Why and How to Write a Book Series

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Have you ever found yourself waiting for the next book in a series to come out? And the next one after that? The truth is book series sell a lot of books. When compelling characters are engaged in exciting storylines, readers look forward to finding out what happens to them even if they have to wait for another book. If you haven't already thought about writing a book series, consider why you might want to and how to do it. 

Why You Should Write a Book Series

1. You Have Too Much Content for One Book

Traditional publishers will sometimes tell even their bestselling authors that their book is simply too long. That's one instance of when a series is born. If you have too much content for one book and you have compelling characters with strong stories of their own, you have good reason to turn your book into a series. Consider stretching the storyline for one or more minor characters you've become especially fond of. Chances are, your readers have too and will want to read more about them. With a series, you don't have to start your next bestseller with a blank slate; you have familiar characters, storylines, and settings to return to.

2. People Like Book Series

There's a reason why the Harry Potter and Game of Thrones books are so popular. Readers love following characters they are not ready to let go of. Once you have created characters readers love, or love to hate, you have an established fan base waiting for more. When readers fall for even a minor character, reading book three or four in a series is akin to checking in on old friends.  

3. Series Help with Book Promotion

Another reason to write a book series is the built-in book marketing strategy. When book two comes out, you can revitalize interest in the series and drum up promotion for book one all over again. Write a seductive ad for your first book and put it in the back of book two. Consider offering a price promotion on the first book to get readers hooked. Giving your first book away or selling it for .99 might seem antithetical to making money from your writing. However, with a book series you get to play the long game. Readers know that their favorite characters from book one are bound to return in the second or third book, and they will buy every book in the series to find out what happens to them.   

How to Write a Book Series

1. Keep Track of the Story

Writing a series is a bit of a balancing act. You'll need to keep track of each character, the trajectories of their individual and shared stories, and a general chronology. This requires more planning than writing one book so you'll need to be much more organized. You might try story boarding your plots, and keeping notes or files on your characters and settings. Take care to avoid plot holes because when readers notice problems with a plot, they can be unforgiving. You'll also need to deliver on what the previous book(s) promised. For example, if Stella has been flirting with the dashing and mysterious Marco throughout books one and two, you can't let him simply fade away in book three when Stella ends up in an arranged marriage. Fill that plot hole!

2. Related but Separate?

Consider whether you want each book in your series to be able to stand on its own, or have to rely on the rest of the series for reader satisfaction. Can reading book two before reading the first book in the series still be a satisfying read? Will it make sense? There is no right or wrong way to pursue this, but you'll need to think about it in advance and plan accordingly. 

3. Hint Dropping

Writing a series is different from writing a standalone book and you'll find yourself employing writing techniques you may not have used before. The key to keeping a successful series going is to continue to develop anticipation. You can do this by dropping hints about absent characters and future events, introducing new characters, weaving a thread through more complicated plot lines, and making references to events and locations from previous books. 

Writing a book series can be fulfilling and lucrative. If you haven't already considered writing one yourself, perhaps now is the time!

 

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IngramSpark Staff

Hi there! It's your friendly IngramSpark staff here, happily sharing a wealth of publishing knowledge with people from all walks of the self-publishing biz.