October 30th, 2013

10 Tips For Creating a Bestselling Series

No makeup, no hairbrush, no worries On a two-hourWriters In The Storm welcomes Eve Paludan. I first met Eve at a Desert Rose RWA meeting in Phoenix, AZ. First impression? A bubbly person who lugs around a very warm heart. She now lives in Los Angeles, CA, where she writes fiction and edits for other bestselling authors. She enjoys reading mysteries, science fiction, and romances, especially paranormal romances, walking on the beach and learning scenic photography.

Be sure to comment! Eve is giving away one of her e-books to one lucky commenter.

By Eve Paludan

1. SERIES NAME

The series name is important for authors to establish from the very first book. Give your series a name that conveys to prospective readers a clear idea of the genre. Here are some examples: Brotherhood of the Blade, Witch Detectives, Ranch Lovers Romance, Angel Detectives, and Ghost Files (J.R. Rain, Scott Nicholson, et al.). Brotherhood of the Blade is about vampire hunters, and these other series names likewise shout out to the prospective readers, “This is what I am!” Or, establish your brand identity with a series name that incorporates the protagonist’s name or identity to tell readers, “This is who I am!” A few examples are: The Judas Chronicles (Aiden James), Julia Stone (Scott Nicholson) and The Kaitlyn Chronicles (Elaine Babich).

If you want to avoid confusion and further distinguish your series from other similar series in the same genre, you can add the who of your protagonist’s name to the what of the series name, like this: Samantha Moon, Vampire for Hire (J.R. Rain). Seldom discussed, but very important, is a rhythm, a catchiness or an alliteration that makes the series name stick in readers’ minds. Do you notice how the words “vampire” and “hire” rhyme? What about an acronym for a series that spells a familiar word, such as HASH (Human Alien Species Hybrid) (April M. Reign). With “hash” tags being used or discussed millions of times per day, “HASH” is pretty clever for a series name.

2. SERIES DESCRIPTION

Be able to describe what your entire series is about in a single sentence.

Here is one well-crafted example that might well be the Holy Grail of series descriptions–notice that every single word in the sentence does an important job: “Forced to walk the earth as a cursed immortal, William/Judas is on a quest to reclaim the thirty silver shekels paid to him in exchange for Jesus Christ.” – The Judas Chronicles (Aiden James) Notice that the series description tells the reader who the protagonist is, what he wants, and the major obstacle between him and his heart’s desire. What a triple-play on this series description!

3. BOOK TITLES

The book titles in each series should have a similar pattern or feel to them, so that the readers know they go together.

Examples are: Witchy Business, Witch and Famous and Witch Way Out. Or how about Cody Greer, Looking Good, Cody Greer, and A Very Cody Christmas (H.T. Night). I recommend shorter titles when possible. Two or three-word titles that contain a keyword that stays the same (or almost the same) for each book in the same series can be helpful to readers and also aid authors in building their brand identity.

4. BOOK DESCRIPTIONS

Be able to describe each book in the series in a single sentence, so readers can see how it relates to the next book in the series and, if possible, reveal a progression of the story arcs:

Taking Back Tara (Ranch Lovers Romance #1) – After their divorce, Tara and Zane risk a second chance at love.

Tara Takes Christmas (Ranch Lovers Romance #2) – As Christmas approaches, Tara and Zane learn that they may lose the ranch.

Tara’s Little Wedding (Ranch Lovers Romance #3) – Tara and Zane plan a small second wedding, but it keeps getting bigger! (This book has not yet been released.)

5. BOOK ONE ELEMENTS

Your first book launches the series and sets a precedent for the main story arcs, protagonists, sidekicks and/or love interest, villain(s) and major conflicts for the entire series.

Make that first book become your series Bible or think of it as a tree from which all of the other books branch.

