Why I wrote a series, and why you should write one, too!

Writing a series_ Why I did, and why you should too!

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.

  1. 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.Writing a series_ Why I did, and why you should too! (1)
  2. 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:
  3. 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!
  4. 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.)Indie books versus traditionally published books (1)
  5. 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.)

Writing a series_ Why I did, and why you should too! (2)

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.

Writing a series_ Why I did, and why you should too! (3)

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!

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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.

 

My Wedding Quartet Update

I haven’t been doing much with my series, so there’s not a lot to say about it (she says but after she’s finished typing she has a 1400 word blog post about it).  I have finished book two, which will now be book one. To stop having to give that convoluted explanation, I’ll just refer them by the order they will be published. I changed them because I realized the second book I wrote was stronger, and it would make for a better first book in the series. This will take a little rewriting, as I started the book thinking readers were already going in knowing who characters are, but that’s okay.

I finished the first read-through of book two, and after I finish the read-through of book one, I’ll print them both out and add to book two since I know more about what’s going on with the story.

What’s been dragging me down has been looking at stock photos for the covers. I briefly looked into hiring them out, and depending on how much hair I lose between now and when they are ready to publish, I still might. The problem is, and the problem most indies have, is figuring return on investment versus cost. I found a site that will do custom covers for 350 dollars a piece. Now, if I were only doing a standalone, that would be more than manageable. That also includes a full paperback wrap, so I wouldn’t have to worry about that, either. But being that I’ll have four, well, you can do that math. (In case you don’t want to, that’s $1400.) You can see how I would maybe balk at that. Now, I’m not saying I can do as well as that artist can, probably (most certainly) I can’t. But I’m poor, and I have no problem with saying so. I would have to work a lot of hours to cover that. And with the way my books are selling, I would never recoup that cost.

So, for the past few nights, instead of writing, I’ve been researching wedding covers, looking at stock photos, and slowly losing my mind.

To make matters worse is that yes, there is going to be a wedding in this story, but the bride and groom are not a featured couple in the any of the books, so does it make sense to put a bride and groom on any of the covers?

My books all end with some kind of a wedding proposal or a promise to love forever, so implying my couples will get married at some point isn’t a lie.

Another reason I have so much pause is something someone said in one of those FB book cover groups I keep talking about. Someone said that indies are held to a different standard than trad-pubbed authors are. And I guess they are right. Our covers better be pretty damned special to catch a reader’s eye because we can’t depend on our well-known names to make the sales for us.

nora roberts quartet

I think of Nora’s quartet when I’m looking at my own covers. If I thought I could get away with it, I would definitely do something similar. Look here for the article accompanying the image I borrowed.

If I go with this way of thinking, I most definitely need couples on my covers. Maybe not locked in a steamy embrace, because these books are the same as other books I’ve written. Not a lot of sex, but there is some.

What does that mean for me? Can I put bridesmaids and groomsmen on my covers? Singly? Because I’ve looked through a lot of photos and I can barely find one good couple that looks part of a wedding party, much less four.

Can I put a bride and groom on all my covers?

Items don’t seem to go over as well with indie authors, so choosing bridal bouquets or other wedding paraphernalia may not be enough to make a sale. (See the dreamy covers on Nora’s books above.)

If I take the wedding element away, that gives me more choices, but that still leaves me

Elegant couple posing together.

The plastic, vacant looks on their faces do not match how I feel my characters are portrayed in my books. (Photo purchased from depositphotos)

digging through photos of pretty girls with dorky-looking guys. I don’t know how that happens, but it’s weird. (Out of respect for the men, I won’t post an example here.)

Or I get too “plastic” and they look kind of fake. Definitely not the kind of book I’m writing.

I mean, you know the book covers this couple would end up on. Mega rich, lots of hot sex. And maybe one day I’ll write something like that, but I need down-to-earth couples, and sometimes that means the people look just a little too “real” for a book cover.

It’s a balancing act that makes me want to poke my eyes out.

And while it’s a necessary part of the creative process, to keeping trying, that is, it does make me feel like I’m wasting writing time. Anyone can tell you  that you don’t need book covers if there’s no books. But I’ve blogged about book covers before, and figuring out what looks good, and finding the right photos, takes a lot of time. Not only time, but practice. I have Canva open all the time, shoving photos into their templates, experimenting with font for the titles. I did find this beautiful photo and I thought right away she reminded me so much of Leah, the female main character of my second book. She looks so much like what I envisioned, she literally took my breath away. You might say that would be a sure sign to use her for the cover, because if she evoked that much feeling when I took a look at her, hopefully she would for other readers.

