I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t like writing a series. Probably not the best thing to admit because it implies I’m not having fun writing my books, and when an author doesn’t have fun writing their stories, a reader won’t have fun reading them. We hear this a lot, and I think it’s true.
I don’t want to imply that I’m hating writing this series to the depths of my black soul because it’s not true. I have loved all my books in this wedding quartet and consider my characters friends, but I will not be sad to see them go.
Fly away little birds into the happily ever afters I have given to you.
If I don’t like writing series, or a better to way to say it is, if I prefer writing standalones, why did I write a four book series, and why am I recommending you do the same?
This is why I wrote A Rocky Point Wedding series, and why after a couple of standalones (to cleanse my palette and to lay some single plot ideas to rest) I’ll plan another.
- Writing to Market.
I believe this. I say AMEN to the preacher who shouts this to his congregation. Writing to market simply means giving the readers of your genre what they want, and more importantly, what they expect. Tropes. The twists and turns they come to associate with plots of that genre. Writing to market means you are writing to an audience already established. You have a built-in comparison authors.
What does this mean for a series? Readers like reading a series. How do I know? Ask Nora Roberts who writes trilogies and quartets, and the popular long-ass futuristic series she pens under J.D. Robb. She started writing those back in 1995 and the 49th book of that series is coming out in September. She couldn’t have gotten that far without readers GOBBLING those up the minute they come out.
Series give readers what they want, and as an author, that’s my job.
- There is a lot to play with when you write a series.
You can do a map, mark where your characters live on the cutesy-named streets you make up.
There are opportunities for novellas and prequels and even more sequels than what you originally planned. It’s nothing new for a side character to wiggle their way into a book of their own.
Add extra content like I am. If your character is a reporter, write the articles mentioned in the book, or in my case, I’ll be adding Autumn’s blog posts.
Extra content means:
- More ways to Market.
I could add Autumn’s blog posts to a newsletter as a sign up cookie, or write a novella about Marnie and James’s honeymoon. (The last book stops after their ceremony.) What did they do? Where did they go? Can I fly there for research?
Market the first book in a series with ads, social media, and if the first book is strong and captivating, the first book sells the rest of the series without any extra work. If you’re wide, put the first book free and drive traffic to that book. Use a drip campaign on BookBub and continually use ads to bring in new readers. Or use your free days in Select and buy a promo to drive traffic there for a certain number of days (or just one) and hopefully if your book is strong enough, over time your page reads from all your books will pay for your promo and then some!
- That’s something else you get with a series. Read-through.
Any non-fiction book that talks about making money will talk about read-through. If you read a Chris Fox book, he’ll assume that’s all you write because it’s the smart thing to do, and Chris always assumes you’re smart and willing to put in the work. Read-through is your bread and butter. It’s especially true for romance, but you see this done in the thriller/suspense genre, as well as YA and women’s fiction. (See Patricia Sands and her Love in Provence series.)
- The release schedule can give you time to write another book.
I go back and forth between thinking I’ll drop my series all at once, or give time between each release. I suppose the smart thing to do is get them all ready to publish, publish the first one and then put the others on pre-order. That way readers can see the rest of the series will be available in a reasonable amount of time. Then, while my books drop, I push readers to the first book while I write another book. That’s not so much factory work as it is good planning.
Those are my reasons for writing A Rocky Point Wedding series.
Always first is giving readers what they want, and when you do that, natural sales will follow. That’s not to say releasing a series doesn’t come with its own challenges:
- Editing and formatting them all.
- Consistency from book to book. (Green eyes stay green, occupations stay the same, names stay the same, and no one knows something they shouldn’t.)
- Making sure the covers belong together.
- Where to put the extras, and what they’ll be.
- Taking the time to create those extras.
Will it be worth it in the end? Sure. I’ll have four 70k+ word books that will be a lovely addition to my backlist. I’m smarter about covers and blurbs now, and keywords, too, so taking my time and being smart when I publish should help me avoid having to go back and redo them. Let’s not repeat going back and doing covers again like I had to with my trilogy.
But will it be nice to sink my teeth into a new standalone when this is done? Yes! I already have a story idea I try not to think about too much because I’m not done with book 4 of these quartet yet. I’m 37k into it though, and I’ve given myself until the end of September to get it done. Then while I edit them, I’ll do the busy work of blog posts and cover design. (The jury is still out if I’ll hire these out. If I do, I would at least like to have some couples pegged for the designer.)
I know planning a series can be daunting, and if you have a plot that spans through all the books that’s even worse. I don’t have a plot that takes place over all four books, unless you count wedding activities, but I don’t. Those activities are a natural progression as anyone who has been in a wedding party knows. There’s bridal showers, dress fittings, parties and the like, so while they may not add conflict, the characters do pass along information to each other, and they are easy ways for me to cram them together into the same room.
If you want to tackle series, the best thing you can do is plan. Plan your books out. Plan how you’ll end each one, and if a subplot weaves through each book and will only be completed at the end. I write romance, so I definitely need each couple to have their happily ever after, and a reader can jump into the series wherever they want.
A Rocky Point Wedding series isn’t the first series I’ve done, (my Summer Secrets erotica series contained six novellas and more than 150,000 words) and it won’t be the last. Look at your genre and if you see that series are a primary offering, look to your own publishing schedule and see what you can do to give your readers what they want!
Thanks for reading!
Other blog posts on why you should be planning a series:
Why You Should Be Writing in a Series by Tom Ashford on Mark Dawson’s blog.
Why and How to Write a Book Series on the IngramSpark blog.
What Readers Want – Series vs. Standalone Books on the Indies Unlimited blog.
Reblogged this on Night Time Honors.
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Thanks for the share!
Thank you for sharing your process and reasoning. I am floating ideas around in my head now for one in the distant future, maybe sooner, but will need to read a few in my genre first to get an idea of the formula. Great post!
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Like you, I am a standalone writer. Being a pantser means I only see as far as the current project in front of me and nothing more. But series is where it’s at (or so they say). I’m watching my friends who are writing them to see how things go. They encourage me to do as you stated for the reasons you listed. But I worry that the pantser in me can’t see that far ahead to make sure it all lines up should I finally go that route.
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I’m a pantser, but that wasn’t a problem at all for me. In fact, my first was supposed to be a stand-alone, but my readers demanded a sequel, and eventually that turned into a series. So it’s definitely possible to pants your way through a series.
That said, I’m done with series. My read-through is about 50%, which I hear is good, but in practice it means the later books in the series don’t get many readers. What’s important is to have a lot of books on the backlist. Writing a series is one way to get there, but it’s certainly not the only way. There are plenty of successful authors (Ann Tyler, Stephen King, etc.) who just write standalone after standalone.
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I think a lot depends on your genre, and Meka and I write romance. I’m not sure if you can get away with standalone after standalone in romance. The ideal is to have a nice mix of both. I refer to Nora Roberts a lot (I like her writing and even though I can’t use her as a keyword because she’s too expensive, she’s one of my comp authors) and as Nora she doesn’t write extremely long series. (Not like Susan Mallery who is on book 20.5 in her Fool’s Gold series.) She prefers trilogies and the odd quartet.
I’m a planster in that I plan the town as a whole and then I plan each couple and what their backstories are. Then I know A . . . . M . . . . Z and pants my way around the middle parts to get to the end. I’m not sure I’m a good enough plotter to carry a plot arc over all the books. But in a romance that’s not necessary anyway. Maybe in romantic suspense like one series by Lisa Marie Rice (I’m thinking of her Men of Midnight series), but in contemporary romance giving each couple their HEA at the end of every book is more important.