Writing in a series helps you write faster, satisfy more readers and make more money as an author – whether you write fiction or non-fiction. In this video and article, I'll go into detail on why writing a series will make you more money as a writer.
I'll go through:
- Why our culture of ‘binge-watching‘ and binge reading means that readers welcome a series
- How you can make more money per customer with a back-list
- Why boxsets are incredible value for the customer and make you more money
- Why it's easier to market a series
- How to brand a series with consistent covers
- Optimizing a series with linking metadata
You can watch the video below or here on YouTube, or read on for the article in full.
First of all, from the readers' perspective, we are now living in a binge culture. So maybe, like me, you're excited about the next series of “Game of Thrones,” and when it arrives, you just binge watch the whole thing. You say, “I'm going to jump in and read everything, watch everything.”
The same can be true of a favorite author. You discover someone new and you go and read their whole backlist.
Or, for example, sometimes if I am really in need of a Stephen King book I can go and always find more of his backlist. Now, interestingly, he doesn't necessarily work in a series, but he writes in a genre, where I can expect a similar experience.
From my own example, I write the ARKANE thriller series, which currently has nine books. And I'm writing the 10th at the moment.
They are available individually, but they're also available in the mega-blockbuster box set editions which weigh a ton; the print versions are like a doorstop! You can get them in the e-book box sets as well.
The binge consumption culture means, if a reader discovers you, they are likely to go back and buy more.
And the same is true for non-fiction. In this case it's not a story series, but it can be a topic series. So for me, I have books for writers, and they're aimed at the same target market.
I've got eight books now in the series of books for writers, and you can actually link them together with series metadata. Metadata is the fields you fill in when you publish.
Make more money per customer
If we switch around from the reader point of view to the business point of view, you're going to make more money per customer. And that's really important if you want to run a business as an author.
Readers, instead of just buying one book, buy more than one book. That way you can make more money per customer.
You can also turn the books into box sets. When you have a box set with more than one book in, it becomes another product. Here's more on boxsets and bundling if you want to try it.
Readers can get the first three books in the ARKANE Series in e-book, print, and audiobook separately, and they can also get it in e-book, print, and audiobook as a box set. That gives me three more products that I can use when I'm writing a series.
I have books four to six, and seven to nine in other box sets as well. If you give value to the reader in a box set, you can use your series to create more products and more revenue per customer. And, of course, if you write fiction, you have more time to develop your characters.
Circling back to Game of Thrones, each of George RR Martin's books were as big as my box sets, but those characters are developed over a longer period. And it's more manageable that way.
Instead of writing one 400,000-word book, think about writing more of a series; five or six books that will go into that 400,000-word mega-story.
More Marketing Opportunities
It's also easier to market a series of books, because you can use the first book in the series, for example, as a permanently free or doing free promotions on that first one, over time. You can then get people into the series and then, hopefully, they will carry on.
That first book can become a loss leader or it can also just be a way for people to enter the series. You can keep promoting that book. Freebooksy offer a first in series promotion.
For my Sweet Romance books, for example, the first in the series is Love, Second Time Around, and this is the book that we do the most promotion on. Over time, that would mean you get more and more reviews on that first book, and the people who like it will go on through the rest of them.
It's also easier to get merchandising opportunities on sites like Kobo, iBooks, and even Nook, if you have a free first-in-series or a first-in-series that's on promotion, because these sites understand that if people go into a popular series, they are likely to buy more books.
So, if you have a series, you're going to have far more opportunities to do marketing.
Optimizing a Series
It's really important to consider a branded cover so that the books are very clearly a series. That is something I've taken very seriously for my own books.
I've done this for the ARKANE Books, and for the Penny Appleton series. They have exactly the same fonts. And with romance, I'm also using a bigger author name because people will forget the names of novels, but they will remember the name of the author over time. So that's a good reason to keep the author name so prominent.
It's the same with my thrillers. Again, same font, similar-looking design and my “J.F. Penn” that will always be the same, and the same color.
Having branded covers are a really good way to link books together, and if you're using the same name. So those are actually three different author names for me. But if you're using the same name, you could actually use the covers, the different cover design, so it looks different.
My London Psychic books look different than my ARKANE books within each series, and each series has branded covers.
Whether you're using KDP, Kobo, iBooks, Draf2Digital, Smashwords, IngramSpark, Audible, or ACX all of these sites have a field for series name.
And little tip there, make sure you always spell it the same way!
For example, originally I had ARKANE Thriller Books or ARKANE Thriller Novels in the series field, and then I took off the word “Novels” later on, and then the series didn't link together properly. Make sure the spacing and the spelling of the series is always the same, and then they will link together on the store.
From the writer's perspective, it's easier and faster to write it a series because, if you're writing fiction, you have the world, you have the characters, you have an archetypal idea of what the book will be, and then you just need to come up with the new plot.
And, with non-fiction, you know your target market, you know what they want. You have a blueprint of what the book should be, and then you just deliver to the same promise.
Writing in a series will make it easier for you to write books. It will make the customers and readers happier, because they get great value, and they get lots of material, and they get to binge. You make more money. The merchandisers are happy. The bookstores are happy.
Everyone wins with writing a series. So what are you waiting for?
Are you planning to write in a series? Maybe you're currently writing a series. Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.
Freddy G. Cabrera says
This is such a helpful tip. And it’s simple advice.
I’m not a book writer (yet). But, I am a blogger, so I write a lot. In a way, my blog is my book. And I was thinking about experimenting with a ‘Series’ of blog posts that will come out gradually for my readers. I think this is a great strategy to keep the reader engaged and keep coming back for the next episode (series). Right!
Thank you so much for sharing!
