How Not to Write a Series

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By Linda W. Yezak

I usually invite another author to join us when Billy and I work the Blueberry Festival in Nacogdoches, Texas. Having someone to display their covers helps draw readers to our table, but it also gives us someone to talk to during the long periods when nothing is happening.

2017 Blueberry Festival

One year, my husband watched carefully as one of our friends sold her series to anxious readers. The individual price of the books was higher than the discounted price when they bought the set. Billy learned something from her sales technique, and from then on, he nagged me to turn Give the Lady a Ride into a series.

Problem is, my first publication—my grace award winner—was intended to be a standalone. I already had two other standalones on my table. I’d moved on. But I couldn’t argue with his logic and the empirical evidence of my friend’s successful day at the festival.

I should have planned out a new collection instead of turning Give the Lady a Ride into the first of the Circle Bar Ranch series, but no—I apparently like challenges and pulling out my hair. So let me share my thought process with you and tell you the ultimate results of this not-supposed-to-be-a-series series.

First, I’d heard from readers who wanted to know what happened to my characters after the book had ended. Since the plot took place in a matter of weeks, I couldn’t end my romance with a wedding. But I did end it with the promise of one, which I figured the readers would catch onto. Come to find out, they wanted to see it.

So, I wrote book two, The Final Ride, my Texas Association of Authors contest winner. Talon proposes to Patricia in a novel that reads more like women’s fiction than romance. So much for calling it a romance collection.

Second, some readers wanted to me to solve the cold-case murder of Talon’s first fianceé, Janet. This is the one I’m working on now. I’ve named it Ride to the Altar, and I’ve struggled with it so far. I submitted the early chapters to an award-winning mystery novelist/friend. She let me know in no uncertain terms or frugal use of red ink that Ride to the Altar is not a mystery. By any stretch.

This is good. It keeps me from calling the set a Romance/Women’s Fiction/Mystery series. Still, I have to solve the mystery, so it’s kind of a Women’s Fiction/Mystery-ish sorta book. Kinda. Can’t wait until I finish and can assign a clear tag to it.

Why is the genre tag important? Because it’s the first thing people I meet want to know.

“What do you write?”

“Romance.” Clear answer. Or “women’s fiction,” or “mystery.”

In the few short moments I have the attention of a potential customer, I have to let her know that I write what she wants to read. If her eyes light up, I can give her the “elevator pitch.” When she picks up the book and examines it, I set the hook. But fishing starts with the right bait, and the genre tag is the bait.

So far, I can’t really complain. Sales are good. But don’t do this, kids. It’ll make ya nuts. Plan your series. Know what’s going to happen in each book so you can start planting the links from one book to the other as you write. Figure out what you’d call the series if you were faced with a street-load of potential customers with short attention spans, even if that’s not something you’d ever do. Knowing it provides clarity.

As for me, I’ve realized that the three novels of the Circle Bar Ranch series have one overarching theme—the need for couples to trust and communicate with each other. I’m going to work that angle into my pitch as I sell my Romance/ Women’s Fiction/Mystery-ish mishmash of stellar, must-read, award-winning novels.

Linda W. Yezak lives with her husband in a forest in east Texas, where tall tales abound and exaggeration is an art form. She holds a BA in English and a graduate certificate in Paralegal Studies. Thirty years later, she’s finally putting her degree in English to good use, combining it with her natural inclination toward story-telling to create fun, unique novels.


Comments 6

  1. Linda, I am not yet published, but my current project is a trilogy, so this post is very intriguing. Don’t you think Women’s Fiction is a broad enough category to include elements of Romance and Mystery? I also haven’t read your books, which is an error I need to correct. Sounds like they are right up my mish-mash alley!

  2. What I’ve found is that women’s fiction follows a different pattern from romance. It can have a romantic thread, and mine does, but WF usually puts the romance on the back burner and let it simmer while the woman solves/comes to terms with the issues in her life.

    In romance, the couple tends to be in virtually every scene together, and if both POVs are presented, both get equal time. In WF, the woman’s POV takes precedence. In romance, the bulk of their thoughts are of each other, but that’s not necessarily so in WF.

    In a romantic WF, the woman has to work through her problems before she’s free to love again, so my focus in The Final Ride was to help Patricia get over her trust issues carried over from a previous failed relationship.

    With Ride to the Altar, I’m banking that WF can carry certain elements of mystery/suspense. I may have to go through some serious restructuring with this novel once I finish the first draft. We’ll see what happens.

    Believe me, I next series will be better planned. 😀

    Thanks for the comment. Hope this helps.

  3. Yeah, I wrote a mystery and it was published, then I wrote a romance and that was published, but both have LOTS of adventure, so even though it’s not a true genre so to speak….I write adventure novels from a Christian perspective. It would have been easier…..

  4. I’m currently writing a proposal for the sequel to Second Chance Love, which came out last January. It wasn’t sold to my publisher as first of two books or whatever, but as I neared the end of SCL I had a sense that the story of the two supporting characters needed to be told and dropped a couple hints of a sprouting romance between the two in the book’s last pages. So that did help.

    Because I did this and I’ve been mulling over a rough outline of the storyline it was easy to go into a brainstorming session with my favorite brainstormer and come up with a good plot. Also, the new story is about two other characters in the book and not the h/h of the first book, makes it easier to write. I think I would have a difficult time if I had a story with the h/h from the first book still the main characters in the second book.

    I can sure see how in your case with the stories lending themselves to genres not the same, it can be difficult.

    I’ve already read your first two books, Linda, and I know you’ll pull this off. I loved both stories and I’m sure I’ll love this one too!

  5. Linda, I hate to say misery loves company, but… I’m so glad I’m not alone in this! I am usually pretty good at pegging others’ genres, but my own — not so much. It has taken me multiple books and several editors pointing out what my books are and aren’t to finally understand my niche in various novels. (Some are probably not correctly labeled on Amazon). You’re right; it certainly gives an author confidence and the ability to better promote when you can name that genre. Blessings~

  6. Sandy–Christian Adventure sounds like a good genre.

    Pam–Thanks for the encouragement and kind words. Not all series have the same h/h in each book. It can be any link from one book to another, a continued quest, characters from the first carrying over, etc. Yours will be good.

    Naomi–I usually write first and worry about the genre later. Not the best plan from a business perspective, but it can be fun.

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