  • Keep it a goal that plot and character threads from the first book should run throughout the series. If you are establishing rules for a paranormal world, or for procedures for solving a crime, obey those rules in the next book if possible, so that there is continuity between the books.
  • Keep in mind that the first book has to create a sustainable world/foundation for your characters and plotlines across many books. So, do give the first book a lot of depth of character, and allow plenty of room for later plot expansion into subplots. In each book, authors should want subplots and goals for the protagonist to build a growing, comfortable familiarity with readers, even down to recognizable personality traits and repeated settings, such as where the character lives and works.

6. TITLES AND PLOT PLANNING

Plot-wise, and title-wise, know where you are going with the series, from the first book, to the last, if at all possible, or at least, the third book. When writing books two and beyond, try to remember what happened in book one, and keep a brief list handy of story arcs in progress. However, don’t re-use a plot over and over, unless you are putting new spins on old storylines to progress to the conclusion of each book and eventually, the completion of the series. Variations on the main theme are critical. It’s a delicate balance to craft continuity, and yet, freshness and originality for each book.

A reader recently told me that my books were refreshing because I didn’t have the heroine kidnapped and tortured in every book and then, have the hero save her. Do listen to what your loyal readers want when you get reviews and fan letters. Oh, and cliffhangers… It’s up to authors to decide if they want to use a cliffhanger at the end of each book, in order to keep readers interested in what happens in the next book. I have been both slammed and applauded for my cliffhangers, which have become somewhat discussed among regular readers of my series. Some cliffhangers are more exciting than others. I just love it when the readers want more of the series…I do my best to keep the characters and plots engaging and compelling.

7. BOOK COVERS

Your book covers should have a similar “look and feel” for each book in the series to tie them together with a recognition factor that helps readers remember what your covers look like. Not just the book title and author’s name, but your series name should be on the book covers, too.

Make sure to number the books, if they are to be read in a certain order. It is helpful to hire a professional book cover designer who can give you the same font on each book in the series, and a similar layout, like the covers of the Lost Valley series by J.T. Cross, the King’s Blood series by P.J. Day and the Glorious Companions series by Summer Lee.

It helps to have the first three covers in the series created at the same time and maybe even think about commissioning a “boxed set” graphic for future marketing. Have your book cover designer save the Photoshop file with layers for the titles and fonts saved, so that subsequent books can be easily designed by using the first book cover in the series as a template. (A flattened file, usually a .jpg or .tiff, is necessary for upload to Amazon Kindle or other publishing venue.) If your book cover designer can additionally create a graphic logo, that is another powerful marketing tool for your series.

8. EDITING

Even professional editors hire editors to edit their books. It is worth it to pay for a second set of eyes. Your mom, your best friend or your significant other may not be the right person for the job. Someone who doesn’t know you or love you and has tons of experience in editing books in your genre is your best bet.

You should not explain what your book is about in detail. Let your manuscript go to your editor without a big synopsis that reveals everything. The book must speak for itself without detailed introduction. My preference is to have my editor use the tracking changes feature of MS Word to show suggested changes that I can, as the author, either accept or decline.

An extra tip here is that the books in a series should have the same point of view throughout the series and also, hopefully, use the same verb tense. For example, don’t write one book in first person, present tense and another in third person, past tense. Just my personal opinion. Rules are made to be broken, right?

9. WORD COUNTS

Try not to write behemoth books of 100,000 words or more when you are creating a series. Okay, unless your initials start with J.K. and end with Rowling, then I guess, go for it. More power to you to have that much confidence and enthusiasm. But seriously, keep things simple and perhaps give yourself an upper word limit that makes you feel comfortable with your goals. Is 55,000 words plenty for each book in a series? I think so, but that’s just me and that length is going to be my personal top-out norm in 2014.

If you write a 130,000-word tome and you have 7 books in your series, you will be kicking yourself later when you try to pick up the story arcs from the previous books and resolve each plot and subplot. You are also making so much more work for yourself when you have a series with more than 20 characters per book. I should know… On the other hand, if you are the next J.R.R. Tolkien, ignore this word count and character count advice.

