Case Study: Sara Paretsky’s Critical Mass Web-Only Epilogue

Critical MassOne of the best things about the Web is that it is infinitely editable. To any writer who has ever yearned to make a crucial edit after a manuscript missed the point of no return in the production process will certainly appreciate this quality. But beyond simple edits, consider using your site as a way to take your story further, even after it is published. Author Sara Paretsky published an epilogue to her new book Critical Mass that lives exclusively on her site.

Paretsky’s protagonist—V I Warshawski—is a gutsy private investigator who has navigated a variety of chilling cases in the mean streets of Chicago in 15 novels. Through the years, Paretsky has developed a close relationship with readers invested in V I’s story. She already uses her site to interact with readers through her blog and newsletter. She promoted her excerpt as an exclusive bonus to her most loyal readers through a link that was only promoted through her newsletter.

Sara is one of the many authors whom I have worked with over the years—and one of the most proactive and creative when it comes to promoting her books online. I asked her to share her inspiration behind promoting a Web-only epilogue.

What inspired you to write an epilogue to this book?
Readers often write to say that they wish the bad guys in my books got punished more severely. Critical Mass had a complete trajectory when I finished it and it would have been like a fifth leg to put in Breen’s fate, but I thought it made a nice little story and would satisfy our need for better justice.

Have you written epilogues for any of your other books?
I haven’t written epilogues for other books, but I want to do one for Bleeding Kansas. This book has been picked by the Kansas State Library for its one state one book this year so I think this would be a good time to let Myra Schapen get her comeuppance.

Did you instantly think that it would live exclusively online? Or did you want to see it in print, initially?
I wanted this to be a special promotion. In the music world people who buy a new album online get free content as a bonus. I thought this would be a great concept to take to the book world. I wanted to embed a special code at the end of both the print and the EE version that would take readers to the epilogue online but I could not interest my publishers in doing this.

What did your publisher think of adding an epilogue to the story?
I don’t think my publishers saw any point to it although my British publisher, Hodder, did like it as a marketing tool. However, they only wanted it as and in print promotion.

Do you think you might do this again, with a future book?
If I do it again with a future book I will have to have much more control over its use then I was able to this time around.

By the way, I self published a collection of VI short stories and plan to add this to that collection so that people have both a print and an online option for it.

Lisa Hazen is a Chicago-based Web Designer specializing in author sites. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, or the WWW. [email protected]



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