Tag Archives: series

Selling Nonfiction Ebooks: Win With Series

When Amazon released the Kindle in 2007, it changed publishing. It turned thousands of hopefuls into authors. Many of those authors make a good living writing nonfiction books.

Sadly, many authors do not. I work with authors every day, and the biggest error I see authors make is that they category-hop. They write a recipe book. Then a book about dog breeds. Then a book about fish. Next, they try the self-help category.

They make a few sales, but they could be selling many more books… if they wrote in series.

 The biggest opportunity in nonfiction books: series

Here’s why:

  • A series gives you a chance to brand a name;
  • A series increases your visibility;
  • A series gives you an opportunity to build a readership; and
  • with the right series, you can build a great income.

Popular series: think Chicken Soup

Chicken Soup for the Soul was a early-1990s self-published book which turned into a bestseller. These days, it’s an entire conglomerate, which not only publishes books, but also sells pet food and makes movies. That’s what I mean by a brand. 🙂

At this stage, very few authors think longterm. They think about the ebook they’re writing now, worry about their ebook sales, and think about the other ebooks they hope to publish.

Think Chicken Soup. If you hit the right series, you can turn it into an empire.

Is it easy? Heck no. Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected many times, but Jack Canfield believed in the book. Over the years, there are endless stories about how tirelessly he worked to push Chicken Soup for the Soul. According to his website, there are now 123 million copies of the book in print.

Toss your hat into the ring: you never know what will succeed

As you may know, I coach writers. I love it, because I love writers and writing. However, it can be frustrating when I see writers make the same mistakes I made. Here’s one of my biggest mistakes.

Early in my career, I spent way too much time waiting for my editor and agent to get back to me. Finally I dumped my publishing house, and my agent, and struck out on my own. No, that wasn’t the mistake.

The mistake was waiting. I waited around for others to do stuff, instead of writing, and I listened to others, instead of believing in myself, and taking risks. These days, I believe in myself. I know that if I make a mistake, it’s just feedback on something that didn’t work, and the mistake is MINE. After suffering through others’ mistakes instead of taking control,  I’m proud to take the blame when things don’t work out.

Don’t wait. Write, and sell.

As soon as you finish one book, write another nonfiction book on the same topic. And then another one. And another. By the time your third ebook in the series has been published, you’ll have some idea whether you’re making enough sales.

Trust yourself: what do YOU think?

Let’s say you’ve written four books in a series. You’re selling ten copies a week. That’s not a huge amount. On the other hand, you haven’t done any promotion yet. Now it’s up to you. Consider that you have FOUR ebooks.

You could:

  • Create a bundle, so that you have FIVE books in the series;
  • Make one of your ebooks permanently free;
  • Create audio books out of the ebooks;
  • Create print books from your ebooks;
  • Buy advertising;
  • Create a mailing list…

I could go on, but you get the message. Once you have three or four books in a series, even if they’re only short ebooks, you can make a splash. If you want to…

On the other hand, perhaps you think that the topic you’ve covered doesn’t have an audience which is eager for your ebooks. In that case, let the series lie fallow for a few months. Do a little promotion, but focus on writing your next series.

A series gives you options that you don’t have when you write standalones

One of my students wrote 20 ebooks, on 20 different topics. When you write standalones, it’s a real challenge to build a following. I encouraged him to turn his bestselling standalone into a series.

Just three months later, he’s selling 100 ebooks a week. That’s not enough to make his fortune, but it’s showing him the value of writing in series.

Yes, You’re Creative: How To Unlock Your Imagination And Build The Writing Career Of Your Dreams

Yes, You’re Creative: How To Unlock Your Imagination And Build The Writing Career Of Your Dreams

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In this book we'll aim to increase your creativity to unlock your imagination and build the writing career of your dreams. More info →
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Write Fast, Write Well: How To Be Prolific, and Sell – Powerful tips to increase your writing income

Write Fast, Write Well: How To Be Prolific, and Sell – Powerful tips to increase your writing income

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What If You Were Twice As Successful, Or Even THREE Times More Successful Than You Are Today? There's No Ceiling On A Writer's Income... You Just Need To Be Prolific. More info →
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How To Plan And Write A Series of Novels: 5 Tips

How To Plan And Write A Series of Novels: 5 Tips

You want to write a series of novels. Perhaps you’re writing a novel, and the thought occurs to you: “Hey! I could make this a series…” Alternatively, you decide you want to write a series, from scratch.

Your genre doesn’t matter. All series of novels are similar, in that they feature strong characters, who appeal to readers, because they are strong. Consider: Winston Graham’s Poldark series, Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, and even Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series.

So your first step is to choose your character. You may already have a character you’ve created, or you can create a character who appeals to you, and with whom you can stand to live with over the course of a series. Remember: strong. No whiners. No characters who are TSTL (too stupid to live.)

Your character will contain elements of YOU, as James Bond contains elements of Ian Fleming:

“Though Bond suffered his share of seemingly autobiographical health issues—in Thunderball the spy begins to acknowledge that his heavy drinking may be a problem, and by On Her Majesty’s Secret Service he’s definitively in the throes of alcoholism—he always comes out on top.”

Your character is you, in some form, that’s inevitable. But remember that your character is NOT you. So don’t get squeamish. Put your character through hell — and have him come out on top — and readers will love it.

