Clammed Up is Ten Years Old!

by Barb, enjoying summer in Maine, as the temperatures go down into the 50s at night–perfect sleeping weather as my mother would have said

I’m celebrating a few days early, but Clammed Up, the first book in the Maine Clambake Mystery series, has its tenth anniversary on September 3rd. (When I’ll be in Paris. Also, September 3, 2023 is the 50th anniversary of my husband and me meeting for the first time, when a friend of a friend brought him to my West Philadelphia apartment. Who’d have thought we’d be here now?)

Little did I know when I wrote it how important Clammed Up would be and what a workhorse it would be.

Actually, it’s a good thing I didn’t know how important it would be, because if I had known, I likely would have freaked out and been paralyzed. As a reader, I’m perfectly willing to excuse a weak first-in-series book, especially if I’ve been entranced by a later book and gone back to read in order. (I’m similarly willing to give the first episode of a television series a pass if there’s a lot of set up and go on to try the second episode.) However, lots and lots of people read in order, and for them, Clammed Up is the gateway to the Maine Clambake Mystery series.

As for being the workhorse, Clammed Up is still in print, in its seventh printing, if the copyright page is to be believed. It had sold 85,640 ebook and mass market paperback copies as of December, 30, 2022, the date of my last royalty statement. (I don’t have a count on audiobooks and large print. The accounting for those is done differently.) Not big numbers for a bestselling author, but good for a mid-lister like me. (I think. In this business no one tells you anything.) It still sells along at between 40 and 150 paperbacks a month, at least this year (according to Bookscan).

Clammed Up was a nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel for 2013, for the RT Book Reviews, Reviewer’s Choice Best Book Award for 2013–Amateur Sleuth, and was a finalist for the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. The book has a respectable 4.3 rating on Amazon with 2709 reviews, and a lower 3.92 rating with a higher 4480 reviews on Goodreads, but I actually think that is good. It means the book reached people beyond the core cozy audience–and for some of them, it wasn’t their cup of tea.

Here’s what some nice people said about Clammed Up. (Some are old friends now but back then I barely knew most of them.)

I can see this series on the bookshelves for years to come.

Dru’s Book Musings

Clammed Up certainly deserves its nomination for the Agatha, and I will be making my reservation for another clambake with Julia and her family.

Carstairs Considers

Clammed Up is a terrific start to what promises to be a top-notch series, with a cast of characters I look forward to knowing better.

Suspense Magazine

Ms. Ross has written such a gorgeously cohesive novel that I wanted to celebrate it as a paragon of cozy cooking mysteries as well as a fine piece of fiction on its own.

Criminal Element

It’s always exciting to catch the first book of a new mystery series and realize it’s the start of years of enjoyment ahead.

Kingdom Books

When I look back at Clammed Up today, it is very much a first-in-series book. I was finding my way, getting to know my main character Julia Snowden, her strengths and foibles, and the world of Busman’s Harbor, Maine. I recently read an interview with an actor who has been playing the same character in a TV series for ten years. He said that when he went into the first episodes, he’d done plenty of prep on the character and his backstory and so on. But now that he’s portrayed the character reacting to all the situations he’s been in during the series, it feels like he has actual lived experience as this character. That’s very much the way I feel about Julia. Now that I’ve seen how she acts in so many different situations, I know her so much better.

Clammed Up has made the career I’ve had as a traditionally-published author possible. It’s led me to eleven additional novels and six novellas about the Maine Clambake characters. And, it has led me to all of you. I will be forever grateful.

Readers: How do you feel about first-in-series books? Is it one chance for you, or will you give a series with possibilities a second try?

56 Thoughts

  1. Hooray for Clammed Up! I love this series, and have from the get-go. I agree it takes some series one or two books to find it’s footing, and I do persevere if I find the characters and setting interesting.

  2. I love getting on the ground of a new series with the first book. However, it takes 2-3 books for me to tell if these characters will be in my lives.

    1. There is definitely a difference between not actively giving up on a series and having it go to the front of your queue on a buy-it-as-soon-as-it-comes-out basis.

  3. Congratulations on both accounts – 50th anniversary, which is getting to where it’s very rare these days and a statement of true love living up to their vows – love each other through it all with each other, and on the 10th anniversary for “Clammed Up”, an amazing accomplishment in the publishing world!

