Cracking the Series Code

I’m often asked if my novel, ‘He is Not Worthy’ is the first of a series. 

My answer to that is ‘no’.  The second novel I have written doesn’t follow on at all in terms of story-line.  However, I do have a character that appears in both the first and second novel – which will be published next year.

What does it mean to write a series of books and why is it helpful to an author?

First, what makes a series of books?

To be honest, it’s quite confusing. I’ve read several different articles about it, and none say exactly the same thing. Here are a few views on what a series is:

  1. These are interlinking books, where the individual books are connected through recurring characters, overarching themes, or always take place in the same location.
  2. Each book focuses on a different plot-line, set of characters and sometimes even a different protagonist.
  3. A book series is generally understood to be more than two books with the same main character/s, set in approximately the same venue, with a chronology.
  4. They can be enjoyed as standalone stories, but can also gain additional depth and resonance when read in sequence, as the characters or events from previous books often reappear or are referenced in later volumes.
  5. Stand-alone books that, taken together, contribute to a shared, defined conversation

‘Discworld’ by Terry Pratchett is an example of a series– he explores different corners of the same world, where characters who may be a main character in one book, appear in other books in minor roles.

What connections can be made in a series of books?

As already mentioned:

*They may have the same characters

*The same setting but you can engage with the books in a non-linear manner.

*If your main protagonists appear in each book, they have aspects of their characters and lives that are introduced as you read other books.

Good examples of these are mystery stories, or crime stories, where they have the lead protagonist, but the story is different each time. E.g.  Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, Ian Rankin’s Rebus

*You may have common themes that are explored with greater depth in each new book.

*They can have a shared universe – either a fictitious world, or a realistic setting at different historical points… whatever the author chooses.

A book series usually has a series title to help identify them, and help readers recognise which books are in the series.

My friend Pauline Tait writes suspenseful romance, and her series, set on the Island of Skye is The Maren Bay Series. *

‘Abigail Returns’ was published in May this year, and her 2nd book, ‘Anna’s Promise’ is to be published in March 2024.  The two stories are different, but they take place in the same setting.

Another author friend of mine, G J Kemp writes young adult, fantasy/Sci-Fi books. His series is called An Acre Story”. *

The first in his series is ‘Juno and the Lady’, that is then followed by 2 novella’s, ‘Valen and the Beasts; a Juno and the Lady novella and Petra and the Sewer Rats; a Juno and the Lady novella.  The 2nd novel in An Acre Story is ‘Miles and the Soldier’ and a novella linked to that is ‘Almond and the Lanista’.

G J Kemp’s stories are all set in the same land – Acre, and some focus on different characters, but also, some characters appear in the other stories, with more or less importance.

Personally, I’ve not read many series, although I have recently read the All Souls’ trilogy by Deborah Harkness.  I did read the books in order, and I don’t think it would have made sense to have read them out of order, as the characters journeys carried through the books. Had I started reading the 2nd one before the first, there were many elements that I wouldn’t have understood, so in the case of this series they need to be read in order.

However, I have read some crime thrillers by Stefan Ahnhem, and I didn’t know that they were a series. For some of the books I read, it made no difference whatsoever that I’d read them out of order, but for one, I knew I’d missed something because there were many references that didn’t make sense. 

Basically, if people don’t know the books are a series, then they’re not likely to read them in order – especially if they come across them several years after they have been published. Therefore, it is important to ensure your readers know when books belong to a series.

I enjoy reading books with the same characters that stand alone, or more often than not,  stand alone novels, with no follow-on.

So, are my books a series? 

In the normal sense, no they’re not and I didn’t set out to write a series.  There is no link between the stories in terms of setting, and the main protagonists change. However, I have introduced one of the less significant characters from my first book, into my second novel – Echoes of Drowning.  The character, Kyra is not a main protagonist in this book either, but she is more important than in the first book.

However, in my third novel, which I’ve just started to write – Kyra is one of the main protagonists.

All three books are about love – in its many forms.

He is Not Worthy is about obsessional love and love against all odds.

Echoes of Drowning, is about enduring love, lost love and grief.

 In Plain Sight (working title), is about the love between friends, new love and misguided love.

There is a definite theme going on across all three books!

Also, there is more of a link between the second and third novels, as both have references to Sweden and my created place, Llaneirw.

 4 Reasons why is it helpful to write a series from an author’s point of view?

  1. Authors are often encouraged stick to the same genre, and to write series because it helps you write faster, it satisfies more readers and it can make you more money as an author.
  2. It gives you chance to develop particular characters and give them their distinctive voice.
  3. If you write a series, your books can be sold as a box set.
  4. Once your readers have bought one book by you and enjoyed it, to read a second, containing the same characters, who they’ve come to love, or the place they love – they’re hooked and ready to read more.

Do you prefer to read a book series, stand-alone books or a mixture?

If a series, what’s your favourite series?

N.B. Pauline Tait’s Maren Series books, G J Kemp’s series, An Acre Story and my novel, ‘He is Not Worthy’ are all available on Amazon.

ps. The Jack Reacher books are my husbands…