“Are you writing a series?” asked bestselling author, C.J. Carmichael. I looked around at our writers’ group meeting and there was a mixture of nodding or shaking heads. “If not, you should be!”
As it turns out, I am actually writing a series, making her presentation even more gripping than anticipated.
Readers Fall in Love With A World
Readers like to get attached to a world, be it a rich, fantasy world or a cozy, small town. Tolkein put so much detail and energy into The Lord of the Rings and you know there were readers that came back for the world as much as the story itself. In the Inn Boonsboro series by Nora Roberts, she was so inspired by her own town, that she wrote it into her books. The small town charm with the local bookstore, pizzeria and inn captured hundreds of thousands of readers. And let’s not forget the magical world of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley, Hogwarts, Quidditch and more. The reader always knew they were in store for more imaginative settings.
The Story Arc and The Series Arc
Carmichael was very clear that it’s important for both your individual novels and for your entire series to have their own arcs. In Harry Potter, for example, each book stood on its own, leaving readers satisfied with the ending, but they needed to read the entire series to know what would happen to Voldemort.
In my own series, I initially struggled to figure out what my series arc was, and that had me panicked. Finally, I realized that the revitalization of this once-great hotel was my series arc. Book 1, Girl Tries Life, focuses from the series perspective on the pitch to fund the hotel’s transformation. Book 2 will see some renovations taking place, as well as an investment in events and a wedding show. Book 3… I haven’t entirely figured the series arc out for that one yet, but I can picture it wrapping up the hotel’s transformation. Exactly how, that’s to be determined, but I have an ending point to work towards. Each book has its own characters to focus on and they each get their happily for now ending, making it satisfying (I hope!) for the reader.
Time For Other Characters
If an author has developed rich secondary characters, it’s not surprising that many of us want to know their story, to hear more. A series allows both the reader and the author to explore different people, their issues and their voices. I don’t know about you, but I can struggle to follow certain series’ where it’s all the same protagonist. It entirely depends, of course, but the character will need to be very compelling to carry me through.
Focusing on another character’s arc, on the other hand, pulls me in while letting me soak in the world that I seem to enjoy so much.
From a sales perspective, if you write a series and if you self publish that series, you have a lot of marketing options. To hook potential readers, you can offer the first novel in your series for free, playing with the prices of the following books to make up the difference. Obviously, if you’re traditionally published this is not within your control, but you’ll experience other benefits that self-published authors may not.
If you’re struggling to keep pace with the number of books that need to come out, something to consider in series writing is to create a common world amongst a group of writers and have each of them write a different story for that world. That can keep your readers coming back with higher frequency, though it might get messy on the sales perspective, for instance if you want to offer the first book for free. This requires a lot of coordination and a good relationship with some fellow writers, but it can also lead to increased sales through cross-promotion. Tule Publishing, as well as many others, do this regularly, and you can see it in their Copper Mountain Christmas series.
Why do you read or write series? Share some of your favourites below or tell us what you’re working on.