Sunday, November 23, 2014

Writing a Series -- Marketing/Publishing Part 3



Today we're going to discuss all the ways we can market our book. To recap from my previous posts -- We have our books ready to publish, we have our covers, our cover copy, we have our future first chapters in the backs of the books. We have a blog or FB site on which we post regularly. We have some followers. We are ready to click that tab that says "publish".

No matter if you're self-publishing or with a traditional or small press publisher, you have to do your own marketing. Where do we start? With our social media sites. Social media means being social -- it's where you INTERACT with people.

Phase One -- Social Media Sites

Blog 

If you've been blogging regularly, your followers will know what you're working on, and if you have set up the email app in the side bar for fans to follow you with email in their inbox, they'll know too. I love that email box. It's so much better than a newsletter. Why pay for something, or build something, when it's built in for you. 

Also, buy links are important. I have them on my sidebar, but one fan wrote me a few months ago and told me I should have them on every single blog post I write. (Honestly, I haven't had time to set up a perma-link but I will.)

Announce the big day on your blog. If you have a few blog friends, ask them if you can guest post, or if they will help you announce it. Like a blog tour but a mini-version. Perhaps one a week for six weeks. You don't want to overwhelm people with much more than that, and assuredly, if they see your book every day for six weeks, they'll tune it out. 

Some people ask for review requests on their blog or FB pages about a month before publication. I've done that, and have not met with success. Of course, I write Regency romance, and it's a niche market, so my pool of reviewers is very low to begin with. However, a few reviews to start never hurts.

Twitter

I only announce new publications once or twice on Twitter. I don't do a massive scheduling of Tweets. (I tried it twice and my sales actually went DOWN. So I don't do that anymore.) I Tweet that it's out, and post a picture of the cover. I also say where it's published. If I'm everywhere, I say "across the board", if I'm only at Amazon or B&N I'll say that and have a buy link. Sometimes my friends take it from there and ReTweet for me and that's always helpful, but I don't expect it and don't ask for it. And then I'm done.

Face Book

I know nothing about FB, I'm not on it and have no care to be, so you're pretty much on your own there. I'll say, post once with the cover and cover copy and call it good.

Google +

I'm on this site, but don't use it very often. It's tied into the blogspot blog, so it's just an easy click away, but to me it's redundant. If you have followers on your blog, they've already seen it. If you have the same followers on Google +, they'll see it twice. If you have a Word Press blog, it might be to your advantage to utilize this option.

Phase Two -- Stagnant Media Sites

Pinterest

I love this because it's visual. If you go to my Pinterest page, I have the cover picture, the cover copy, and then pictures of who I think my characters are. You can utilize this any way you want, which is great. (Just remember to post the original link where you found the pic.)

LinkedIn

I consider this a stagnant site because I don't go there very often, only to update my content. However, I know some people who use it like Blog/FaceBook/Twitter combined. (Honestly, I don't have time to mess around with it.) I'm there if you want to find me.

GoodReads

This is another site that could go either way. I have all my books listed there, but I don't socialize. I've heard too many horror stories about trolls and bad reviews and author meltdowns. I don't have time for drama so basically stay away from there. However, if you're also doing paperback versions of your book, this is a great place to to do a give-away. They also have "Ask the Author", where a reader poses a question, and you, as author get to answer it. I have never utilized this, but I think it could be a great marketing tool.

Tumblr/MySpace/Shelfari/Wattpad/Scribd/Whatever else is out there

I have no idea how many sites you're on, but whether they're stagnant or social, you should try to update them when you have new books out.

Phase Three -- Links

Blog Links

Now, some people I know have linked their blogs to all of these sites so whenever you go to any of them, you see the post. I used to do this, but again, to me it's kind of redundant. If they've clicked the email link on your blog, they've already seen your post. And again, some readers are just that, readers. They don't care what you're doing as long as you're writing the next book. Other readers are fans who are mildly curious and will only check out where you are once. And then there are those fans who want to know everything you're doing. 

Buy Links 

I have them listed on my sidebar on my blog. (I'm missing a few and will rectify this shortly.) I also keep them handy for Twitter and I use Bit.ly for that, a shortening link service. (Why waste 140 characters when you can get it down to 20) There are others out there but I can't think of them right this second.