10. PRODUCTIVITY

Write as fast as you can, for as soon as one book comes out, your readers may be asking when the next one will be released! I try to have several series going at once and try to finish one book a month, or even every two months. But then, I don’t have a television. I rarely do anything else but write or edit, eat or sleep. I go grocery shopping a couple of times a week and sometimes go to the beach. A tank of gas in my car usually lasts me a month or more, if that gives you an idea of how many hours I spend sitting at the computer. You probably have a lot more balance in your life than this…

Have fun with your book series creation! And good luck!

Please check out all of Eve’s series books on Amazon, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. Eve Paludan has a couple of web sites, but they aren’t as exciting as she would like. She’s been a little busy and hasn’t updated them for a while.

Witch Detectives is an ongoing bestselling series about a witch who uses her emotions to work magic. With three books so far, Witch Bones (Witch Detectives #4) is scheduled to be Witch Way Out Flatreleased in early 2014. The first three books were co-authored with Stuart Sharp, and published by J.R. Rain Press. Eve Paludan will be solo-writing books 4 and beyond for publication by J.R. Rain Press.

Brotherhood of the Blade is a completed bestselling trilogy about a vampire hunter named Rand Sebastian who is on a quest for his missing daughter. The series is a spin-off of J.R. Rain’s Samantha Moon, Vampire for Hire series. J.R. Rain Press is the publisher.

Ranch Lovers Romance is Eve Paludan’s contemporary Western romance series about second-chance love for a couple named Tara and Zane. So far, two self-published titles have been released (Taking Back Tara and Tara Takes Christmas) and the series will be completed with a total of five books. Tara’s Little Wedding (#3) is in progress.

The Ghost Files is a bestselling series created by Scott Nicholson and J.R. Rain. Each book has a different author and the cases of the married paranormal investigation team of Monty and Ellen is the constant hero and heroine that drives the series. Ghost Fire (#3) is by Eve Paludan.

Angel Detectives is an ongoing paranormal series with one book released so far and one in progress, The Man Who Rose from the Sea. The first in the self-published series, The Man Who Fell from the Sky, is a complex paranormal mystery romance of 105,000 words and dozens of characters that was three years in the making.

Werewolf Detectives is Eve Paludan’s newest self-published series. Book 1, Werewolf Interrupted, was co-authored with Suzanne Wilson and is a brand new release.  A trilogy is planned. The self-published titles will be: Werewolf Interrupted, Werewolf Rising and Werewolf Unleashed. Werewolf Interrupted is Eve Paludan’s ninth book published this year, in 2013.

82 comments to 10 Tips For Creating a Bestselling Series

  • Eve, this is wonderful! My publisher did all this work for my two series, and now I understand what went on behind the scenes! I’m saving this one. Thanks so much for blogging with us at WITS!

    • Thank you for commenting. It is definitely a lot of planning for publishers and authors to plan and launch a series. I am happy that you are saving this one!

  • Outstanding blog, Eve, and I’ve never applied that descriptor to any other post. I will be referring to these points this coming year as I retire from the day job and go full time into my writing career. I’d already created a writing schedule and, I’m happy to say, it’s similar to this. I’ll be tweaking it now, for sure. Love that you’ve included a break to walk on the beach in your schedule. While it’s a 50 mile drive for me to get to the nearest beach, there are several other options that will keep me in good health. I’ll be hitting the walking and biking trails. I keep my iPhone with me at all times as I use the voice memo feature for recording those moments of inspiration or when I figure out a pesky plot issue. Thank you, WITS, for yet another great post!

    • Jaye, thank you for commenting and congratulations on making your leap to full-time writer! How exciting! I send myself texts all the time when I am not at my desk. I will get a story idea and when I come home, I have all of these texts from myself. Thought processes at home are different from the ones when I am at the beach or taking a walk in the neighborhood. Inspiration can come when you least expect it, so it is good to be ready!

