You see, not only did the Japanese publisher want the fifth book in the series even though the US publisher didn't, but that one did well enough that they asked for a sixth book. I wrote that one last year, and that means that not only will book 5, Much Ado About Magic, be published this summer, but so will book 6, No Quest for the Wicked. I don't have final publication dates, but the plan is to do them less than a month apart, so you won't have to wait too long after reading book 5 to see what happens next.
And, drumroll please, yesterday I accepted an offer from the Japanese publisher to do a seventh book, so there will be even more. That book only exists in a brief synopsis, so I have to write it and edit it and do all the usual stuff that leads to publication. Whether I digitally publish that one, as well, depends on how well these two books this summer sell. There is some expense in getting cover art, copyediting, formatting, etc., to publish a book, and I don't know yet if they'll earn enough to cover those expenses. It's even kind of a risk to have already done all that for book 6 without seeing how book 5 sells, but we thought that doing two books back-to-back would increase exposure. Even when you're acting as your own publisher, you still have to think like a publisher, so the books have to make a profit in order to keep doing them. It's just that my profit expectations are different from a major corporation's. I don't have to maintain a building in Manhattan or a huge staff, and I'm the only author whose books I have access to, so I'm not weighing the potential profitability of one book vs. another and choosing the one I think will make the most money, even if both books would be profitable. I just need it to earn more money than it cost to produce it.
So, what happens with the seventh book comes down to readers. It will help if those who know this is coming and follow the news buy the new books on publication day (and don't worry, I'll let you know). That raises the ranking and makes them more visible to readers who might be interested but who don't follow everything I say online. And then if they buy the books within the first week, that raises the odds of making one of the e-book bestseller lists, when then raises visibility to others. I'm not hoping for Fifty Shades of Grey type numbers that will then have major publishers paying millions to publish the print editions. I'd just like a respectable enough showing that my agent can then use it in negotiating future deals with publishers for other books. And maybe to have someone at my old publisher asking questions like "Didn't we publish this series? Why didn't we publish these books?" I'll never know unless I can find a spy on the inside, but it's fun to imagine.
On another topic, I was able to track down some books about living under totalitarian regimes via Wikipedia. I know it's not a valid research source, but they have a good search engine and interconnected articles, so I was able to search key terms, and then find links within those articles to get to the specific topics I wanted, and then they usually have a bibliography or list of recommended reading. I'd search for books on those lists in my library's online catalogue, and if I found them, I'd then also do the search for nearby items on the shelf. For the more immediate need, it was just research to build a situation and not a major part of the book. But for the future book, there's a lot of reading there, and I'm a little giddy with glee at the thought of doing it. Though, with any luck, it'll be a couple of years before I get to write it because I'll be busy writing the sequels to the book in that genre that's already on submission.
Some of this reading has involved revisiting books I read in high school, and that's brought me to a realization. I've always claimed that I never went through a moody teen "I'm dark and that makes me deep" phase where I wore a lot of black and listened to depressing music (I was into ABBA as a teen), and I've been old-person baffled by the popularity of dystopias in teen fiction today. Well, it turns out I did have my phase like that, but instead of it coming out through music, I had this weird obsession with World War II. I've been reading some of those same books now and finding them almost too grim to tolerate, but I read them over and over again as a teen. I don't know if it was better or worse that my dystopia really happened, but I still think it's different from today's dystopian trend. It's hard to get much grimmer than the Warsaw ghetto, but that's in our past. Today's dystopias are about the future, and I prefer to think of the future as a shiny, happy place where we're always trying to improve. I don't want the future to be grim and bleak.
I'm still not sure why all that stuff appealed to me so strongly when I was a teen. I've always been a history nut, and I had lived in Germany as a pre-teen, so I think some of it was trying to understand it all and work it all out. I wasn't particularly happy as a teenager and was pretty lonely and felt like an outsider, so maybe I identified with the persecution and it helped put my own situation in perspective -- no matter how bad I thought my life was, I had it very, very easy. Then there's all that triumph of the human spirit stuff that comes in many of those stories, the people who risked everything to help others and those who made a desperate stand against tyranny, in spite of hopeless odds.
Anyway, after doing the current round of research, I sense a chick lit binge coming on so I don't get too moody.
And it looks like my summer survival strategy will be to focus on work. I want to have the first draft of this book done this summer so I can enjoy the fall without being locked inside with a manuscript.