Back Matter

Back matter is the stuff you find at the end of the book. Generally a short author profile, where you can find the author (what social media they use), and a list of their other books. Some authors have their other titles hyper-linked to buy. However, you need to have separate back matter pages for each of the publishers you use. Amazon won't take kindly if you have links to B&N or itunes. Smashwords won't allow it at all. You can't cross-pollinate as it were.

And this now brings us to WHERE we are going to publish.

Phase Four -- Publishers

Amazon

Quite honestly, I think Amazon's hey-day is over. I'm sure you can read other author's opinions on this, but my opinion is that they set up their empire to turn traditional publishing on its ear by giving self-published authors a place to be read. The Kindle was new, and needed authors and Amazon built their billions on self-publishing. They gave us the world (great royalties, great algorithms, great author ranking) but then once they made their money, they turned to traditional publishers and gave them those same opportunities and pushed us indies out.

I told you that to tell you this -- Some authors swear by Amazon and won't use another publishing aggregate (Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, BookBaby, Google Play), but in my opinion, you're cutting off your nose to spite your face. We're writers first, wanting to get our books read. Why limit your audience? There are English speaking people all over the world who have access to different types of e-reading devices. Don't limit yourself. (And just so you know, Amazon's terms of service to some of their countries don't allow easy access to our books. I have never sold one book in Japan, Brazil, Mexico, or India. Very few in Canada, Australia, Spain, and Italy. And only a handful in Germany and France.)

Their interface is very easy to use, and you can upload a Word document, or a mobi. version. (For a mobi. version you need the Mobipocket Creator which you need to download to your computer.)
Royalty rates are 30/70%  30% for anything under $2.99 and over $9.99 70% for anything between $2.99 and $9.99 I have never used their Countdown or their Kindle Unlimited services so I can't tell you anything about that. They also have special requirements for some of their stores (India Japan Mexico Brazil) Read the fine print.

Amazon will also link your blog posts to your Author Page. And if you don't have an Author Page, set one up.

Nook

Barnes & Noble is the publishing company. Nook is the e-publishing arm of that company. You can only upload an epub version, which gets tricky, but I use Calibre which converts a prc.doc (which is what you have after you use the Mobi Creator). Now, with the latest version of Calibre, you can also make other versions of your book for other aggregators. PDF, LTF, Mobi, Epub, Plain Text, etc. etc.
Royalty rates are 40/60 same price points as above. They only cater to US and Great Britain.

Smashwords

I love Smashwords. It's the easiest way to get your books to everywhere all at once. Nook, Amazon, itunes, Kobo, Scribd, txtr, Blio (for libraries), and a few others I can't recall. This is also the easiest one of them all to use. Upload your Word document and you're done. Smashwords will convert it to every single e-book file you need. The book companies they have are global.
Royalty rates are 60% across the board. 

Smashwords has a Profile Page which allows you to create your own interview. Questions are interchangeable, and you can make up your own if you like. You can update it any time.

itunes

You need a Mac to publish with them. I know nothing else about it. I use Smashwords.

Bookbaby

I also know nothing about them. I believe they have the same stores as Smashwords plus or minus one or two.

Kobo

I am set up to use Kobo, but I don't because they only pay out every six months with $100 balance (Which they may have changed. I don't know for sure.) I use Smashwords for them as well

Google Play

I just recently decided to publish with them, but I'm jumping through hoops to get it done. Set-up is tricky, conversion for epubs is decidedly difficult, and their interface is kind of a nightmare. Which is why, I believe, no one but traditional publishers are publishing there. However, I never say die, and if I actually get a book published with them I'll let you know what I did.


Phase Five -- Keywords

Keywords are the words that you plug in on the interface when uploading your book so people can find it when they search. Some of my main keywords are "traditional Regency romance, Jane Austen, clean regency romance, historical romance". Each of my books has other keywords that are specific to that particular book -- pirates, espionage, divorce, etc. 

Some authors twist themselves into knots trying to write cover copy that also has their specific keywords in it. I don't do that. Probably because I'm overwhelmed with all the stuff I need to do to begin with. But more power to you if you can. I hear it helps in SEO. (Search Engine Optimization.)

You also want to get keywords onto your document file as well. (Notice I said onto and not into) When you open your Word document, click File and then Properties, which has a place for keywords (among other things). When using Calibre, you can also add keywords to their property page as well. I'm finding this is very important.

******

Now, I've given you the basics, the rest is up to you. I'm sure if you wanted to do a search for any of the topics I've talked about you can find hundreds of other blogs and website postings to help you along your way. As we say now, " Just Google It ". That's how I found all of my information. 

