Top 3 Advantages of Writing a Fiction Series
by Writing Workshops Staff
A year ago
Scan the bookshelf of any fiction reader you know, and you’ll likely see multiple books from their favorite authors. It is probably true of your own bookshelf as well. Readers can be loyal fans, following an author throughout their career and hunting down their entire backlist in order to gobble up everything they’ve written.
Writing a series makes great use of that precious loyalty by not only feeding a reader’s love of your work, but their love of your characters as well. In a Netflix-binging world, our fascination to follow characters through multiple stories has become how many people consume entertainment. Give us what we like, and we want more. Often as fast as you can give it to us.
Here are some of the strongest arguments for writing a series:
Advantage #1: Readers love them.
If you can win the heart of a reader, they will want to follow your character for a long time. If a character a reader loves drives a series, book two is simply more reason to love that character. Provided you continue to keep that character growing and interesting (we’ll cover that in Lesson 5), readers will be on the lookout and stand ready to purchase every book in your series. Even if books in the series focus on different characters, there are ways to connect and revisit characters that will satisfy story appetites and make your characters “old friends” your readers want to visit again and again (more on that next week).
Another advantage is that most readers will go back and buy any book they’ve missed. The good news is that while this was once a challenge, today’s online marketplace means that a reader can quickly access all your series—even if they just discovered you in book three. The sale of one book quickly transforms into the sale of multiple books. Which brings me to my next point:
Advantage #2: Publishers like them.
Unless you’re a massive celebrity (and maybe even if you are), publishing a debut author is a risky business. Millions of books hit the marketplace each year from a myriad of sources. This makes it a true challenge to capture the attention of readers. Yes, publishers are less likely to make a long-term investment in an author’s career, but many still recognize that it can take three or so books for an author to discover a solid readership. In fact, I’ve heard the number put as high as eight books.
Simply put, more books equal more chances to catch a reader’s eye. A series creates more opportunity to build momentum and generate the magical word-of-mouth “you’ve got to read this!” buzz every writer seeks. “Stand-alone” books mean a publisher can only capitalize on a reader’s affection for your work, and they start all over with each new book. On the other hand, a series means they can also capitalize on a reader’s affection for a character or group of characters as well as their love for your writing. This means that when you pitch a book, it is in your best interest to let an agent or editor know you have a series in mind. We’ll talk more about how to do just that later in the course.
Advantage #3: Series books build sales for each other.
Series are an especially strong tactic in the indie market. Without the public relations leverage of a publisher behind you (which is admittedly getting more rare all the time), you need every advantage you can get to gain visibility. Marketing a book as part of a series usually guarantees that whatever online retailer you are using will make the customer of one book aware of the others in the series. With a series, you can absorb the forgone income of a free or 99¢ first book knowing income is waiting for you when that happy reader eagerly purchases subsequent volumes at full price. You can stack the deck in your favor by adding the first chapter of the next series book in the back of the preceding volume. Ebooks can contain direct purchase links to subsequent books. You can even devise special content to flush out the world of your series and draw readers in. In short, a series gives you sales tools a single book cannot.
All of these reasons may be your incentive for signing up Allie Pleiter's course How to Write a Series. Or perhaps you were just toying with the idea and are now fully convinced.