Writing a series is hard. And daunting. Not one person can tell you it’s easy. But there are a lot of positives that can come with taking the time to write an intriguing, action-packed series.
Personally, I don’t like writing them. I’m getting used to them, but I like writing one book, being able to edit it, format it, slap a cover on it, and push it out to the world. Writing a series is more involved, but the pay off can be much more than the instant gratification of writing a standalone.
When I started writing my first person book back in December, I had a plan for it to be a trilogy. And it could have stayed that way, but a secondary character needed her story told, and I worried for a while over what that story would be. I laid a shaky foundation for her in the first three books, but now that I’m starting book six, I know highlighting her story was the right choice. At least, I hope it turns out to be.
What are the positives and negatives of writing a series? From my limited experience, I’ll give you my list:
- Read-through. This isn’t to say that if someone reads one of your standalones, they can’t or won’t go on to read other books in your backlist, but if you can hook them with a solid book one, it’s almost a no-brainer that you’ll have that reader for as long as your series lasts. That means guaranteed sales for you.
- The books are easier to write. More than likely, the books after book one will have some of the plot built into the overall story. When I wrote my wedding series, I had to include wedding activities that included the other characters. Not only does that take up space, but readers like when other characters play a role, even if the book isn’t centered on them.
- They look great on your Amazon Author Page, and Amazon will create a series page for you to help promote them. This is a silly thing to point out, mostly I added it because I can’t think of any other positives. I’m sure if you enjoy writing a series, you can com up with something more, but I’m all out. A series with nice covers does look terrific on your author page, though, and if you have more than one series, it clues a reader in that you’re in this for the long haul and they can count on you to deliver books well into the future.
This is the top of my series page on Amazon. If you want to look at the whole page Amazon provides, click on the graphic.
- That does remind me that a series has more marketing potential than a standalone novel. You can price a book one free for a time using your Kindle promotion free days you’re allowed every quarter (or permafree if you’re wide), and later when all the books are published you can put them into a box set. A series is good for a reader magnet prequel, too. For my wedding series, I could write a novella about how the couple meets as the series starts two weeks before their wedding. It’s a way to get readers invested and sign up for your newsletter. It would only take me a few days to write a 30,000 word novella to offer as a reader magnet but I’m writing something else right now and I would need to schedule that into my writing calendar. If I’m interested enough to bother with it.
Which brings me to the pitfalls of a series:
- The biggest for me is that I get bored. And you know if the writer is bored, so will the reader be. I like fresh characters; I like starting from scratch. In romance, you can write a series with a plot that spans all the books, like the wedding in mine. All the characters are in town for the ceremony, and the wedding takes place at the end of book four, but each book focuses on a different couple. That made it enough for me to write four books, but I was relieved when they were done. In fact, I started writing book one of the series I’m working on now before book 4 was properly finished. It took a few extra weeks because, unfortunately, I had checked out. I was craving something new, even though I saved my favorite couple for last.
- The covers are harder. This probably won’t mean much to you if you hire out. But a series is more work, more costly, and you have to keep branding in mind. They need to look like a series. If you do your own covers, that could mean hours looking through stock photos searching for pictures that have the same vibe. Once I knew the basic design of the covers, I could choose a couple and slip the composite into the template I made in Canva. It took a long time for me to decide on the layout, though, because there’s lots to consider, especially if you write romance:
a) what’s trending? single woman? single man? man chest? a couple?
b) steam level
c) overall look for the genre or subgenre you’ve written in
d) what font to use
- You have to make the first book strong or your read-through will fizzle and the subsequent books you write will be for nothing. This happened to me with my trilogy. My first book is weak–I didn’t know a lot about character arcs, conflict, or stakes. With the wedding series, the first couple I chose were also “quiet” and I didn’t think they had enough oomph to encourage read-through. When writing the second book, I realized that couple was stronger than the first and swapped them. This series is still new, so only time will tell if I made the right choice, but that brings me to another pitfall:
- Consistency. I hang on to all my books while I write them. I don’t publish them one by one. There are pros and cons to this, but the main reason I do it is to have control over editing. I like being able to make changes if I’m writing later books and a good idea comes to me, or a beta reader catches inconsistencies. But that also means I won’t know how book one will do, or if I’ve wasted my time writing a whole series first. That’s a risk I need to take because I don’t know if I’ll ever be comfortable enough to write one book at a time and release as I go along.
This puts me in a position to rapid release, but I’m still so new as an author I don’t have an audience and putting books on pre-order don’t do anything.
Some authors will release one by one and tie things up if their read-through drops off, or they keep it going if they make a lot of money and readers are enjoying their books. I don’t have either of those options when I hold onto them from start to finish.
I’m getting used to writing in a series and the first person books are going pretty fast. I will have quite the chore editing them, but like I said in a previous post, I’m going to lighten up with these, have fun, and let my characters (and my voice) shine.
Will I write another seres? Sure. The book I’m planning in the back of my mind could very well be a series. Sometimes they come to you without you wanting them to. Secondary characters can steal the show. I think those are the best kinds of series, when characters demand their stories by told. After all, if they demand it, hopefully readers will, too.
If you have a series, or are in the middle of writing one, and want to promote it, Written Word Media has a new promotional tool for authors. When I purchased my Freeobooksy through Written Word Media in July for the first book in my series, I had forgotten they had come out with this. I will definitely check into it the next time I want to run a promo. While it can seem a bit costly, the read-through of a readable series can more than pay for the fee. Good luck!