Back in my college days, the Wheel of Time series was big and popular. It still is today, but it was bright and shiny in my circle of friends. So much that a few of them would only read a new book of the series after rereading the previous books. Great system for a while until the series got massive and delays were going on. At some point, it became a matter of pride to make it to the end or a death march for some. Don’t get me wrong here. The books were beloved and it was a worthy cause. It’s that the fans felt like they were being tested as the series progressed in length and there were pauses. This goes for a long of series, especially in fantasy. In fact, I hear a lot of friends chanting for the newest Game of Thrones book. Either impatience runs rampant in the genre or there is a major difficulty in keeping long series on schedule. That’s all from the reader’s perspective though. I’m looking at those of us daring enough to tackle to big series.
One has to keep momentum going between books. If it takes too long for the next book to be released then people may wander away. Others will get vocal on the internet and start yelling about it being too long. It has gotten worse as instant gratification becomes more rampant. Mockery and insults can occur if you wait too long. After all, it isn’t easy to plan, first draft, edit, beta read, edit, cover art, edit, write blurbs, and do everything else that goes into a book release. Even at the traditional level it’s a challenge, so imagine the stress for an indie author.
Now, you get some slack for life events getting in the way. Marriage, new child, death, jailed for bowling naked in the penguin habitat, etc. Most fans will understand this causing a delay. I think it’s when they have no idea what you’re doing that they get agitated. To a fan/reader, the author is always writing and editing. There’s nothing else that they do beyond this. So, it baffles them that the next book in a series is in first draft stage by the time its predecessor is released. I’ve even seen some fans declare that the next book of a series should come out a month after the previous book. There is a lack of understanding about the workings of writing that make a series a challenging undertaking.
So, how can you minimize the chaos of a series?
- Be honest about delays with fans. Don’t shrug or say ‘it will debut when it debuts’ because that sounds patronizing. Remember that your fans are investing time and emotions in your work, so be respectful.
- Think about the next book in the series when you have the time. A vague idea of where you’re going will give you an edge when you continue the series.
- It doesn’t hurt to take a weekend off from one book and plan out the next. I have all 15 books of Legends of Windemere done, which is extreme. Yet, this does give me a tentative path to follow and has helped me create foreshadowing in my earlier books.
- Release spoiler free excerpts or new character teasers. This proves you’re working on the books and keeps the readers engaged. A person feels special when they receive a sneak peek even if thousands are getting it. Bizarre mentality, but it creates a rush from seeing something that hasn’t happened yet. Compare it to being invited to a Hollywood pre-screening event.
- Talk about it! Sounds so simple, but you’d be surprised how often this does not happen. Discuss your progress on social media or field questions at a Q&A session if you’re at that level. Much like #4, this action tells your fanbase that you’re working on the next book and not trapped in writer’s block.
A series is a glorious thing because you can extend character development and story. You don’t feel rushed and more can be added to the overall world. Yet, there are many pitfalls to be aware of with a series. So, one has to be prepared and ready to handle it.