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How Not to Write a Book Series

by Guest Author Evadeen Brickwood

I started writing my first series in 2003 more by accident than by design and – yes, I admit it – J.K. Rowling was my role model at the time. If she could write for children, be rejected by a million agents and publishers and still make it a success, then so could I. Or at least, die trying.
And I nearly did during the process. No, seriously, I had no clue how to write books to begin with, worked full-time as a translator and had two children to raise. Yes, I was a language practitioner, but coming up with my own stuff and staying motivated without getting paid was a different kettle of fish altogether.

Why was it so difficult to even get one single book up and running?

Not only did I have to research lost civilisations, myths and legends, Sanskrit and Ancient Irish, the basics of quantum physics and what the climate was like 12,000 years ago, I also had to learn how to approach publishers and agents, how to deal with rejection, and figure out how to get readers, especially young readers, to review the manuscript. Writing a book that my target group wanted to read was the least of my challenges.
Bear in mind that, we didn’t have Google back then, so it was off to the library. Self-publishing was also still in its infancy and frowned upon by retailers, and to make things extra-difficult, agents and publishers did not accept emailed manuscripts under any circumstances.

This meant that I had to invest time and money and wait.

And wait some more. Oh, and authors were not supposed to send their material to more than one agent or publisher at a time.
A major publisher in London lost the manuscript I had sent to them by expensive airmail and although they were sorry about it, nothing could speed up the process as I had to follow up with them after 3 long months. By then, I was ready to pull my hair out!

Then–success!

I received funding for ‘Children of the Moon’ by the National Arts Council and found my first publisher in a matter of months. They produced the first book in the series. And yes, it was a series by then.

Just that my first publisher was not very professional and I footed the bill of a glorious book launch with harp player and catering and local newspaper interview at an incredible hotel in Johannesburg.

Meanwhile, the books were delivered to the event at the very last second, driving my blood pressure through the roof. I also never saw a cent of the proceeds as stipulated in the publishing agreement they never signed.

My second publisher was much more professional – and this time we signed the contract.

During this phase, I learned the publishing process and even how to promote my books. They had applied for the ISBN numbers of the next 2 books in the series and I was well into rewriting the second manuscript. However, times were tough and my publisher had to close down when a sponsorship fell through. Due to a lack of funds, they were also unable to produce 25,000 copies of my book that had been ordered by an American trader at the Cape Town Book Fair.

This couldn’t be true!

Agents and publishers were no longer interested in time travel books or even children’s books. But then I decided to take away the positives: if an American trader wanted this many of my book, it couldn’t be half bad. So I continued, even went to England to meet with agents and publishers in London and did a workshop on researching my books at a Children’s Author Conference in Cambridge.
This was an important stepping stone in my author career, but was again short-circuited.

This time by a collapsing economy in 2008.

The publishing industry in particular was soon on its last legs and the Random House children’s editor advised me to start writing novels for adults. I was crushed but persevered and 3 adventure mysteries were born.

Then the internet and self-publishing took off and brought hope to authors like myself, who were caught between a struggling conventional book industry and the big unknown. I had no chance, but took it by the horns. Self-publishing it was from now on.
Fast forward to 2017, when I began planning a new series. Murder mysteries this time, because my novel ‘The Rhino Whisper’ had been a lot of fun to write and the joy my readers seemed to find in the genre.

That’s how the ‘Charlie Proudfoot Murder Mysteries’ series was born 3 years later.

This time around, it started with brainstorming and creating the main characters that needed fleshing out, painting the picture, outlining a few of the stories–for the first five books at least. Then, with the titles and covers of the first 20 episodes – yes 20 – in the bag, the series took shape.

With my plan firmly in place, I began to write.

‘A Hazy Shade of Murder’, ‘Claws Out’ and ‘It Could Have Been Love’ were created in short succession and published within weeks of each other. Then ‘Glass Ceiling’ followed at the end of 2021. In my opinion, this is the best way to start a book series. But could I have done it without my stubborn perseverance and the skills I’d learned along the way? Probably not, but that’s just me.

Meet Evadeen Brickwood, a novelist from Johannesburg, South Africa. Her writing career began in 2003 with ‘Children of the Moon’, which won the 2017 Book Talk Radio Club Award in London for Best Science Fiction Novel of the Year. She also writes adventure novels based on her own rather interesting life as a young woman the world on a shoestring before settling in Southern Africa. And yes, you guessed it, she writes in more than one language, giving her stories an international flavour. Growing up in Germany Latin became her first foreign language in grade 5, followed by English, French, Spanish, as well as some Greek, Urdu and Setswana. According to Evadeen, talent alone is not enough to make your mark as an author. It takes tons of hard work, sheer determination and a good support system.

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1 thought on “How Not to Write a Book Series”

  1. self publishing

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