for the past ten years. www.writerpamelaeglinski.com

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This Post Has 11 Comments
  1. My prequel is a bit different. I actually made the movie first, Boonville Redemption. However, there was so much more to tell of how they all got to the area and how their lives crossed, and people started asking me about the characters. They wanted to know more. I started writing the prequel almost immediately before the filming was even finished. I have the option of writing the ‘happy ever after.’ but I only have the one book. I had to carry the prequel thru the movie ending. SO reading this I’m thinking, time to write the story of what happened AFTER the movie – oy! I guess if the film does well and the prequel does well, I will feel good about continuing their stories. OR should I ignore all that and just keep writing?

  2. Pam, I reckon the fab cover of your prequel is what’s grabbing people – and in the territories you mention, an image like that immediately shouts “French Resistance of World War II! Excitement! Danger! Romance!” Maybe not so much to other audiences. I’d also say that I like it the best out of the covers of the three books in the series – it’s head and shoulders above the others, so to speak! Glad it’s been such a success for you. Always worth following your instinct and inner voice, say I!

    1. Debbie, Thanks so much. You’re right. The cover could be the difference. I think it’s the best too. As an Indie publisher, we not only get better at writing, but also develop our cover designing abilities! My daughter posed for the young woman on the cover. As she says to me, “Mom, it’s both cool and a little weird.” 😉

  3. Thanks for telling your story, Pamela. My debut novel opens in late 1888 and then jumps back to two years in the 1850s, then forward again to 1866, 1910, and 1913. The opening chapter in 1888 locates the characters in Dakota Territory, though most of the novel is set in Michigan. It just so happens that the real people of the novel were a part of the tragic Children’s Blizzard of January 1888 in the western territories/states, and I just can’t resist writing the story “Blizzard,” in process now. I plan to make it a prequel with marketing purposes such as you describe, but it will be a story that truly works as a standalone as well. I love the opportunity to think these things through “out loud” on this blog. 🙂

    1. Cindy,
      Have you read David Laskin’s book, The Children’s Blizzard? If not, you may want to take a look at the way he depicted the terrible tragedy. It’s a very gripping story. You’ll want to make sure your story is significantly different from his.

  4. Indeed, I have written a prequel! Well,sort of. After I wrote my YA trilogy, The Lucia Chronicles, I felt the need to tell the story of the antagonist and why she was the way she was. No one is born “bad” or “evil”, so how did Eve Malcouer get that way? I wrote about a 28,000 word novella that chronicles Eve’s life and how it skewed her view of reality. Although, the book is meant to be read after the third book in the trilogy–due to spoilers–it does go back before the events of the first book in the trilogy to set the stage for Eve’s reign as Supreme Sovereign of the Nation and how she got there.So iI guess it is a prequel and a sequel of sorts .Interesting article!

  5. Thank you for sharing, Pam! I too feel a prequel to one of my books aching to be written. Your post gave me just the nudge I needed to begin. I also appreciate the boxed set idea. What a thrill it must be to see your work all together! Congratulations on your continued success.

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