    Guess I’m one of those never give up folks. If the first book doesn’t set right, I’m not saying I’ll jump at the chance to read the second one immediately when it comes out. However, I have found that sometimes it’s not the book, but rather me that was the problem – from anything from where I was personally at the time or maybe even where I read it or when. When reviews (and yes I read them) start talking up a second book, I’ll read it and it will often have me re-reading the first one and seeing it through another set of eyes.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. That is a very good point. Sometimes it’s not the book, it’s where you are in your life. I will give an author in that situation a second chance, especially if I get a personal recommendation from someone I trust.

  4. Barb, congrats on the 10th anniversary for CLAMMED UP!

    The first book in a series is obviously key in whether or not I’m going to go back for a 2nd try. I usually am able to get into a series enough that I go back for 2nds. A book would have to be pretty bad for me to drop it after 1 try.

    There was one series that I wasn’t really satisfied with the first two books and was ready to give up. I figured I’d give it one more try (the old three strikes and your out adage) and I loved that third book so much that I’ve been a big fan of that particular series since.

    1. That is so interesting. I can think of two series where the first book is weak that went on to become an absolute favorite. When I recommend these series to people, I always say, “The first book is very much a first book. Keep going.”

  5. Congratulations on your 10 year anniversary! I will give a series two tries and if I can’t connect with the characters by then, I will move on. I am always open to reading the first in a series. aprilbluetx at yahoo dot com

  6. Congratulations. Since the series I’ve read have been highly recommended, I have rarely stopped reading any of them after the first book. I can’t think of a series I stopped reading after a book or two. Just lucky, I guess. However, just about every series I’ve read has been traditionally published, so there’s an expected level of professionalism there. Although I only read Clammed Up a couple of years ago, it was in Barnes & Noble when I went looking for you. That was a clue you would be worth reading. I’ve followed Julia all the way through Hidden Beneath in order. Your next one comes out on my birthday next year. I’m currently writing what I hope could be the first book in a series. Your work is an inspiration.

  7. Congrats on the anniversary, Barb!

    Unless the first book really turns me off, I’m usually willing to give a series a 2nd or 3rd book. Much like my husband and our “three episode” rule for a new TV series.

    1. We have a similar “three episode” rule. Then it’s “you can watch this on your own” if only one of us wants to go on, or “we are done with this,” if we both don’t like it.

  8. Three cheers to you on the anniversary, Barb! What am achievement, especially for a first book!

  9. HAPPY 10TH. BIRTHDAY, “Clammed Up” and Barb!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! How time flies when you are having fun, they say, and it seems barely possible that Julia Snowden and the gang have been BFF’s for that long! I look forward to a continuing, developing friendship…and, as I say…I still am considering moving to Busman’s Harbor (if I don’t get killed!). I am with you, Barb…if the first book in a series is weak, I do give it a chance by reading the second one. I do the same with the British Mysteries I watch on the telly. On the other hand, if I read a book in the middle of a series, and I can’t stand it, I don’t even finish that one. I used to feel obligated to finish the book, but as I am older (and hope to be wiser) I decided that life is too short, and that since there are so many books to read, I don’t have to put myself through the torture 🙂 THANK YLU MOST SINCERELY for sharing your gift of storytelling in such a brilliant way. I am so looking forward to reading your next Maine Clambake mystery!!! Bon Voyage and Happy Meeting Anniversary!!…May the city of lights treat you and Bill to an exceptional travel experience!! Luis at ole dot travel

    1. Thanks so much for your good wishes, Luis. I have been on the same trajectory with books I actively dislike. When I was younger, I finished every book I started. Now, as you say, life is too short.

  10. Congratulations, Barb, on this milestone!

    I love first in series books and will always keep on if the main character is interesting and Julia was from day 1.

  11. BARB: Happy 10th book anniversary! I do enjoy learning about new characters & setting with the first book. I have loved reading all the Clambake books and am glad there will be another book in 2024.

  12. Since first books have a lot of setup to do, I usually try to read at least to book 2 or 3 before deciding how I feel about a series, although some I’ve enjoyed right out of the gate. I’m not a stickler for reading in order either, partially for that reason. Since I’ll often pick up books at a library sale or used bookstore, I may have one somewhere in the middle. But it’s a better indicator of the overall feel of the series, so if I like that one then I’ll search out the books from the beginning.

  13. Congratulations! Ten years, wow. That is epic.

    Unless the writing is awful, I will cut first in series books a pass. As a reader, I’m getting to know the characters and settings along with the author so I don’t expect a first in series to have the depth of later books. As an author – I stress!