  • Awesome post! Thank you for sharing!!!

  • vsnelson52

    Great blog post, Eve. Think I followed your advice to the letter with the exception of the word count in my series; Sekhmet’s Guardians. Book one, Eternal Lovers was not published until I wrote “the end” in book three, Eternal Blades. Being a series reader myself, I promised my readers I would publish no-less than two books in the series every year. I’ve held true to that promise as book three will be released this November. Another three are scheduled for next year. Long before I hired an expert to do my covers I knew all eleven books would have a purple background with similar scenes in the foreground. again, I applaud your advice and congratulate you on a great blog post.
    V.S. Nelson, a member of Desert Rose.

    • Hi V.S,
      Thank you so much for commenting on my guest blog and for your kind words. I miss my Desert Rose friends from way back (1990s) and am happy to meet you here and learn of your books. Sounds like a great series you have going. Eleven books is quite a series. Go you!

  • Great tips! Thanks for sharing!

  • I can see the sense in not writing a long book in a series for sure. Now I just have to learn how to write shorter. 🙂

    • I have to learn to write shorter, too. I think it takes more skill to tell a story in 55,000 words than in 85,000. You really can’t let the story subplots meander. LOL.

  • Melissa Lewicki

    This was really helpful. Thank you. I have printed it out and have my highlighter ready to go–that is how I remember and learn.

  • Excellent post! I’m bookmarking it for future reference.

  • Thank you for everyone’s comments and feedback! It’s been a long time since I dipped my toes back into nonfiction writing. Fun, fun, seeing all of your comments!

  • I want to especially thanks Sharla Rae for editing this piece. Great job!

  • jamiebeck

    As always, this blog offers such great advice. I’ve just finished the first draft of book two of my planned series of three stories (nothing published yet), so this is a well-timed post for me. Still have the ability to incorporate all of these suggestions. Thanks!

  • Thank you so much for all the great tips! I am doing a series and all that mentioned are worth keeping in mind! Thanks for sharing and have a beautiful day! 🙂

  • Oh wow, i never really knew what imagination, planning and work goes into aside from the “writer manically typing a the desk, in a rapture of fury” stereotype. Doesn’t take the magic out of reading from my favourite authors and their Series, but I can sure appreciate the little details much more! Thank you Eve!

  • Hi Eve!
    It’s rare for me to see a blog which affirms what I do every day. I knew when we met, we were alike in many ways. Still I picked up some valuable tips! I’m just going Indie and so decisions, decisions. The time is here for e-books! Yay! It’s just we had several dark years to get through, though in every storm, there are lessons to be learned, yes? Please e-mail me, I have something I want to offer you.
    Hugs,
    Susan

    • Susan,
      You are such a treasure. I am excited to know that you are going indie! I have missed you so much! I hope you are doing well. I will shoot you an email tonight! Much love and hugs, Eve

      It’s starting to feel like old home week, now. <3

  • Reblogged this on heatherzhutchinswrites and commented:
    Here’s everything you need to know about creating a series. I’m taking notes, Folks, so my Paulette series can make the grade.

  • Thanks for a great 10-step post, Eve! I am in the surely-familiar position of having listened to editor/agent advice for years about never write book two in your series until book one sells. So I now have THREE book-one-of-a-series books self-published! (Third one comes out in December.) Crazy-making! LOL! So it’s great to have a checklist to be sure I’m not missing/forgetting something important. I love checklists!