Wedding bouquet in girl's hands.

Leah! Isn’t she gorgeous? 

But, don’t forget she would only be one cover of four. And she is cover worthy, so it’s not that she wouldn’t be perfect. But is she perfect for a series, and more importantly, is she perfect for a contemporary romance cover? Unfortunately, she doesn’t pose with a man in the series of photos that were published on depositphotos with this one. But I have purchased her, (that’s why she doesn’t have a watermark) so I may decide to use her somehow.

Anyway, I have 6 pages of book 3 I have written out longhand that I’ll be transcribing after I finish out this blog post. I still hope to have all four books done by Halloween. Probably not fully edited, but close enough that I should still be able to start publishing them around Thanksgiving. I read Craig Martelle’s book on Rapid Releasing, and to be perfectly honest, what he wrote didn’t give me much hope for a good launch. I have no readers. No one waiting for these, so to tell you the God’s honest truth, it doesn’t matter when I publish. I do know that after they are done I’m going to take a short break because these are going to drive me nuts between now and the end of the year.

I’ll keep you updated on progress though, and next week I’ll share a snippet or two of my favorite scenes so far. I’m glad that Autumn and Cole are the last couple because I’m very much looking forward to getting their story out, and as of right now, it’s what’s keeping me going. I love all my characters, but the sheer scope of writing four books and producing them all at once is daunting and I’m overwhelmed at times. But because of consistency issues, I’m glad I’m taking things slow and writing them all first before I publish.

As for Autumn’s blog posts, I need to get on with typing those out and writing more. As the stories go on, and she interviews more people, her list grows longer, and I’m falling behind. Still not sure what I’ll do with that extra content. It’s looking like more and more they’ll end up on the website to maybe drive some more traffic here. Not sure.

If you’ve stuck with me, thanks for reading! I’ll be visiting Tybee Island as you’re reading this, on a vacation with my sister. After I take a week to breathe and see the ocean, I’ll come back with a clear head and hit the ground running on the second half of my series.

I hope you all are having a great summer!


My books are wide! Check them out at your favorite retailer!

Don’t Run Away: books2read.com/dont-run-away
Chasing You: books2read.com/Chasing-You
Running Scared: books2read.com/running-scared

Wherever He Goes: books2read.com/whereverhegoes1
All of Nothing: books2read.com/allofnothing1
The Years Between Us: books2read.com/the-years-between-us

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

Laying the Groundwork for a (Romantic) Series

Series sell. Us indies are told this all the time. Write a strong first book in a series, hook the reader, and have natural read-through to the next three or four or five plus books. While my trilogy hasn’t taken off, (i.e. I can’t pay the rent with royalties yet) I do have some read through–people I have reading book three who wouldn’t be around had the first book been a standalone.

But there are a lot of questions to consider when thinking about a series:

  • Where is it going to take place?
    You need a setting that is interesting enough that the place of your books will hold

    interesting setting

    An interesting setting becomes a character in and of itself.

    the reader’s attention for that amount of time, lends plot potential, and is a place that you won’t get sick of as an author. A detective series could take place in a large city. There’s enough fodder for lots of crime, and the possibility of cops sitting around playing poker in a city full of millions of people is low. Lots of romances take place in small towns, but if you’re working with a small town, you need to make sure your characters have something to do. A town with one stoplight, where the only gas station closes at 8pm, doesn’t leave much opportunity to use setting as a character, unless something happens like a natural disaster such as a tornado. So when you’re planning your series, you have to keep the setting in mind. Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold series is based in a town called Fool’s Gold and its Mayor proves to be quite the matchmaker.

