Defining A Series

I've been engaged in a couple of email discussions about series. One is with a writer who's thinking of turning indie, and the others are friends who are print published and indie published. I thought I'd share some of my thoughts about series with you since it's occupying my brain at the moment.

(By the way, just in case you're interested, all of my books mentioned in this article are available at all major ebook sellers.)

I have 3 series in progress: Texas One Night Stands; The Good, The Bad, and The Girly; and San Antone Two-Step. When completed the Texas series will have 4 books and so will The Good, The Bad, and The Girly. San Antone Two-Step is, as the name implies, 2 books.

I also have a set of romantic comedies, each with cover art depicting black lingerie. I call these books The Lingerie Covers. Some call them a series, but in actuality the only elements joining the books together are the cover art work and the fact that they are all romantic comedies. I've published three from my backlist with these covers. I'm getting ready to publish the 4th this month and that will be all of The Lingerie Covers.

I'll come back to these series and pseudo-series in a moment.

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What Constitutes A Series?

A lot of writers want to do series because readers like series books. Witness the popularity of not just mystery series, but fantasy/SF novels and romance novels of every niche sub-genre that contain continuing characters and often "world-building." In fact, some writers want to create series so much that they often take what amounts to stand-alone books and try to group them under some umbrella.

Of course, planning a series and then writing it is the "easy" way to get a series going. However, if you're taking already written books and packaging them as a series, be careful. Not all books co-exist harmoniously unless planned that way in the beginning.

Pointers To Get You Going

Whether you're starting at the beginning or taking already written books, here are some questions to consider to help you focus your ideas.

1. Who is your target audience? Age, gender, and other demographics. This is who you want to sell to so look at other series in your genre that seem to appeal to these same demographics and see how those books are packaged. Don't copy, but learn from what they're doing and model your project in the same way.

2. Do you have a series name? Is the series name reflective of the unifying elements in each book?

3. If you look at all of the books -- written and planned -- what are the unifying concepts that identify  them as a series?

4. Can you write 1 sentence that states what the series is about? Do it now, just as you wrote a 1 sentence (called a logline in screenwriting) for each book in the series. It's important to be able to do this because it shows you have a firm focus on each story and on the series as a whole.

5. Do you have a cover art concept including fonts that visually links each book in the series?

Back To My Series/Pseudo-Series

Texas One Night Stands is set primarily in Alton County, pure fiction, and the characters are linked through Book 4. In Book 1, The Trouble With Love, heroine Susannah Quinn and hero D.E. Hogan are destined to live happily ever after. Susannah's cousin Judy Anne Palmer is mentioned in this first book at the beginning, middle, and end. A secondary character in this book is Allison Platt who will be the heroine of Book 3, Forever Starts Tonight.

If I had been smart, I'd have made cousin Judy Anne Palmer have a more prominent role in the first book. She becomes the heroine of Book 2, Romeo and Judy Anne, along with her hero Roman Carlisle. In this book, she refers to her cousin Susannah, but Susannah doesn't appear "on stage" at all. Not smart. In this book, Judy Anne's best friend Heather and Roman's brother Brian are at crossed swords from the moment they meet each other. Naturally, they're fated to be the stars of Book 4, Crazy For Love.

By the time I finished Book 2, I'd learned my lesson. Everyone will appear in Book 3 and in Book 4.

Moral of this story is to fully use the characters you create. If readers liked them, they want to see them in future books and know that they truly had their happy ending.

When I started my series The Good, The Bad, and The Girly with Book 1, Old Enough To Know Better, I'd learned my lesson. In that book, which is Stormy and Sean's story, I introduce Stormy's daughters who will each be a star of the remaining 3 books.

San Antone Two Step was previously published as a book and its sequel. Both books are set in San Antonio, Texas, with Darcy Benton and Chase Whitaker in Nobody's Cinderella and Darcy's brother Bruce appearing again as the hero in the sequel which I have titled Cinderella Blue to be published in June.

Takeaway Truth

Give a great deal of thought before your get started on writing a series. You can save yourself a lot of backtracking and headaches if you do it right from the beginning.

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