    And guess what? I think we were in Desert Rose at the same time! That was my first chapter. 🙂 I joined sometime in the late 90s and moved to LA in 2001. Very cool, eh? Saw Vicki Lewis Thompson for the first time in years when I ran into her at the RWAu conference in Sydney while I lived there. What a big laughing surprise for both of us! LOL! Looking forward to seeing you again at one of the SoCal meetings/events. 🙂

    • I have not heard from Chris Cannon and if she replies, she too, shall get a free book, but I would like to give out a book to someone else, just in case she doesn’t reply. Kitty Bucholtz, your name was randomly chosen! Please email me at evepaludan AT hotmail DOT com and let me know which Kindle book of mine you would like for free. Thanks!

  • Hi Kitty! How are you doing? That was my first chapter, too! And here I am in LA now, too! Very cool. That’s funny about bumping into Vicki in Sydney. It just proves to what lengths we will go to find an old writer friend! I haven’t gone to any of the meetings here. I’ve been super busy but may take time to visit a meeting as time permits. Thanks!

  • Oh, Eve, did I love this! Thank you! 😀

  • As soon as the next blog gets posted after mine, then I will choose a winner of the free Kindle book from among the commenters. Thanks to all of you!

  • Chris Cannon

    Great article. I shared and tweeted.

  • I think people who are trying to write a great novel should really go step by step through the tips you offered here. It´s precise and carefully described. Best 10-tips article I´ve read so far.

  • Wow, thank you for your feedback, Julie K. I really appreciate your comment and your support.

  • christicorbett

    Great article, Eve!

    Christi Corbett

  • Thanks, Christi! Good to see you here.

  • I used a random picker to choose a winner. Laura Drake, you are the winner of a Kindle ebook of your choice of one of my titles. Please shoot me your email address that you like to use for Amazon purchases and I will gift you a book of mine. Please let me know which one you want. Here are a list of my titles:
    http://www.amazon.com/Eve-Paludan/e/B004VXHP6O/ref=la_B004VXHP6O_st?qid=1383328368&rh=n%3A283155%2Cp_82%3AB004VXHP6O&sort=daterank

    My email address is evepaludan AT hotmail dot com

    Thanks!!

  • Thank you to everyone who commented. I really appreciate your participation and comments. I loved knowing what you are working on and how you found this article valuable to your own series goals. Hope to talk to you all again. I am busy for the rest of 2013, but perhaps in 2014, I will see if there is a blog slot open! It was nice to meet new friends and see old ones!

  • Laura Drake has graciously asked me to pick a new winner. The randomly chosen winner is Chris Cannon. Chris, please contact me with your email address so I can send you the Kindle book of your choice from my own booklist. Thanks!!

  • My email address is evepaludan AT hotmail dot com

  • […] Paludan: 10 Tips For Creating a Bestselling Series. “The series name is important for authors to establish from the very first book. Give your […]

  • Reblogged this on "CommuniCATE" Resources for Writers and commented:
    This is great! Thanks to Gene for recommending it and the WITS blog for a constant output of great material!

  • This was a great post! It was very insightful. Great step by step guide. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Reblogged this on 4writersandreaders and commented:
    Fantastic writing tips for authors! ~ Bette A. Stevens

  • Great post. I am reblogging for purely selfish reasons. I am starting a new series and in my first book. There is so much here that I truly need to keep in the back of my mind as I write things out. This is the first time I have used Scrivener to help me plot and create an outline because this series is so much more than a book. I am sure some others might find it useful, as well, but I can’t afford to lose this one.

    • I’m glad this article is useful to you! Thanks for the tip about Scrivener. I hadn’t heard of it, but I will check it out. =)

      • Gwen Hernandez, author of “Scrivener for Dummies” just happened to have a series of 6 week classes going on when I first learned about it. She was wonderful and the class was indispensable, otherwise the $40. software would have probably sat on my computer unused. She is offering her classes again around Feb. or March. You can find her on The Edited Life here: http://gwenhernandez.com/ and you can fiind more about Scrivener at Literature and latte here: https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php.
        It was well worth the money and the classes, also $40. turned the software into magic for me. I am so very impressed with it, but now, I want to learn more. You can even compile ebooks in mobi, pdf, and ePub. I am in love with the binder, editor, and corkboard. The classes weere through WIZIQ.com and all lessons could be downloaded and filed for future freference. I even made myself a little ebook with all of the lessons in it. 🙂

  • Reblogged this on mybrandofgenius and commented:
    Is your book going to be a series? Then read this for some very helpful insights to building the better series. My word count won’t need to be as great as I thought if I do this correctly!

