Why Not Write a Series?

Series is the new black. It seems like everyone is writing them these days. Having a published series of books is a great way to keep readers interest for long enough to have them remember your name, actively seek you out, sign up for your newsletter, or ask to be advised by Amazon when you publish a new book. I’ll be publishing the second and third books in my series at the same time either late December or early January. In retrospect I think that publishing the first book on its own was a mistake, which is why I haven’t tried to sell it so far. The time for readers to buy books in a series is directly after reading one of them, so it’s better to publish three at the same time to begin with. My book one will really only get properly launched with two and three, so most of the readers who read it before will probably have been lost. It’s so exciting to publish your first book, but for me from now on three books at the same time will be the procedure for series. After that I think you can safely add one at a time. Possibly you already have the material for a series in a book you’ve already published though, and maybe even whole plotlines for future stories in the outtakes.

Writing a series is really worth considering as an Indie. Readers love revisiting characters they love, so while they might not be tempted to buy a totally different novel written by you, if they’ve fallen in love with a certain story they will almost certainly be willing to buy some more of it. I know that I for one get quite sad when I finish a book wanting more of those lovely folk between its covers, but knowing that I’ll never meet them again. Why not turn your standalone novel into a series of standalone books? Same people and places, but not having to be read in sequence. Not all books would be suitable, but quite a few novels that I’ve read would definitely make for fabulous future tales. Writing more in a world that already exists would be a nice way to revive old titles in your backlist and a lot of fun because you already know all the characters, so you’re playing with old friends. All you need is a new plotline. This isn’t the same as intentionally setting out to write a series, and announcing it as such, but rather a pleasant surprise for future and current readers.

Self-publishing is a learning journey. These days there’s so much more help to be found for newbies starting out, but quite a lot of us didn’t have a clue when we first set out, so maybe some of our first books are languishing. That doesn’t mean that your only way forward is to write and promote new books. There’s no reason not to revamp your first novel, write another to follow it, and give it a relaunch at the same time. Consider giving it a brand new cover to go with its new companion, and treat it as a brand new book. That’s the great thing about being Indie. Your books don’t get moved further and further away from new releases, finally to end up in boxes in back rooms somewhere. Your backlist is always as current as you choose to make it. So dust that poor forgotten novel off, and either write more of it, or give it a makeover and a do-over launch party. Another possibility for your NaNoWriMo book this year too – have a go at a sequel.

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47 thoughts on “Why Not Write a Series?”

  1. You are right to have the series ready soon after each other, as you risk readers forgetting about your work. It is so hard to sell one book and books 2 +3 will be harder if you are not on a good marketing roll.

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    1. You would know Rosie, and you’re right! My book one’s rankings have always made my stomach sink because nobody buys it, and I understand why as a reader – now. When I see a first book in a series – even if it’s free – and there are no books after it I won’t download it.

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  2. …100% agree, m’Lady, Jo… this is what happened with my Jack Calder crime thriller series… the first novel tumbled easily into the second, and after that, the characters had become ‘family’ already… and I agree that the books should be strong enough individually to be good stand-alone reads, but still be part of a recognisable series… I also found after the third and fourth were launched, sales for the first two also re-boosted… the back list became truly active … great post… cheers 🙂

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  3. Timely post, Jo. I think top selling authors can get away with torturing us with long waits between series/serial books, but for most of us, putting the series out all at once makes sense. If we hook a reader, momentum is key. (Personally, I won’t start a series until it’s done – otherwise the old brain forgets everything). I’m taking on book 2 in a series for Nanowrimo 🙂 Getting more excited about it every day.

