The Career Author Podcast: Episode 131 – Sticking with a Series Until the End

Sticking with a Series Until the End

Sticking with a Series Until the End

You’ve probably heard it all the time. If you want to make money selling books, you need to write a series. But planning a series isn’t the same as a standalone novel. And how do you prevent yourself from burning out halfway through a series? More than that, how do you keep readers engaged and what do you do if readers aren’t buying?

The Career Author Podcast is a podcast where co-authors J. Thorn and Zach Bohannon share their struggles and successes as full-time authors, advice for improving your writing craft, and honest discussions of what it takes to build a successful career as an author.

In this episode, you’ll discover:

  • The difference between writing a serialized series and a standalone series, and the pros and cons of each
  • Why you need to consider how to market your book before you write it
  • What questions you need to ask before plotting your series
  • Why knowing the end of your series is crucial
  • How good characters make sticking with a series easier
  • How to determine whether or not you should give up on your series

Also, Zach shares what made him finally move all his tasks and scheduling to Google Calendar.

Send us your ways and hacks – https://thecareerauthor.com/waysandhacks/ 

Leave us a comment: Do you struggle to finish a series? Why or why not?

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Podcast sponsored by Kobo Writing Life – https://writinglife.kobobooks.com 

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The Career Author Podcast: Episode 68 – What Makes a Good Character Great? – https://thecareerauthor.com/ep068/

The Career Author Podcast: Episode 78 – Don’t start a series until you answer these 2 questions – https://thecareerauthor.com/ep078/

The Career Author YouTube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/thecareerauthor

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16 thoughts on “The Career Author Podcast: Episode 131 – Sticking with a Series Until the End

  • Morning guys. Great to hear you both back on form. The rule you referred to may be Parkinson’s Law.
    Great hack Zack, I use Google Calendar because it was the one I could synch easiest on my phone. Must look at tasks.
    Interesting topic today. I’m writing a 3 book thriller series a la Reacher/Milton, and I’ve been wading through book 2. Lovely wifey suggested “why not combine books 2 and 3?” Brilliant, why didn’t I think of that? All problems solved. I have plenty of ideas for stories in this genre.
    I need to know 2 things to write a story.
    First is the end. I never write a story without knowing the end. Like getting in a car without knowing where you are driving to.
    Second is to know the one sentence story pitch/premise/hook before I start. This has made writing so much easier. Some writers finish a book then scrabble around looking for a pitch when sometimes there isn’t one, which is a bit late after the book is complete. If you know the pitch before, it helps add theme related scenes and symbolism and beats as you write. Definitely worth a try.
    To answer your question: I’ve never struggled to finish writing a series because I would never commit without knowing there was enough in it for me to write more books. I have two open series which I will return to as I have many more stories to write in them.
    I enjoy reading and writing, and as a reader of many genres I am still looking for a fit between my interests and my public. 😂
    Great show.

  • With my first series, I did all the pre-publishing stuff right (professional editing, cover design, etc.) but totally screwed up in the marketing department (it doesn’t have a clear genre, and I had no plan for dealing with that or marketing it well). I’ve written three books and hope to one day finish the series with a final book, for my own satisfaction rather than for financial gain.

    For my next series, I’m learning from those mistakes and listening to experts like you two (and Lindsay Buroker at the Career Author Summit – that was so helpful!) to think ahead about genre, marketing, and the other aspects I failed to meet the last time around. It’s both intimidating and comforting, as there’s a lot to do, but I know this series will be more successful for all the hard work I’m putting in upfront.

    • It’s so hard! Especially with how much work we have to put in, not REALLY knowing if a book, let alone a series, is going to sell or not. But you’re smart, of course, continuing to grow and learning from your experiences.

  • Thank you for a great episode–and thank you for alerting your listeners to The Indy Author Podcast! If anyone would like to hear my chat with Zach on fostering creativity through digital minimalism, you can find that episode at https://bit.ly/TIAP029 … and you can also hear J. talk about building communities in podcasts and in person at https://bit.ly/TIAP021.

    My question regarding series is … do you feel authors need to top each book in their next one (e.g., the protagonist faces ever greater challenges, the antagonist metes out ever greater punishment) and, if yes, how does an author avoid “jumping the shark” at some point?

  • I’ve written a trilogy, which hasn’t been published yet, because I like the symmetry of a trilogy. It’s the power of three, the beginning, middle and end. I’m not a huge fan of long running series for that reason. I like things to end. Other than Harry Potter, I don’t think I’ve ever read a series past the fifth book. That being said, I’ve been considering writing a nine book series based on Norse mythology!

    Thanks for the reminder to not let the market totally decide what to write and to write what you love. I was almost convinced to make that nine book series a romance with part of it happening in the modern world, until I remembered that I don’t love writing romance or contemporary stuff. I write love stories, which are different from romance, and I like writing in the past. Now I have to figure out how to write something that sells while not losing myself in the process.

  • This is my landmark comment #23. I am super glad that all you guys think about is whether I am happy. I just wish more people would go about doing that, it would make my life a lot easier.

    Thanks for a great episode and answering our questions.

    I realize that your first series is pretty much guaranteed not going to be the one that takes off. So I feel I need to get the words down first and get it out and see how the market / readers like it. I like it but who knows if anyone else does.

    Looking forward to landmark episode #132.

  • Thanks for another great episode.

    I’m definitely into series. My original series is really a trilogy, but I’m actually thinking about add a 4th book, but 10 years after the last book.

    My main series is 8 books and counting. I was writing book 1 when I got picked up by a small press. They signed me predicated on the idea that I would write a series. So, I wrote an outline for a trilogy, but things got out of control and that outline last 6 books. I decided to add another arc after book 7 that will last another 3-4 books.

    Since my main series was successful, I decided to write a spin-off series with characters from the main series hoping to build a “world.” That hasn’t really been all that successful. I loved those characters and wanted to tell their stories, but it is an ensemble series, which I think goes to your point that it’s best to have a central character. Mine has 5. I wanted to quit after book 3, but to complete the arc, I had to write book 4. Maybe the box set will sell?

    I think you hit the nail on the head — it’s best if you know where your series is going. I’m a plotter and knowing my roadmarks is critical to getting my series written.

    My question is what do you see as the optimal length of a series?

  • Hey guys – First, J – on spotify, you mostly listen to bands that you already own the music. So by listening on streaming, you are actually helping them more and they are getting paid even more for that music. If that helps.

    I have 1 book series I’m putting out now with 3 more on the back burner. The current series, the thought is to have 4 books – I already have the main story for each. If these do well, I have an additional 4 books I have planned I could write. Whether those last 4 come out anytime soon or not, we’ll see.

    The funny thing is, the 2nd series I’m working on, I didn’t have plans for it to even be a book. But I’ve released several short stories that seem to be doing well. So I’ve planned and am making a whole book. And if it does well, I can get a 2nd book out that would be a good sequel to the first book. BUT – as of now, if that 2nd book does well – I have no plans! We’ll see.

    So I can pivot and flex in different directions depending on the sales, the world, etc etc.

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