Writing a book is hard work. That's no lie. There's nothing easy about it. Publishing and Marketing is even harder. My only advice is just write the best book you can. Find a couple critique partners and maybe beta readers, and allow them to help you make it even better. Take baby steps when you dive in. Once you do it a couple of times, it gets easier. And utilize your blog friends, your Twitter peeps, and FaceBook followers if you need some help. That's what's nice about social media -- it's like a giant cocktail party and you never know who you're going to meet.

And I think we're done. Questions and comments are always welcome. Thanks for sticking around.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2014

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Writing a Series -- Marketing/Publishing Part 2

This post is more about Marketing and Branding than it is about Publishing, but they all tie in together. However, to clarify
Publishing is what you do with a manuscript so readers can READ it.
Marketing is what you do with a published manuscript so readers can FIND it.
Branding is what you do with your name so readers can find YOU.

Publishing

We've already decided we're going to write 5 books in our series and one novella. We're going to publish 5 books at $setprice, and the novella is going to be our loss leader set at free. We have the first three books written, working on #4, and have the outline done for #5. Because we've gotten the writing thing down, we know it takes approximately 6 months to write** a book. We're going to use my 6 week timeline as the publishing model for the first 3 books, which gives us approximately 5 months to finish book 4 and begin book 5. We're well on our way to the big time. Yay.

Now what do we do? We sit down, take a deep breath, grab a pen and paper, and decide on our marketing campaign.

(**I say write a book, when what I really mean, is write the first draft, revise, rewrite, send out to critique partners/beta readers, implement their feedback, revise, rewrite again, another round of critiques, and polish, polish, polish, and finally call it good.

Again, some writers write a crappy first draft, then revise the whole thing. Others write a crappy first draft and revise and edit as they go along (I do this) so that when the book is finished, the first draft is actually the tenth or so. It makes for easier reading for the critique partner. But everyone has a different way of doing things and none of them are "wrong".)

Branding

I want to dip into this first before Marketing. You can't really market a book to people if no one knows who you are. (And if you wanted to try to acquire an agent, this is a good place to start.)

Back in the good old days (about 5 years ago) when I first started blogging, I was told that you needed to have 1000 followers on any given social media site for you to be taken seriously by agents, other authors, publishing houses. Bloggers were having blog hops every other day, it was like a giant networking party. You would participate in the blog hop, follow every blog in it, and hope that people followed you back so that when/if an agent stopped by your blog they would see you had XX amount of followers. It didn't matter if you interacted with them, only that you had them. Same went for Twitter and FaceBook.

I never subscribed to that notion. I started my blog as a way to connect with other writers. I didn't care how many followers I had. As long as someone commented I was happy. (Because the more followers you have, the more you feel the need to comment in return. Blog commenting can suck up a whole afternoon of writing if you're not careful. Which is why I only blog and comment one day a week.)

Some writers don't blog. Some writers don't Tweet. Some writers don't FaceBook. Some do all three and more. My advice is to pick ONE social media site where you feel most comfortable and make that your home base.

I blog so we'll use that as an example. On my Piedmont Writer blog, I blog about my writing experiences, trials and tribulations in the publishing world, and sometimes my personal life (but very rarely). Nobody likes a Debbie Downer, so I try to stay upbeat. I don't harp on bad reviews, I don't get into controversial subjects, or join crusades (like the Amazon - Hatchette thing). If I have nothing to say, I don't blog. But that's just me. You can blog about whatever you like.

Here on my Anne Gallagher blog, I discuss my books, my research, my characters, whatever I feel is important to my subject matter which is Regency romance. It's not as grand as some other blogs I've run across, but I'm not going for grand. I'm going for what I feel is comfortable enough for me.

I'm going with the assumption that we've all been been on social media for awhile now, but if you're new to the writing game, you may ask "How do I find other bloggers?" Here's how I did it. See the little box on my sidebar that has all my followers on it. Click on the first picture. It will take you to that person's blog. If you like what you see, click Follow on their little box. Hopefully, they'll follow you back. You can do this as many times as you like. And once you get their blog into your feeder, then you comment. Hopefully, if they've followed you back, they'll comment on yours. Blog hops are also another great way to get readers.

Because that is what this is all about. You're a writer first. All writers want to be read.

