Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Readers Love Series!

If the above statement is true, why do so many publishers cancel series before they're completed? I'm sure you've seen promising series get cut off at the knees, and you've always wondered what happened next. Maybe you've been the author of such a series, with readers asking for more and your publisher telling you it's not viable.

And, indeed, the publisher may be right. They have established marketing methods for bookstores, specific print runs to commit to, and more bright, new, shiny books to publish that might do better than your third one.

Enter the indie author, who, instead of targeting the tried-and-true paperback markets, will primarily sell ebooks online… and still make a living.

Yes, many an indie author creates paperback files, too, often uploading those to Amazon's Createspace dashboard, where books will be printed as ordered. And, while some sell paperbacks like gangbusters online, many of us sell virtually every single paperback by hand in our local areas. We may still think it's worth having them available.

But back to the topic. What does being indie have to do with series? Several things.

1. Indies are writing for the future, not the present.
That may seem backwards when it's in traditional publishing that a book may take two years to get to market after it's written and approved, while an indie may write, edit, and publish a book in just a few months.

Still, each indie is only concerned with one career: his or her own. We know it takes time to build any business. We don't juggle the needs of multiple authors and an office building full of staff. It's just us and any editors, cover designers, etc, we may contract for specific duties as we can afford them.

Every time we release a new book in the series, it draws attention to the previous titles. Sales tend to go up on all of them. Nothing ever goes out-of-print these days—to the distress of many authors with bomb-proof traditional contracts. This is a bonus for indies. A new reader who discovers us in book two, or three, or four can click over to Amazon or another online bookseller and, with a few more clicks, purchase and download all previous books in a minute or two.

2. Indies can price ebooks to sell through a series. We have the luxury of offering a low barrier to entering our story worlds by pricing the first book lower than the others, or even free. An impulse buy/download will often result in sales of the other books in the series. Not always, of course, but many indies have experimented with this tactic with success.

3. Indies can adapt a series or lengthen it to suit the readership.
Planned a series about three sisters, and the stories are selling like gangbusters? Add three cousins and expand the series to six books. Want to add a novella, a short story collection, and/or a Christmas tale to the mix? Go for it. We can listen to our readers and turn on a dime.

4. Indies can "value-add" to a series. I've had the opportunity to both contract an audiobook of my first book, Raspberries and Vinegar, and to submit it to a digital box set called Love Brings Us Home that also contains books by six other contemporary romance authors. This box set has been doing really well. Psst, if you haven't picked up your copy yet, hop to it! It won't be available much longer.

I've done some of this with my Farm Fresh Romance series since regaining the rights to them last summer. I republished the first two, Raspberries and Vinegar and Wild Mint Tea, in July and released the third, Sweetened with Honey, in November, four full months earlier than had been planned by my publisher.

I thought and prayed and noodled over the original idea then decided to expand the series to six books by adding more friends to the mix. I've just completed the first draft of Dandelions for Dinner and have every expectation of releasing it in early March, while continuing to write the fifth and sixth books. This will not only give more books for existing fans to purchase, but increase the number of entry points whereby new fans may discover them.

With the upcoming release of Dandelions for Dinner and the dissolution of the box set, I plan to place the first book at "permanently free" to draw more readers into the series.

I love hearing from readers who are invested in my Farm Fresh Romance series.

Here's what one reader had to say:
"I literally had moments where I missed this group of characters now that I've read all the books in this series so far… love the stories - each character is distinct from the others, which sometimes isn't true in series. These are not remakes of the former books. I love the entire atmosphere on this farm."

What do you think of series, both as a reader and as a writer?


  1. Hi Valerie. My first visit back after being away for several weeks of ministry!

    Congratulations on your expanding ebook series and the way you've handled it. Yes, I have a series traditionally published that has come to a halt. wasn't happy about publisher no 1, and another publisher wasn't interested to take on the other two. Maybe going down the path you've followed is an excellent alternative.

    1. It's been an excellent move, as far as I'm concerned! Can you get the rights back to what's already been published?

  2. Good summary of the flexibility of indie publishing. Glad it's working for you.

  3. I love series as well and think this is a great idea! Congrats!

  4. Congrats on all your success, Valerie. I'll be sure to be tapping you for lots of great advice if I decide to take a swim in the indie pond one day!

  5. Val, congrats on your indie publishing success and thanks for sharing your experiences with us. I love reading and writing series, and I'm glad to hear you're expanding your Farm Fresh Romance series to six books :)

  6. Wow--what a journey, Valerie--well done to you!

    Re your question about series, as a writer, I can see the wisdom of creating these and thus hopefully developing a following of readers. Also, as new books in the series are released, this can increase the sale of earlier books, as you point out. Just one little downside I have discovered, however, is that it takes time when promoting and selling books at my book table at an event to explain whether books are part of a series or not and how it all works. Also, I have to try to have every book in the series available all the time--which means I might not sell as many of my more recent books because readers prefer to start at the beginning of a series, even if I assure them each book can be read as a 'stand alone' title.

  7. Valerie, I love how the covers and blurbs in your Farm Fresh series maintain a consistent look and tone. It's a beautiful job you've done with recognizable branding on that! And I do agree that series are a great way to satisfy readers who fall in love with your characters. Usually when they read one book they love, they are eager for the next and it's actually hard to keep up with the demand. So series are a great way to feed that hunger!