1. Choose your poison: family saga, on-going quest, or…?

Think about how you’ll tie your series together. If you’re writing romance, you could create a family of three brothers, and tell one brother’s story in each book.

I’m a fan of Phil Rickman’s Merrily Watkins’ series, and the Dalziel and Pascoe books, written by the late and wonderful Reginald Hill. These series are examples of on-going quests.

2. Create a problem that’s solved over the course of the series (optional)

This is optional. However, it’s helpful, because readers read your next book to see what happens next.

There’s a danger with this. What if you don’t make enough sales, and decide to kill the series? You’ll have irate readers wanting the solution to the problem, and you’re in no way inclined to write it… 🙂 Although this is a concern for writers, it needn’t be. Consider that if you get lots of feedback to write more in the series, you can deal with that challenge when and if it arises. (If the series isn’t selling, it’s unlikely to arise.)

3. Write BIG: do your very best with each book

Take nothing for granted. Your first book in the series needs to be the absolute best you can do. Don’t skimp on editing, or anything else. That said, don’t become paralyzed in some insane desire for perfection. Do the best you can do, and watch your moods.

If you’re bored, everything you write will be boring. Snap out of it. Play music. Go out for a long drive. Writing a series takes lots of energy. Keep your own energy levels up.

4. Keep track: Fred has blue eyes, or are they brown?

Keep a spreadsheet which includes character and location information, as well as major incidents in each book. It’s easy to forget these things. Readers won’t forget them however, so neither must you. 🙂

5. Schedule it: get it written

Planning a series is a lot more fun that writing it, at least sometimes. Start writing as soon as you feel you have handle on what you want to do, and write every day, even if it’s only 100 words.

Tips for writing series:

  • Use Scrivener. I’m not pushing this writing app onto you. I recommend it because makes your life easier. You can keep your entire series in ONE project in Scrivener, and move from one book to another. When you get bored writing something in book 1, work on book 2.
  • Use the tags and collections features in Scrivener. They’ll help you to see everything you’ve written which mentions a character, or an incident, or location,  together. It’s amazing what you’ll pick up this way.
  • Write every day. Play “what if” every day, so you keep surprising yourself.
  • Remember where you are. Create maps of rooms, houses, locations… and speaking of locations…
  • Be somewhere. Orient your reader. If you confuse, you lose (readers.)

Writing a series of novels can be huge fun. Get excited about what you’re creating, and stay excited. If you can manage to do that, you’ll excite readers, and will make sales.

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Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

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Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 4
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction
You want to write a novel. Perhaps you can't get started. Or maybe you got started, and then you stopped.You need a plan, broken down into easy steps. This program began as a 30-day challenge which I organized for readers in 2010. Hundreds of writers joined the challenge and completed it. They wrote novels. More info →

Updated: November 11, 2016

Writing Fiction: Series Magic (and Profits)

Writing Fiction: Series Magic (and Profits)

You’re writing fiction, and you’re eager for ways to build your readership. Book marketing is essential, but it’s a struggle for many authors. Some are comfortable, others hate the idea of promoting their books. However, promotion is essential.

What if there were a way you could promote your self-published ebooks painlessly? There is, and it’s simple: write in series. (Or write a serial.)

When You Write in Series, You’re Baking-in Promotion

The “write a series” trick is often used by publishers. Rather than signing an author to a single book contract, they’ll offer the author a multi-book contract. They know that when a reader buys Book 1 of a series, if the reader enjoys it, she’s primed for further books in the series. It’s a painless way of baking in promotion.

Self-published and ebook authors can make this process work much more easily than authors who are traditionally published. Here’s why. A genre novel has a shelf-life of anywhere from a month, to three months. Then the novel is remaindered.

Of course, if you’re publishing ebooks, your ebooks sell forever, so it makes sense to write in series. Readers who buy one book, may buy another. And of course, if you wish, you can make Book 1 of the series free, once you’ve published several books in the series.

But… What if Your First Book in a Series Doesn’t Sell?

If Book 1 doesn’t sell, it can be a sign that you haven’t found the book’s readership. This is why I suggest in our Story Power program that you test your ideas by writing short fiction.

For new authors, committing to a series without any signal that the series will sell doesn’t make sense. In Story Power, we look at ways in which you can expand your short stories into serials, and into series as well.

Sell What’s Selling… or Create Your Own Market

It’s a real challenge to build a market. So ideally, when you’re starting a fiction career, it’s a good idea to aim for a popular genre, like romance, or thrillers, where a healthy market exists. That said, consider that the market for your short stories and novels is global. With hundreds of millions of readers, choosing a genre based on popularity isn’t as important as it is if you’re hoping for legacy publication.

Check your favorite genre. How many authors are publishing series? You’ll be hard-pressed to find a genre in which series aren’t popular.

Whether you’re writing your first novel, or your twentieth, consider the benefits of writing in series, especially if you dislike marketing.

Learn More About Series and Serials, and the Benefits of Short Fiction

In Story Power: Write and Sell Short Fiction — Short Stories, Serials, and Series, you’ll discover many ways in which you can make fiction pay. You’ve got a global market: build your readership, and you can build a satisfying career.

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