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    1. Exciting Diana! Which series is it? Ron has set up a NaNoWriMo page for LWI contestants this year for the first time which will grow each year now, so we need to get a list together of all competitors and what your entries are, and sharing your profiles so you can all friend each other up. I’ve written piles of words in my series, but it keeps on changing and evolving, so at least three books at a time is the only way I can publish now without causing a ruckus. Totally agree with you. 🙂

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  4. Yes, although more by luck than by design that’s what I ended up doing with my YA series. And I did write the third novel during NaNoWriMo last year, and it was a great way to get the draft done, as it didn’t require as much research as I knew the story and the characters. Patience is in short supply so… Good luck and let us know what we can do to promote the books, Jo

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    1. You’re so right Olga. These days with the overload of good stuff available everything has to be instantaneous gratification. Luck is a fine thing for fine people! I’m just hoping the sky doesn’t fall on my head – again – and I get it all ready in time 😀 and you’re a love for your offer of help. Gladly accepted, and thank you. ❤

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  5. I’ve been told that if you do decide to write a series, you should write three books and then publish them one at a time at 6-12 month intervals. I decided to write a series because I love my main character and couldn’t let her go! But I didn’t get this advice until too late! So there is more than a year’s interval between each of them.

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    1. I reckon that that is the traditional system timeframe Noelle. Indies probably need to hit hard and faster if they want to quit their day jobs. I’ve got more than a two year interval from my first. *Hangs head in shame*

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  6. Hi there, this is some super useful information. I definitely think a series is a really good way to help build a base of readers. When you make a series do you focus on the characters and just see what happens through their lives or do you start with a overarching plot that will span your book?

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    1. Thank you Steven! I reckon that you can think of a series in two ways. Either you script an outline of the whole story and divide it into “chapters” that are whole in themselves but part of the whole, or you write a series of totally standalone stories based either in the same world or featuring the same characters. My Sci-Fi series has morphed into a series of totally standalone trilogies, as well as a scattering of short stories within the framework multiverse but without the main guys in the novels involved. The joy and beauty of scribbling is that you always get to decide – no matter what anyone else says. 😉

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      1. I have heard of the multiple sets of trilogies creating a larger series before, and I thought that it sounded like a really cool idea. I just wasn’t sure if readers primarily follow series to stay with characters that they had grown attached to or follow a specific plot thread. I am sure that it is a combination of the two. Also what is your series about?

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  7. So, writing a t makes series is essentially a marketing tool. If you can keep it fresh great, but I’ve given up completely on a number of authors because their ‘next books’ were the same old tired stuff with a flashy cover. I prefer discovering new authors with a fresh approach. I’d rather write one really good novel than a so-so series.

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    1. I sincerely hope that no author worth his or her salt would consider tens of thousands of heart issued words as purely a marketing tool – series, short story, or any other scribble at all! I do agree with you about the covers though. I’ve bought some appalling books on the strength of fabulous covers, only to be sorry that I left the reading of them too long to allow the returning of them.

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  8. Why stop at a series? I had a spin-off idea from book 2 of my Toten Herzen series and then it all went a bit ‘Marvel Universe’ with five interconnected series, common characters and events influencing each other. I’m busy now up to the year 2021. You’ll know where I live; it’ll be the house smothered in weeds and ten foot high grass.

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    1. I can totally picture you slashing your way out to get a cup of tea! I love your world building! That’s how Star Wars….. That’s how Star Trek….. I’m doing the same thing with my Sci Fi thing that’s totally come to life and keeps invading the world between my thumbs and eyeballs. We really do need to get a page going for all you series heroes and all of your worlds! 🙂

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  9. I agree with you, Jo. With hindsight, I should never have published Book 1 of my trilogy till they were all ready to go. Particularly as I am a slow writer, but also life has seriously got in the way. Anyone who read book1 2 years ago will have forgotten all about it by now. Which is why I also am not promoting until book 3 is ready!

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    1. I’m about to sound like a groupie, but having followed your blog, and read your writing, you are one of those magical people – like J R Tolkien (yes I just compared you to HIM) who will have us leaving our bodies in no time and entering your worlds with the first sentence that you share. You’re all good Ali – I would buy your book two ten years after your book one. 🙂

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      1. Wow thanks Jo! I really dont know how to respond to that! I’ve never been very good at accepting compliments! 😁 Just being mentioned in the same sentence as HIM is something I never imagined! I wish he could have seen just how much people love his stories, or how much of an icon in the literary world he has become? I wonder what he would have thought of the movies?

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  10. Very interesting read. The novel I am currently working on and have been struggling with purely because I feel some of the characters have a lot to tell and now I think that they will but as a separate story..thank you 🙂

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