 

  • How many people are you going to start with at first?
    A series will evolve and change as you write (new characters will be introduced, for

    group of people

    Plan your characters.

    instance), but when you sit down to write the first book you’ll need to keep in mind where you want the first few books to go so you can lay the groundwork. Weaving future plots and characters into current narrative will clue your reader into the fact that yes, there will be more books about the characters they will come to care about, and yes, they will want to read the next and the next and the next. But you can only do that when you know what’s going to happen in the first handful of books. It can be a woman and her three best friends, or a guy and his two sisters. Nora Roberts does this well, and my Four Bridesmaids Quartet I’m planning is modeled after her Bride Quartet. (I’m not copying her–I’ve read Nora since I was a teenager, and I admire her plotting skills and the construction of her books. I wouldn’t be the writer I am today had I not read so much Nora Roberts growing up. She’s definitely influenced my writing for the better. :))

 

  • What are the characters’ backstories?
    Your characters’ backstories need to be related to the plot somehow. Say your three sisters had an abusive mother and their relationship with her bleeds into their relationships with their boyfriends. If you go bigger (a longer series) and it’s your town that has the problems, like a tornado, or hurricane, or a flood, your characters need to have personal problems associated with the town to create conflict. A popular romance trope is a stranger comes to town, and he’s got a ton of secrets. Only the widow in the falling down ranch house can breech his rough exterior to his secrets beneath. But he’s he’s also an electrician and can help rewire the school after the fire! That helps the town accept him and he feels like he belongs and he stays after he falls in love with your FMC (female main character).

 

  • What is your plot?
    Is your main plot going to be wrapped up in each book (like the detective solves the crime, and the next book would be the detective solving a new crime?) or is your main plot going to arc over a few books? If you’re hoping to write so a reader can pop in at book eight and not feel like they’ve missed anything, you’ll need to wrap up the plot at the end of each book while foreshadowing your next story. This is why it’s always best to know what your next book is going to be about so you can weave in those clues.

 


Publishing Your Series

The bullet points above are the writing part of it, but before you begin a series, it’s best to have some kind of idea about publishing.

  • Your publishing schedule.
    As an indie, you have complete control of your publishing schedule. Are you goingwaiting for a series to publish them as you write them, or are you going to save up a couple and publish them together? A week apart? Two weeks apart?In this case, being an indie author is definitely a perk. You don’t have to make your readers wait a year between books like the traditionally published authors do. But because of impatience, many indies publish as they write, without a thought as to making a reader wait for the next book. I haven’t met one author who likes to sit on books. (But I have heard of plenty of stories about the benefits to the authors who do.) The minute the book is ready, they hit publish. But what does this mean if you’re writing a series? How fast can you write the next book? Do you do this full-time and can publish the next one in two months, one month? Do you have a team that will edit and format and do your covers for you? What is the point of publishing a book one if it’s going to take you two years to publish the next?

 

  • Consistency.It’s really hard to go back and make changes to a book that’s already been
    changes

    This is a pretty kind of change. The kind made to your book after already publishing isn’t this pretty, and it’s time-consuming.

    published. Not that it’s hard from a technical standpoint–just make the fixes and upload the new file. But what about those readers who have read it already? Your plot and characters are already in their heads, and you want to ask them reread your book for the new information so the next book will make more sense? Sorry. It doesn’t work that way. If you write a book one, and something happens in book two to make your consistency fade away like fog in the sun, you’ve got a problem, if you’ve already published. But if you haven’t–good news! Just make the changes. As you add to the series, this isn’t realistic, I know that. You’re not going to sit on seven books. No one would. But in all practicality, sitting on two or three books to make sure your plot is going smoothly and you don’t have any big plot holes or changes that need to be addressed is pretty darn smart.

 

  • Covers 
    If you’re doing your own covers, or if you’re going to be buying premades, orbride_quartet nora roberts working with a designer, it’s very very very important that your covers not only fit the genre, but that your series will look like a series. That means your author name looks the same, that your pictures you choose are cohesive. It means that the series name is on all the books.Here’s Nora Roberts’ Bride Quartet I was telling you about earlier. It’s a lot easier to plan how your covers will look–at least the first few, if you wait to publish.
    It’s also helpful with titles. If you’re doing a trilogy, or a quartet, or even a quintet, it will give you a chance to think of titles that match the theme of your plots.

 

After my May/December romance, I am going to write a quartet. Yes, I will wait to publish until they are all done. I will do my own covers, and I’ve already thought of titles that will match the theme of the books. I have my town chosen, I’m mulling over characters now. It will take a lot of patience to write this series, but as I stated at the beginning of the post, series sell. I’ll have a trilogy and three standalones in my backlist, and it’s time for another series.

Are you writing a series right now? Are you publishing as you go? How much time is between them? Let me know!

 

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