Jul
28
2014

Richelle Mead – When “The End” Isn’t the End at All

Successful intellectual properties are an economic boon for both writers and publishers, allowing for years of stable profits and steady work. The temptation to extend the life of the property beyond its scope is strong, and though I've noticed this problem more often in TV shows, the lure is just as potent for writers. The economics of an established revenue stream are hard to deny, especially with bills and mortgage payments pending. When the major conflict driving the story is resolved, however, much of the property’s momentum is lost. Maintaining reader interest becomes difficult and the fan base begins to wane.

In the phase when I was actively researching romances, I binge read Richelle Mead’s Georgina Kincaid series. I picked up some tips on how to build a romance plot, but also admired how neatly she tied up the series as a whole. There was no more story to be told, so she ended it. Because she was a prolific writer, I was able to follow Mead to her next property and have since read most of her library. For each series, Mead ends the story on her own terms, rather than drawing out a successful franchise.

Just because the story of a particular series is done, doesn’t mean that the property has lost all its potential. An example of this is her Vampire Academy series. Once Rose and Dimitri's romance was resolved, the driving force for the story was largely expended. However, Mead sold film rights the Vampire Academy series, the first book of which was made into a movie. Additionally, the series provided an excellent set up for a spin off series called Bloodlines. Mead was able to invest the authorial trust she had banked with her fans and have them neatly follow to the new project. By clearly departing from the main cast and settings of the first series, Mead was able to create an independent work within the same intellectual property. Her focus on peripheral characters, and giving them their own stories, kept the property fresh and interesting. In this way, the completed series became two new, independent streams of income.

Professional authors, those who have strong and long lasting careers, will create many properties. Naturally, some will be more successful, but if the author consistently writes quality work, readers will follow him or her from project to project. From that perspective, ending the series at the appropriate time becomes a business decision. It is essential to pick a high point to end on, in the moments where the reader is basking in the satisfaction of a story well told. A writer's career should not be composed of a single story, but rather use each intellectual property is a building block of their success. There is a significant difference when someone says that they’re a Vampire Academy fan as compared to a Richelle Mead fan. One is worth a great deal more money, and I don't think I need to elaborate as to which.

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