After entertaining the lunch crowd in the grand ballroom, author James W. Hall was kind enough to sit with me and discuss the reasoning behind shelving his popular protagonist, Thorn, and starting a new series.
I asked Mr. Hall why an established author such as himself would start a new series rather than write standalone novels. I’ve spoken with numerous authors who started as series writers because that's what the industry demands of unestablished authors. Michael Koryta come to mind. Surely Mr. Hall has a large enough following to allow him to write standalones.
“The publishing industry tracks numbers ruthlessly through Neilson Bookscan, which didn't exist in the 1980s,” he said. "The result is a downward pressure on all sales. There is no great incentive to produce more books than the previous book sold."
"In the old days," Hall continued, "when you moved to a new publisher they had no idea of sales. They only knew what was in the public sphere and would often overpay."
"The only way to change the trajectory of sales is to do something new, to convince the publisher that a new set of characters would rejuvenate sales,” Hall said.
On shelving Thorn, about whom Hall has written 14 novels over the course of 30 years, the author said "I wanted to see if changing characters would change my numbers."
Sales aren't the only motivation Hall has for shifting gears, though. There are creative considerations, too. "Thorn is easy," he said. "I know his voice. I wanted a new challenge."
Hall, who never intended Thorn to be a recurring character, has the knowledge going into this new series that it will be a recurring character, which will allow him to develop the character in ways he never did with Thorn.
Another thing new—or unfamiliar because of how long he has been under contract for Thorn novels—to Hall, now that he is trying to sell a non-Thorn novel, is pitching to a publisher. He is about to submit the first third of his newest novel to his agent.
I'm sure he'll do just fine.