Self-publishing a book series

A short disclaimer first: I have yet to self-publish a book series, so you just read this post and take what you think would work.

Ah, one more thing: there’s no recipe, no secret marketing formula that’s going to ensure huge sales. I don’t have it, and quite frankly, no one has it.

Here’s a list of things that I think indie writers should consider when publishing a book series:

  • You need some time between releases. Even if you have them all ready, it doesn’t mean that you have to publish them all at once. I’d say that at least 3 months between releases is fine, maybe even longer. I say this because it takes some time to build up a readership for your book. Also, promoting your book takes a lot of time and energy; you have to focus on the first of the series, get as many people as possible to buy it.


  • The style of the covers has to be consistent: similar cover art, the same font-types for book title and author name, stuff like that. That way people will instantly recognize the books from the series.

Some might say that all your books should have similar cover layouts, but I have never agreed with this. I think some books have their own personalities, they demand a certain style of cover. Maybe it’s just the reckless soul in me talking now, but that’s how I feel.

  • Now for the tricky part. How much do you price your books for? There are a couple of options:
  1. Price them all the same. 99 cents, $2.99, it doesn’t matter.
  2. Price the first title significantly lower than the following books.
  3. Give the first title for free.

The last two options are kind of cool. Why do I say that? Well, first you need to understand how a reader’s mind works. Or  how a buyer’s mind works. The lower the price, the less they stand to lose if they don’t like the book. And if it’s free, than there’s no risk at all.

Way I see it, book series have this about them: a lot more people will have to read the next title in the series, as opposed to writing individual novels, with nothing in common. Of course, this depends on how well your first book is written – that’s another thing you should focus on: not just great content, but you should have a real story there, something that won’t make readers feel cheated.

Conversion rates always vary, so you can never know how many of those who read the first title will read the next ones, but it’s never 100%, it’s not even close to that.

And there’s one more thing here, which is kind of common sense really, and one of the reasons why giving the first title for free appeals to me: the more people read the first title, the more people read the following books.

The world of self-publishing is all about exposure: when the scandal erupted about John Locke paying for reviews of his books I said that book reviews are useless if you can’t get people to your Amazon page.

So you need exposure. Giving something away for free ensures that.


28 thoughts on “Self-publishing a book series

  1. Certainly. A series is a great way to build readership. If readers likes the first title, there's a much higher chance of going on to to the next because they know what to expect, and want more of the same.

    What I like to see in a first volume is something that leaves room for further exploration, but is a self-contained arc – the subsequent books can be as cliffhangery as you'd like, since readers have by then commited to the long-haul plot, but that initial foray needs to show that you can tell a complete story, and aren't just splitting your plot arbitrarily to sell more books.

    Once you have more than one volume out, the first-book-free model is great. It's like a glorified sample; you're trying to sell the series as a whole rather than the books individually, so incentivizing new readers with the first big part to get them hooked on the rest is about the best thing you can do.


  2. Your comments are valid pointers. My advice is be patient and keep writing with the intent to publish. Don't let anyone discourage you and stay focused on the writing. All that other stuff seems to fall in place once you want to start promoting your book to the readers after it's published. Stage your performance and you will succeed. You must be your own motivator and don't forget to keep reading.


  3. The fact that you are trying is great. It's extremely hard to get works published. I don't even know from personal experience, but friends of mine have tried and usually fell short even whilst still writing their books or articles. Keep it flowwwwin baby, you got it.


  4. Good advice. I'm presently on book two of my series and I can honestly say that there isn't a special formula either. I've kept the title scheme the same so readers can identify the series but I feel like my covers will evolve over time. I just intend to keep the "logo" the same.

    Good stuff all around though. Good luck to writing that series some day.


  5. From a business viewpoint, I wouldn't give the first one away free. Inexpensive or less expensive than the others, maybe. (Don't use the word cheap either, because it has various connotations, not always good.) If you are giving it away free, that says, "Hey, I care so little about my work, I'm giving it away!"

    I think attracting the right audience is a good idea too. That all depends on what you are writing too! :)


  6. Also, make sure you get someone to edit the books for you! Preferably a pro–you can find freelancers, but they can be pricey–but at the very least dig up a friend with an English degree to give the thing a once over, once you have polished it up as nice and shiny as possible. It might seem like an obvious step, but it's one that a lot of self pubbers seem to neglect. I've heard a lot of readers complaining to that effect. Your biggest marketing asset is the book itself–make it as good as possible.

    …I don't have any books published either, by the way. I did, but I took them down when I felt the quality wasn't up to par (despite getting four and five star reviews). Working on other stuff and I will eventually self pub again, but I learned my lesson haha


  7. Very good points, particularly about pricing the first in the series as free. That's something I'm definitely considering doing when the trilogy I'm working on is out, It's much easier to get someone to commit when it's free, and it great for rankings and exposure.

    If the story is good enough a good number of readers will be compelled to continue the adventure.

    Thanks for sharing!



  8. I just self published 4 epubs on amazon, wasn't about to wait to pub each one individually.

    In France, it is fairly easy and cost nothing to get ISBN's to self-publish.

    The marketing is the toughest aspect. How to raise your epubs above the noise of the crowd? It is similar to youtube, how to get your video above the noise the others.

    Social networking appears hit and miss.

    I'm going to look for a few people who have also published and review each others work.

    Organizations like the NYT don't touch epub or self-publishers for reviews.

    The cover art, it the most identifiable aspect to focus on.

    I made in photoshop, they are similar but different, they are easily spotted. You don't even have to know the title you can just say "oh that's his blue and black book or that's his red to white book"


  9. My only comment would be on the "three months between releases". Having just self-pubbed my first novel I've noticed a rather interesting trend when it comes to sales. At first there was a surprising (and unexpected) rash of sales then it quieted for about six weeks, then another not-quite-so-large volume of sales. It's into it's third wave and seems to be approaching the numbers of the initial release as more new readers discover it. I'm getting more and more requests for a sequel and it's in the works but it will probably be at least another six months before it will be out there. Unless you have another manuscript in the vault at the same time you release the first, three months seems to be too short a time span. It took about a year and a half to write the initial White Wolf Moon and having a full length sequel done in three months is, to me at least, impossible. Good article though…some interesting information here.


  10. Thank you for sharing this with me :) I am just writing right now to open up my heart, but eventually I would love to write a full book. What is your discipline like to write so much? And how to get everything from your head on to paper :)?


    • Write everyday? At least that's what I do. I don't keep word counts and stuff like that, I just try to sit down at my desk and write for as long as I feel like it.

      And you never get everything from your head on to paper. There's always something that gets lost somewhere between your brain and your fingers.


  11. I've never really considered self-publishing before. I mean I've thought about it, but I never decided that it was the right avenue for me. I don't see how I can get the kind of marketing, promotion, etc. that I would from going the old-fashioned route. But I think you make some really valid points here (even though I know you say you haven't self-published a book series). I'm guessing (reckless soul or not) it's important to let your book cover have a certain personality that's a little different than the ones before and the ones to follow. Seeing cover art on a book, just like when I used to buy CD albums, it evokes a feeling. A memory. Every time you see that book you'll remember what you felt when you were reading it. (Sorry for all the comments, but I really like your writing.)


    • Well, you only get real marketing and promotion if you sign a contract with a big publisher. And usually a big contract. Otherwise, small publishers don't really have much of an influence, especially nowadays when most of the buying and selling of stuff happens online.

      About covers: yes, you're right. Covers should give a potential reader an idea of what the book is about. And, yes, it should (if possible) evoke the same feelings (or similar) as the book.


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