(Anne R. Allen wrote a fantastic post all about blogging. You really need to follow her anyway.)

So, back to branding. We have our blog. Our topics mainly concern our books that we're writing, our research, and in the case of Susie and Bob, romance. When I first started writing, I didn't have a tagline. I do now -- Timeless Romance... Modern Day Dilemmas. All my books have subject matter that concerns 20th century women/men even though it's set in the Regency period. People are people no matter what era they're from. Emotions are basically the same. Love Hate Jealousy Pride Prejudice etc.

A friend of mine's tagline is Crime Fiction with a Kiss. (I love that.) It pretty much tells everything you need to know right there about her books.

If you've been around awhile, you probably have one already. If you've written stand alone novels before, but nothing ever tied in to a series, you might want to think about one now. Then again if you're widely read, you probably don't need one. Some authors swear by them, some don't bother. It's up to you.

One other point I'd like to make about blogging is that when you set yours up, use your author name, not a subject matter like MyBunnyBlog. Or RamblingsofaMusingWriter. You want the search engines to find you. Hence, AnneGallagherWriter. (And the reason I am Writer instead of just plain Anne Gallagher is that there are several other Anne Gallagher authors who have blogs with their name. Writer distinguishes me from them.)

Also, when blogging, make sure you label your posts. This also aids in Search Engine Optimization or SEO. SEO is very important to the branding process. On almost every post I write, I label it Anne Gallagher, Regency Romance, Reluctant Grooms Series. The bots pick this up, and when someone enters Anne Gallagher into a search engine, my blog posts, my books, my author pages at Amazon, Smashwords, Goodreads, Barnes&Noble, and sometimes LinkedIn pop up. For the first couple of months after I published, the Anne Gallagher who writes about Human Trafficking used to be there as well, but she's not anymore. There's also a chef in Chicago, and another Anne Gallagher who's a voice over artist. But if you're looking for me, there I am, usually taking up the entire first page of the search. THIS is what you want. You want to be on the first page, not page 27.

One other fine point, is that whatever you decide to do for your main social media site is to stick with your schedule. If you blog on Monday, stick to it. If you FaceBook on Sunday, stick to it. That way, if someone looks for you on Tuesday, they know you've already posted. But if you're willy-nilly about it -- "Oh, this is kind of neat, I'll think I'll post on Thursday night" people might not be aware of it and miss it.

To recap our Branding -- We have our main social media site we post regularly on (and that's not to say we don't have others, but more on that later), we label our posts, we have our author name, and our tagline (if we feel the need to have one), we have our schedule, we have our books ready to go. On to Marketing.

Marketing

This is the hardest part for me, and other writers I know because most of us are really introverts. We don't like being social, we just want to write our books and publish them. I am a Quiet Marketer. I don't splash and blog tour, I don't Tweet incessantly "Buy Me", I don't really even think about the books once I hit "publish". I look at it this way -- people will either buy my books or they won't. If I shove them in reader's faces, it's not going to make a difference. No amount of marketing will sway them either way unless they're looking for what you're trying to sell. I'm not going buy the next Stephen King novel, no matter how much it's hyped because I don't read his genre. And, no amount of hype is going to get me to buy the next Jo Beverly novel either unless I like her cover copy.

As I said before, word of mouth sells books, not social media. Sure, social media is how they find out about them, but you can't get a horse to drink just because you lead him to the stream. He'll only drink if he's thirsty.

Pre-Marketing 

I'm going to digress here, and discuss this for a minute.

Let's talk about covers. The first thing readers see when they're looking at books is the cover. You want a cover that looks nice. However, we're writing a series now, so you want to be able to tie all your covers together. For that, you really do want to hire a cover designer. Some are cheap, some are expensive. Shop around. If you're good with design, you might be able to do your own, but try not to make them look homemade. You want them to look "professional". (Find a cover designer who has a blog. Follow them. Ask other writers who designed their covers. Blogging is about networking, as well as being social.)

My covers all have the same "look". An old portrait surrounded by feathery things and the font in block letters.



When I first started publishing, I decided I didn't want half naked men and heaving bosoms on my covers. I don't write sex, so I didn't want to lead my readers on thinking that's what they would be getting. Hence, my "period" covers. (I see more and more "period" covers in my genre so I think I hit that nail on the head.) To get a clearer picture of what you want, go to Amazon, type in your genre in the search engine and take a look at the covers.

