Factors to Consider When Writing a Book Series

All novels require research and planning, but if you intend to write a fiction series, this calls for extra considerations to be made during the planning, writing, and marketing stages. Read on to discover how you can create a series that will keep readers hooked and eager for your next book.


  1. Editors and publishers may be reluctant to buy a series and thus commit themselves to multiple books, so you may start off with a one-book deal and have to wait and see what happens. In this case, write a strong first book that feels complete in and of itself, but think about leaving some questions unanswered, that don’t relate to main plot. This way, if the series does not take off, you have still created an enjoyable reading experience. And if it does take off, you have a solid foundation.
  2. Don’t try to plan the entire series before you’ve started writing. As author Matthew Ballard believes, everything will change a third of the way into first book anyway. Know what your overarching theme is, but leave room for changes and nuances.
  3. Each book in a series should stand on its own. In other words, someone could pick up the third or fifth book in a series without ever having read its companions, and still understand what is happening and become invested in the story. This can be helpful in gaining readers, who may simply want to pick up whichever book they find first instead of reading through the entire series. If they enjoy one book, they’ll be more likely to pick up the rest.
  4. Build your world, in detail. What are the rules of the universe you are writing about? This is especially important for fantasy and science-fiction writers who may be dealing with worlds that are quite unlike our own. For more information on world building, visit our page on Setting.


It’s especially important in a series to have a likable and relatable main character. This is what brings readers back — they want to find out what happens to their hero or heroine. Remember that your main character will need to grow and change throughout each book and the series as a whole. One way you can keep track of your character’s growth, struggles, and successes is by creating a Character Bible, where you compile all the information you need to know about each character.

When it comes to other characters, don’t neglect their growth and development for the sake of the protagonist. Stick with a small cast of regularly reoccurring characters — about five or six, at most —and give each person their own backgrounds, stories, and personalities. With enough variety of character voices and personal challenges, your series will remain fresh, and you’ll avoid characters who are just flat cardboard cutouts.

Furthermore, make sure the first book of the series leaves room for your characters to grow emotionally. Readers want to see the characters go through different challenges and struggles; otherwise, the story will be stale.

While all characters are created with special attention, your villain or antagonist should be written with extra-special care. After all, what good is a great hero if he or she has no worthy opponent? Create a villain that is equally dislikable as your main character is likable. Readers should understand the threat your antagonist poses and his or her motivations.

Even more information on character development can be found here.


To keep your story fresh throughout multiple novels, you may consider changing up the location or bringing in a new character with each book. However, remember that your readers will still want a sense of familiarity. If you change too much, it will no longer feel like the story they know and love. Your series should still have a central idea that is present in each novel.

Another way to continue grabbing readers’ attention is by following multiple storylines. Crime author Persia Walker suggests that a novel includes both a main issue and a personal issue that takes place in the background. An author can devote two-thirds of the novel to the main issue and the other third to the protagonist’s personal issue. Adding the personal issue to the plot will be of particular interest to your loyal fan base, while the main issue can capture the attention of old and new readers alike.

When it comes time for a book to end, you’ll know when to conclude your story once the conflict has been resolved and everything is tied together. You may use a cliffhanger ending to encourage interest in your following books, but publicist and author Bryan Beach recommends a cliffhanger that is not so drastic that it will seem like a cop-out – for example, killing off your main character.

Read about how to structure a story here, and find all of the ALC’s information on plot planning here.


The book covers and social media promotions for your series must be consistently branded. Similar graphics and copy will show readers you have a cohesive story to share, and it will be easier for them to understand what your message is.

Series writers, especially those of whom are just starting out, should consider releasing their books as closely together as possible. Build your readership by writing a strong first book and that leaves readers wanting more and wondering what will happen next. If you wait a few years in between books, you may lose readers who choose to move on to novels that are already available.

Cyndi Hughes, president of Cynthia Hughes Literary Consulting, suggests that once you have all the books in a series published, you may choose to offer all the books in a package deal. Another option is to release the first book in a series for free after the first few have been published. This brings in new readers who are willing to give a free book a chance.

At the end of each of your books, it’s smart to include a call-to-action, alerting readers that the story continues in other books. You may even add the first chapter or two of the next book at the end of its predecessor. Readers will get a taste of what’s to come and feel even more motivated to get their hands on that next book.

Writing a book series can be a great way to attract the attention of agents and publishers, build a loyal fan base, and establish a long-term, lucrative writing career. It can also be a huge commitment, but by following the tips above you can set your book series up for success.

Looking for more information on character development, plot planning, and more? Visit our Fiction section.

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