Best regards! 😀
Alex Ander says
I couldn’t agree more with you. I don’t think I will ever write something that wasn’t part of a series anymore. The early books set the stage and each story after that adds layer upon layer of character depth.
This is so insightful! As a lifelong reader, I can confirm this is absolutely true. The first thing I do when I find a book I like is to find what other books the author has written, and read them all. And it’s very exciting to know that a book is the first in a series, because it primes me for the other characters’ stories in the later books. I’ll definitely keep this in mind, when I try to write my book. Thank you for writing this!
Janet Oakley says
I’ll have three #LeiCrimeKW novellas in a few days. I plan to make a box set after our next launch. I’ve been thinking about a shorter novel to go with two other historical novels I’ve done. It’ll be a bit of work to do the research, but I think it would be worth it.
Hannah Ross says
Hi Joanna, this is great advice and I wrote a similar post myself, titled “Why Book Series Are Like Dope” (it was not as informative and well-arranged as yours, though). Question, though: what do you do when you just get plain tired of the same world and characters? I always feel like doing something new. So I have an epic fantasy trilogy, historical novels in various settings, sci-fi/dystopia… I can’t stick to one genre. For me, it would be like always eating the same dish. But it does make branding difficult. Thoughts?
Joanna Penn says
“when you just get plain tired of the same world and characters” – you write another series 🙂 I’ve done the same thing! Some writers can keep writing the same book. I can’t, and clearly you can’t either 🙂 There’s room for us all.
Bonnie Lacy says
Great post. My third book in The Great Escapee Series is marinating as we … speak! I’m looking forward to trying your tips for the box set. Amazing how publishing the third book and box set will add so many products!
Thanks for blog, podcasts and newsletters. I soak them all up!
J.P. Choquette says
Ack! This makes a lot of sense, but I’m not really into writing series. I tried it but only got to book two before wanting to do something very different. I wonder if stand alone authors could successfully bundle books as sets with a similar theme though? It seems like it could help readers and provide them with a more organized view of products offered.
Joanna, your posts always contain such valuable guidance. Consistently. Thank you!
I’m just beginning the second book in a series, but it’s not so much “same people, six months later” as what’s turning out to be:
– Book 1 is “now”
– Book 2 is “teen years’ experience of one of the characters” as I came to wonder during book one how one character came to be the way they are.
– Book 3 is at some period following book 1, with many of the same characters.
A rather untraditional series..?
Bryan Fagan says
I’ve never thought of writing a series. At the same time I never thought a book that I wrote would be published. Still waiting in case you’re curious. If I were to write a series I would have to love the character and the adventure he was placed in. I would have to miss him (or her) the same way I miss an old friend. In some cases I wonder if this is a dangerous path? I could see being wrapped up so deep in a series that you want nothing else.
Denise Thunderhawk says
Joanna, life is often serendipitous. I’ve been working on a what I’ve referred to as a ‘sequel’ to my first ‘novel adventure’, Rescue on White Thunder (Amazon). Recently, I began having ideas about yet another book with these wonderful characters, which I realized would then make it a ‘series.’ I didn’t intend for it, but the characters are fun and as long as I can keep coming up with new adventures for them, why not keep them alive? Thanks for writing exactly what I needed to hear: keep on writing!
Emily Yager says
Great post. Full of a lot of helpful thoughts. I am currently trying my hand at my first series “Pursuing Voyageurs”, book one is in the WIP stage, with plans for at least two more. Your blog has really helped to help me be able to plan it out, thanks for writing this great articles.
Natasha Riley says
You are such an inspiration to me, Joanna.
Structuring my first series right now!
adrienne morris says
I’m presently mourning the ending of a series I’ve written that started with a morphine -addicted US Civil War veteran and his wife’s journey toward redemption (The House on Tenafly Road). The characters have been with me for 15 years and I adore them (and their offspring)! I was so worried I couldn’t end the series properly that I sort of slacked on marketing thinking I’d wait to see how things turned out so that’s where I’m at now.
Thanks for the reassurance and for always having such informative articles!
Rishabh Puri says
This is such a informative post for me. thanks for writing this great articles.
Latisha Linder says
This is excellent advice!!! I recently started a blog and am unsure of my niche since I have so many interests…But I’ve started writing a post on raising your baby and children bilingual, and planned on delivering the info in a series of posts…hopefully I’ll make it to the point of writing non fiction, as well as novels.
Susan Walden says
I am so happy to hear this! Thank you for your insight. I am writing my first book of a series and was wondering how marketable a series would be, but you have a valid point about how we are living in a binge culture. This gives me hope! I hope mine will be easy to sell to a publisher!
Ody Mba says
Your views are on point, great woman. A reinforcement of my conviction in the spellbinding power of a series. Keep the help coming.
Nerio Orencio Brillantes says
Five of my main characters (three are thrillers and two are science-fiction). My Brille/Brullo character is pre-planned for a series before going into a mystery character series. Other characters in his universe will have their own series. My crime-solving partner characters, Taos and Flent, are also pre-planned for a series.
Kevin Steward, nicknamed “Tripp”, will be a science-fiction travels series character. But, my Filipino-American character, Weyton Kintuck, will be a problem-solving science-fiction series character. They are just a handful of examples.
Jerry VanSchaik says
Greetings! I just started listening to your podcast. I have a trilogy out on Amazon, but it is one larger novel. In other words, I am considering converting the novel, Tripio, into three smaller novels. It is already naturally a storyline set up as three parts to begin with. If I knew now what I knew then, I would have done this to start with. How problematic would it be for Amazon? Would I have to unpublish Tripio, for example? Thanks for any thoughts.