by L. Diane Wolfe
Anthologies usually feature stories connected by a theme. So do full-length book series: characters, location, etc. So, a bit of planning goes into a series, whether it be three, five, or seven books.
There are some major advantages to writing a series:
- Readers who enjoy the first book will probably read the other titles. Even if they catch the first book on its release date, they will likely continue picking up the other books as they are published.
- If for some reason they catch a later book first, readers will go back for the earlier ones.
- It builds one’s author brand.
- A template from the first book’s marketing can be duplicated, making it easy to set up promotions. (With adjustments as this industry is constantly changing.)
Series work best when you plan them in advance, although sometimes multiple books catch even the author by surprise. Planning the series involves several things:
- Determine genre, length, and theme. Length might vary from book to book, but generally books in a series are close in length. The theme of each one might vary, too, but there is always the overall theme to consider.
- Outline (as best as possible) each book. Not everyone outlines, but at least a general idea for where the series is going helps.
- Be aware of overlaps and continuing characters. This is where a story Bible comes in handy. Keep track of characters, events, items, etc. for consistency. A timeline of events can also help.
When doing a series, it’s best to be at least two stories ahead, three is even better. With a traditional publisher, release dates are out of your control, but it will help in the query to state that the next one or two in the series are complete. If self-publishing, definitely keep a few manuscripts ahead.
Remember that many tasks will overlap—writing, editing, marketing. Authors need to juggle multiple tasks and for several books when creating a series.
And of course, know when to end a series. You don’t want to bore your readers by repeating the same storyline over and over. End on a good note.
Now, who’s ready to tackle a series?
I am very familiar with stories and the current releases from Dancing Lemur Press LLC are all part of a series. In Darkness: The Werewolf, the third in my own series, just released two weeks ago, with the fourth book coming out next February. Blood Red Steel, the third book in Damien Larkin’s series, comes out next month. And Bubba and Squirt’s City of Bones, the third in Sherry Ellis’ series, comes out next January, followed closely by books #4 and #5. Plus, we already have four books in Alex J. Cavanagh’s Cassa series. Series definitely make me happy!