Book marketingCharlotte CollinsJane AustenJane Austen SequelsPride and PrejudicePride and Prejudice sequels

In Search of the Austen Experience

When I first began shopping around for a publisher for Charlotte Collins, I was met with the same story almost every time. It’s a well-written book, but no one reads about anything Jane Austen unless it has “Darcy” or “Pemberley” in the title.

According to conventional wisdom,
you will like my book better if
I add the word Pemberley, even
if Charlotte never goes there.
Are you fooled?

Really? Seriously? That’s what it takes to sell an Austen sequel?

Based on my independent research, this appears to be true. Titles with these keywords seem to sell best.

But can this phenomenon be only because of the subject? Or do these books happen to be better written than their non-Darcy, non-Pemberley counterparts? Do they have nicer covers?  Do they have some other magical come-hither quality? I don’t know.

When it comes to Austen sequels, I’ve read quite a few. Although I’ve read mostly books about Elizabeth and Darcy–because that is all that’s out there!–I am not necessarily buying them because of the characters on which they focus. I am looking for a larger Austen experience. I want to feel what I felt the first time I read Pride and Prejudice, but I didn’t necessarily want to read only about Elizabeth and Darcy. I just wanted the Austen experience.

What is the Austen experience?

The Austen experience does have a great deal to do with her well-drawn, compelling characters. We relate to Elizabeth both as she laughs at her neighbors and falls in love with the stalwart Mr. Darcy. In fact, we fall in love with him too. But I’ve read some “sequels” that were quite un-Austen-like and were connected only to her work through the names of the characters. It got me thinking. Isn’t there more to the Austen experience than just Darcy and Pemberley?

What about Austen’s…

  • witty dialogue?
  • biting social commentary?
  • comically ridiculous characters?
  • romantic tension and pure romance?
  • universal themes of love, intimacy, and marriage?
  • happy ending?

When I wrote Charlotte Collins, I tried to provide what I had been searching for recently in Austen sequels and even in other historical novels: the Austen experience.

I know, I know. I’m hardly Jane Austen, and whether or not I provided a reasonable facsimile of the true Austen experience is entirely based upon your opinion.

Sales and reviews indicate that my search for the Austen experience might be shared by others. So now I can ask outright:

What do you look for in an Austen sequel? Is it just Darcy and Pemberley?

8 thoughts on “In Search of the Austen Experience

  1. Lovely post — and spot on! I'm probably the only person on the planet who likes P&P least of Austen's novels, so I've tended to avoid Austen sequels and spin offs — but there seem to be a few dealing with the secondary characters from P&P (like your book) and that interests me more.

    I'm thinking back to Susan Kaye's Wentworth novels, which I just went all swoon-y over, to see what I loved about them, and I think in that case, it was the romantic tension and straight up romance. But what I appreciate in my historical novels is smart language/interactions and a reflection of the era — social/cultural norms — and how women navigated all that.

  2. I have not read Susan Kaye's Wentworth novels, but I will certainly have a look now! I am glad to hear such a positive response about a non-P&P sequel. I love your explanation of what you look for in a historical novel: "a reflection of the era…and how women navigated all that." Brilliant! That's exactly the way I feel.

  3. I am actually not too fond of all these books having the name Darcy or Pemberley in them. It gets hard to get the titles straight and tell them apart. The titles are much too similar! While I don't think 'Darcy' or 'Pemberley' can be worked into your title, perhaps 'Jane Austen' could. Afterall you are writing about one of her characters…

  4. Absolutely. I am not opposed to using the buzzwords as long as they actually fit the novel. My subtitle is: A Continutation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. So I am using both Jane Austen and P&P to my advantage. I just think that publishers may be limiting themselves by putting so much emphasis on them to the exclusion of books that they do not fit.

  5. @Jennifer: I reread Persuasion just days before starting Kaye's novels, and she managed to take what were single lines in Austen's novel and expanded them into lovely scenes/insights into Wentworth. Very delish!

    @Meredith — re: It gets hard to get the titles straight and tell them apart. YES!

  6. @Jennifer: It is unfortunate that marketing dictates the heavy use of P&P, Darcy, etc in a title, but of course, I feel like it's a chicken/egg situation. Marketing says that's what sells a novel, but if that's all that's used, of course it sells…?

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