We live in a world where bingeing is the craze. We don’t want single pieces of content. We want to watch an entire TV show in a day — and we can, thanks to Netflix and Hulu and Disney+ and whatever other streaming service there is out there.
These services have spoiled us. We expect the entire season of TV to be consumed on our own time.
So, as an author, why aren’t you catering to that?
That’s what a series is for books. It’s giving your reader a chance to invest in two or more stories in a row. It keeps your readers engaged and looking for the next release. It builds your audience.
What is a series?
Think to the famous series around us today — Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, Divergent, Hunger Games, Lord of the Rings, Maze Runner, Percy Jackson… There are so many examples.
The key to a series is that each book has a self-contained story. You have a single story told in one book with some sort of connection to the next books in the series. You might follow the same characters, live in the same world, or break your large story into smaller bits. Either way, each story has structure and can work on its own.
Why write a series?
So what’s the point in writing a series? Why should you focus on a novel idea that can expand across multiple books?
Too big of a story
Take Lord of the Rings. It’s basically an epic story told across three books. Think about how massive it would be to see that all told as one big book.
When you have too big of a story, consider breaking it apart. Remember, you want the book to stand alone still, which means it needs to have a full story contained in each book. But you can also build up a bigger, overarching story.
Consider a season of a TV show. Each episode stands alone with a story.However, during that season there’s typically a bigger goal that happens in the background and is brought to the foreground — a big bad guy, a theme, etc. — all which doesn’t get solved until the end. You get snippets of it throughout the show but the resolution comes at the season finale.
The same goes for your book. The ‘big story’ that you have might be the focus and play out in the background, but each book tells its own story. You have the ups, downs, and resolution of that tale that gets finished up at the end of the book.
Live with your characters longer
With a series, you as the author get to live with your characters a little longer. It means you don’t have to learn new personalities and names to write with and it makes writing a little easier.
And if you get to live with your characters longer, so do your readers. They get attached to the people you write into your books. Shouldn’t you give them more?
For example, my Soul series focused on Finnley and Nate, as it’s told from their perspective. The first two books were their stories to tell. I got to live with them longer and my readers were happy.
But they also had comments. One of my ‘secondary’ characters (he’s more of a 1.5 character) had grown in their hearts. Everyone loved him. And because I was writing a series, I took their comments and I turned Glitch into a main character in the third book.
Not only do series allow you to stay with characters, you also have the opportunity to listen to your readers and drive future books into their hands by taking their feedback.
Similar to living with your characters longer, you also have the chance to listen to your readers. Like I did with one of my secondary characters, I listened to feedback and brought a lot of recurring things into my third book. I took reviews and comments from my audience and shaped a series that they wanted to buy.
Stay in the world longer
When you build a world that people like reading, you have the chance to stay in that world longer and even expand. It gives you less work as a writer to sit and build a new world every time you sit down to start a new book.
Once you’ve wrapped up with the characters of your first series, you can always expand but stay in the world. We call these ‘spin-off’ series. No, they aren’t always the most successful, but you can tie into the world and give your readers something to follow.
For my third book which will likely conclude this series, I introduced a few new characters that I think will excite my readers. Based on their feedback, there’s a potential for a spin-off that follows those characters. They learned by interacting with the main characters and could have a future of their own that deserves telling.
Maintain a marketing strategy
Read-through is an author’s best friend. While many are successful with standalone books, there are such things as whale readers — or binge readers. They don’t want a mass of standalone books; they want to consume an entire series in one sitting. They want to read books one through nine all at once.
Marketing a series is much easier than marketing standalones thanks to read-through. You want someone to pick up book one and love it enough to move on to book two, and book three, and book four… all the way to the end. When you market book one, a reader knows that if they love the story, they can continue on with the world or characters for an extended period of time. They want to see the next release.
For standalone novels, you are hoping that your story will resonate with the person who comes across it. You have to hope that the reader is willing to invest in a single book. With series, you have someone who is willing to invest in a single book and the hope that they will invest in the story for the long haul. It’s not one-off — it’s a commitment for several books.
Sell as a box set later
An author is more things than just a writer. As a self-published author, we act as marketers, graphic designers, social media marketers, finance managers, etc. We are in charge of everything.
Creating a box set of your books at a later date helps package your books and keep the series alive. You can get your series into a nice package for those binge readers who haven’t come across your work yet. That package is another great way to market your work and get it in front of readers. If they love this series, they’ll look for another.
A series is a great way to keep readers invested in what you have to offer. That doesn’t mean you can’t write standalones, but the more people you retain through your series, the more likely they will also invest in the other things you have to offer. People who invest in an author get there by a good story. And why give them a single story when you can give them many with their favorite characters?
Laura Winter is a self-published author dedicated to helping your authorpreneur journey. She has launched her books on little to no budget to prove you don’t have to invest an exorbitant amount of money to be successful. Find her work on Amazon, Patreon, and join her tribe to get more articles like this.
This post was originally published on Medium.