(Adventures in Cartooning and sequels)
Figuring out whether or not a book should have a sequel can be a challenging task for publishers. There are lots of creative questions to ask: does the book work best as a stand-alone? Should the author take their future projects in a different direction? Will a sequel be as fulfilling and as wonderful as the first book? Will the two books complement each other well?
Besides the exciting publishing questions, there’s also the business end of things: did the first book sell well enough that a sequel makes sense?
One of the universal truths of publishing is that the first book in any series is 99.9% of the time always going to sell the best. That’s because the best jumping-on point for a series — even if you’re hearing about Harry Potter for the first time when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows comes out, probably you’re still going to want to start at book one: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. And a percentage of people will pick up that book, not like it, and not pick up any of the rest of the books.
So you’re not necessarily going to see all the sales for the first book at the point when you’re publishing the first book. In fact, every time you publish a sequel, that first book will get discussed and re-ordered and more people will hear about it. So any sequels that an author writes act as a promotional tool to sell their other books (as well as being great stories in and of themselves, of course).
That’s pretty cool! Because what it means is that the more books you publish by an author, the more of all their books you’ll sell.
But when a publisher is at the point of considering a sequel, they only have one thing to look at: those first book sales, all by themselves.
So the best way that you, as a consumer, can encourage a publisher to publish a sequel is to put your money where your mouth is: buy a copy.
If you’re a particularly savvy consumer, you can also advocate for books you love in your sphere of influence: tell your friends (both in person and on social media) that they should buy the book, too. Ask your local library to buy a copy, and suggest they include it in any reading programs (like summer reading). Offer to write a book recommendation for your local bookstore. Buy copies for friends and relatives for birthdays and holidays.
It would be wonderful if all the books we love had sequels and sequels and more sequels! But sometimes, it takes a little reader advocacy to get there.