Why you should write a series and how not to mess it up

First of all, let me make one thing straight. I do not believe in writing a novel in a certain genre just because such genre is super popular (another ‘forbidden’ step-brother romance, anyone?). You should write about what excites you – not what can earn you more sales. That said – if you are considering turning one of your novels into a series, my advice is Just Do It. What are the benefits of writing a series? That’s easy. Sales. Sales. Sales. And don’t forget about the increased promotional possibilities.

Sales. Before I wrote a series, my books were quite different from each other. I had a difficult time finding a set crew of bloggers to review my work because each book appealed to a different sort of reader. I can’t prove it or anything, but I assume readers didn’t download another book from me just because they liked the book they just finished. The books were just too diverse for that. That all changed with a series. Now bloggers who have reviewed one of the books in The Gray-Haired Knitting Detectives series will tell me they’ve downloaded the rest of the series as well.

Hooking readers. I’m not a big believer in giving books away. After all, there’s a lot of time and effort that goes into each novel I publish. But with a series it’s possible to sell the first book for free or a significantly reduced price because there’s a good chance that readers will then download the next book in the series. It certainly takes the sting out of giving one book away for free if the reader then buys the next two books in the series.

Boxed set. Boxed sets are great promotional tools. Everyone loves the idea of a bargain. By putting the books in a series together and reducing the overall price, you’ve given them a bargain. Another advantage of a boxed set is the overall number of pages. If you’ve enrolled your book in Kindle Unlimited, you’ll probably make more money per boxed set read than per boxed set sold. (For more information, check out my article on making money with Kindle Unlimited.)

Although I read a lot of series (Janet Evanovich being one of my favorites), I never considered writing a series. It just never entered my mind. But then I wrote the cozy mystery Murder, Mystery & Dating Mayhem and my readers were asking for the next installment of the series. Huh? I shrugged my shoulders, thought why not, and got on with it. But because I hadn’t planned on writing a series when I drafted and wrote Murder, Mystery & Dating Mayhem, I made some boo-boos in the series. I’ve never been shy about admitting my mistakes and if someone can learn from my mistakes, well then I guess I’ll bite the bullet and explain all the ways I fudged up.

Changing characters. This was my biggest problem. When I went to write the second and third installment of The Gray-Haired Knitting Detective series, I had to make some changes to the characters to accommodate the new stories. I thought the changes were subtle. My readers are way too smart and called me out. With the new series I’m writing, Death by Cupcake, I’m more conscientious with planning out all the three books in advance to avoid any sudden character changes.

Underdeveloped characters. In Murder, Mystery & Dating Mayhem, the main character, Izzy, gets help from her grandmother’s friends in solving the murder. The friends were just fun side characters – or so I thought. It turned out readers adored the old ladies. In fact, the granny crew became the heroines who readers wanted to follow on adventures again and again.

Introducing characters. I only briefly introduced the protagonist from Love in the Time of Murder into earlier books in the series. In order to get readers jumping up and down to read the next book in the series, I should have developed Dee earlier.

I’m sure there are a bunch of other things I messed up in my first series, but these are the mistakes that really stick out. Have you written a series? What lessons have you learned?