  • I have not heard from Chris Cannon and if she replies, she too, shall get a free book, but I would like to give out a book to someone else, just in case she doesn’t reply. Kitty Bucholtz, your name was randomly chosen! Please email me at evepaludan AT hotmail DOT com and let me know which Kindle book of mine you would like for free. Thanks!

  • […] Eve Paludan (Writers In The Storm Blog) with 10 Tips For Creating a Bestselling Series […]

  • Eve, I’m impressed by your amazing productivity – wow, one book/month – even at 55,000 words, that’s amazing, it’s better than the 50,000 words needed for NanoWriMo, you’re a star!

    My first book in the Sci Fi series “Masters of the Future” is 87,000 words long and it took me 6 months to write!! I’ve got the next two planned but not yet written and quite frankly I don’t think I can publish any of them faster than, say, once a year…Consider me a turtle to your hare!

    But I really appreciate the advice. By sheer luck, I think I’ve done pretty much what you advise so far but I hadn’t thought it out in quite this systematic fashion, and that’s very useful, thank you!

    • Thanks, Claude. My productivity is spurred on by my lack of a TV and by the fact that I live alone and don’t have much of a social life. Also, writing and editing for other authors are my only jobs. When I had a day job, and lived with other people, it took me forever to get anything done. Even though I live in a big city, I have a lot of privacy and time is on my side! For once.

      The first book in your series sounds very intriguing. I love sci fi and have not written any, but I am a reader fan of the genre. Great title for your series, too! 87,000 words is a long book, but is the foundation for your series. Just to write something that long is an amazing accomplishment. I do have books that long and they took me much longer than writing two books with an equal word count. There is a lot to keep track of in a long book!

      Thanks for the awesome introduction and your comments.

  • Eve, can you please mention which “random picker” you use? I’d appreciate it since, once I launch my blog, I’ll be doing giveaways and if there’s an easy way to do that randomly, I want to know! lol Thanks 🙂

    • There are many tools. First, I made a list of the names of the commenters and assigned numbers to them, for example, the first commenter was #1, etc. Obviously, I don’t assign myself a number. Then I went to http://www.random.org/ and used the tool on that page to generate a random number between 1 and the number of users who commented. And then, when my random number was generated, I looked at my list of commenters to see which one had that number by his or her name. There is also a more formal paid service for random drawings (see http://www.random.org/faq/#Q3.1) and I would probably use a paid service for a prize that had a substantial value and for which I thought I needed time stamped proof etc. Thanks for asking!

      • …and thanks for telling in such detail! 😀 My prizes are all under $10, so I think I can stay with free 🙂 Either that, or pick a number out of a hat, which would work as long as I know how many people commented. Too bad everyone’s comments aren’t automatically numbered! At least not that I know! lol Thanks again, Eve 🙂

  • […] Writers In The Storm welcomes Eve Paludan. I first met Eve at a Desert Rose RWA meeting in Phoenix, AZ. First impression? A bubbly person who lugs around a very warm heart. She now lives in Los Ang…  […]

  • […] Writers In The Storm welcomes Eve Paludan. I first met Eve at a Desert Rose RWA meeting in Phoenix, AZ. First impression? A bubbly person who lugs around a very warm heart. She now lives in Los Ang…  […]

  • Great advice all around. Thank you!

  • Yes, I agree. I wrote a book of a series but have been considering when and how to publish and was thinking as you suggest that it might be best to have the other ones either written or at least in draft format. Your post comes at the right time.