  14. I know that the first book of a series involves introducing the characters and also the surroundings, so I don’t get upset if it doesn’t grab my attention immediately. Of course, it has to develop into a reasonably good plot by the second half of the book. I am generally willing to give the series another chance by reading the second book of the series. I give up on a series only if I cannot like the protagonist or if something really rubs me the wrong way. (I have NEVER had those experiences with any books written by any of the Wickeds!)

    1. Thank you for the vote of confidence for the Wickeds, Patti. As I often explain to new writers, you don’t have to like the protagonist, but you have to care what happens to them. Otherwise, why would you be reading?

  15. Congrats on both the 10th anniversary of Clammed Up and your 50th with Bill! Such milestones are definitely worth a celebration!
    I am a huge library user, so what I read often depends on what I find on the shelf. Once I glom onto a series, I will hunt the other books down. If I do read the initial book in the series first, I usually give it at least two books as I expect book one to be lots of intros and set-up. I can only think of one series where I still need to read book two and I am only doing that because I have the book and people keep recommending it. I did not like the main character at all. That being said, I did read Clammed Up first and totally fell in love with Julia, the Clambake crew and all of Busman’s Harbor. Thanks for sharing her with us and here’s hoping for many more Maine Clambake adventures to come!

  16. Congrats, Barbara, for having a book with legs. Incredibly wonderful. I can usually tell by the first book if a series is going to be good or just meh. I, too, am forgiving about some aspects realizing that it takes a bit to get warmed up. Unless I really disliked the first book, I will often give the series another chance.

    1. That’s true for me, too. If the first book is flawed but I like the characters and the premise, I go on. If I actively dislike the main characater, I won’t finish the first book.

  17. Congrats on your clambake anniversary! If I enjoy the first book in a series more than a little bit, I’ll usually read the next one. But I do find myself getting pickier as I get older, probably because I know I’ll never have time to read even a small fraction of everything I want to read.

  18. I am getting pickier now about what series I give a second book chance to. There are just so many series out there I can’t keep up with them all as it is. But if there is something in the first book that shows promise, I will be back. And obviously, if I love the first in a series, I’ll definitely be back.

    Ellen Byron also made the TV pilot comparison recently. I hadn’t thought about it, but I definitely see it now. And, like you, I’m usually willing to give a TV show a couple of episodes to find itself. But there are some times the pilot is so bad I don’t turn in for the second episode.

    1. I’ve been thinking about it as we’ve had this discussion. Sometimes the opposite is true. The first book in the series is a barn burner, because they author’s had years to work on it, and the second one, written on deadline, is a flop.

      1. I’ve seen that, too. It’s why I’m always happy when a second book is as good as the first if not better.

      2. It seems lots of commenters give a series 3 books, which makes sense in light of this. I will often go back and retry a series if I didn’t respond well to the first book but someone I trust really recommends I try again.

  19. Congratulations on your 10 year book anniversary! And your 50th wedding anniversary!

    I realize a first book in a series has a lot of setup to do so I know it will move slower than a later book in the series. Unless the story was too awful or not to my taste I will read the second book in the series. Usually by then I am hooked on the series.

  20. Congratulations on the anniversaries. They are both special. I love the books and I do like series although I will read about anything. I agree with the 50 page stop or go routine. I’ve done that a few times. Sometimes a book comes highly recommended, but my sense of interest sometimes is just not there.

  21. If I liked the first in a series book, I would give it another chance, and many do a lot better in the 2nd book. “It is not where you begin but where you end.” I have rarely read a first book that I did not read the 2nd. Then I get disappointed when after a 3d, there are no more, and no explanation is given why not. Congratulations and I have read them all.

    1. Most publisher contracts for series are for an initial 3 books. (Though they are increasingly for two.) If the books don’t sell well enough (whatever that bar may be) there are no more. Often the author doesn’t know when they hand in the third one that it will be the last. I did always try to leave my characters in a good place at the end of every contract.

  22. I will give a series a go with the 2nd book because it can be tricky to get the setting detailed and introduce all the characters who will be recurring. Sometimes it is hard to do that and provide an intriguing mystery too. And writers also improve their writing as a series goes on.

  23. I give series with possiblities a try. Happy 10th book anniversary. Thank you so much for sharing. God bless you.

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