Last night, I was indulging in some nostalgia from my childhood. My mother is a huge fan of the British pop singer Billy Fury, and his records were constantly on in our home. Now, Billy was a formula guy. He started off with rockabilly but struck upon a vein of gold with a series of highly dramatic ballads with lots of strings and drums. He had been selling records before they hit upon the formula—but when he released “Halfway to Paradise,” he put together an enviable string of hits all with the same formula. “Last Night Was Made For Love,” “Like I’ve Never Been Gone,” “I Will,” “It’s Only Make Believe,” “I’m Lost Without You,” “In Summer,” and the list goes on. Those records were top ten favorites in Great Britain and likely made him one of the most popular singers in town. Alas, the string of hits was broken when he changed his sound, and he didn’t really recover. Now what does this have to do with Westerns?
Well, I’ll tell you, chum, a common frustration to be found in our business is the author who has a string of hits and then, in an attempt to ‘keep it fresh,’ decides that he will change his style or his character or his story and loses his readers in the process. Just like Billy, the artist takes over and the businessperson is lost.
The moral of this story is that when you’re hot, you’re hot, and when you’re not, you’re not, and it’s never worth the risk of going cold to try something new. Not if the readers are asking for and buying what you are already giving them. How many times has a company changed its services and lost customers in the process?
The formula is to write a book, a series, with each book around 35,000 words with a new book as quickly as you can follow up. This builds a catalogue quickly and efficiently and leaves readers breathlessly moving from one book to the next.
Artistic endeavors and creativity are wonderful things, but when you’re on a hot streak, sometimes it’s best to just keep rolling out those hits and enjoying the wave. Change is inevitable but not everyone moves so quickly, and sometimes people want to linger with what they love.
So slow down, don’t move too fast, enjoy the readership enjoying your work and keep pounding out those books that please the reader. You know you’ll miss the readers if you lose them. Treat them well, and they’ll keep coming back to you.