If we use the example of Susie and Bob and the arsonist, I know that I would definitely want some sort of fire element in the background. Maybe a fire truck. I would discuss it with my designer to see what they come up with.

The next part about the cover is the back "cover copy". You want that to entice the reader to read your book. If on Susie and Bob's book I said

Susie meets Bob at the hospital where he's just been hurt by a fire started by an arsonist. They fall in love and find their happily ever after...

You would put that book down so fast it would make my head spin. However, if I wrote something like

Susie's running out of patience with her wicked stepmonster's cloying ways. She needs to find a place of her own, but waiting on her father's inheritance is killing her.

Bob's a confirmed bachelor who doesn't need domestic tranquility to be happy. He's perfectly content playing the singles scene. Until a mishap in a burning building leaves him blind.

Susie gets the short straw and draws Angry Bob on her weekly visiting nurse schedule. Between his grumbling about bumping into furniture, and the fact Susie's perfume makes him sick, she wants to throw in the towel. Bob just wants to see again so he can return to work to catch the arsonist who put him in this position in the first place. Can these two work out their differences to find their happily ever after.

Okay, not the best cover copy but I'm writing on the fly, and it's just an example of what cover copy should be. Enticing. Short, sweet, and to the point. Notice the adjectives. Adverbs. Yes, you can use these to your advantage. (The rules of writing generally don't apply here.) Entice. Draw a quick picture. Leave the reader wondering what is going to happen.

Usually, once you have your cover, you do a "cover reveal" on your blog. Now some people go way overboard and every single person they've ever come in contact with also has your cover reveal on their blog as well. That's overkill in my opinion. I generally skip right over these blogs in my reader. I've seen it once. I don't need to see it again. And for one or two of my books, I forgot to even do a cover reveal. I've even forgotten to say I had published a book. But that's just me. (Once you get into the "business" of writing, you tend to forget some steps.)

So to recap -- We have our books ready to publish, we have our covers, our cover copy, we have our future first chapters in the backs of the books. We have a blog or FB site on which we post regularly. We have some followers. We are ready to click that tab that says "publish".

Unfortunately, this post is already way too long and I don't want to overwhelm you. So next week, we'll discuss all the different ways to market once we're ready to publish.

Twitter, Goodreads, Blog links, Buy links, SEO, Metadata, Back matter, Keywords

Hope to see you.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2014

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Writing a Series -- Marketing/Publishing Part 1





Marketing and Publishing go hand in hand these days. You can publish as many books as you want, but if you don't market them, how will people know they're out there unless they stumble across them somehow.

Looking back on my own series, I can see where I made mistakes, and will now share them with you. I didn't know what I was doing when I first started writing so I had no idea where I would end up. (Here.) If I had, I would certainly have done things a lot differently.

I'm going to look at Publishing the series first, because that is the BIGGER picture. Once you have the big picture, then the Marketing aspect can be broken down into littler pieces.

Let's begin with our friends Susie and Bob, the firefighter and nurse. We know we're going to write 5 books in the series. We have all our characters, our antagonist, the settings, we've done our research, and found all of our plot lines. Our poster boards are hanging on our walls, and we've written the first book.

The first book is fantastic. It's everything a book can be. Everybody says so. And you want to publish it right now because, well, because the book is fantastic, everybody says so. And once you publish that first book, you'll have hooked the readers to the rest of your series.

Here's the problem. How long did it take you to write that first book? Two years? Six months? It doesn't matter. If the book is part of a series, you will want to have at least 3 books written and polished before you publish. Because as I said before, once you hook your reader, you want them to continue reading, and you also want them to tell their friends about it. (Word of mouth is still the BEST way to market your book. We'll touch on that later.)  If you only have one book, and it takes 6 months or a year to write another one, by the time that second book gets published your readers will have moved on to the next hot thing. (Attention spans don't last very long in these days of instant gratification.)

Also, as I found in writing a series, things change the further on in the series you go. For example, in MASQUERADE (the first book in my series), Lady Olivia walked with a cane. She was elderly, or so I had imagined her. Over the course of the next 5 books as I wrote the series, she was not as old as I first thought, nor did she walk with a cane any longer.  I self-published so I could change the earlier versions whenever I wanted. Say for instance, you find out in Book 3 that the timeline in Book 2 is off, you can change it before anyone notices. However, if you publish right away and you need to change something, let me tell you what a pain in the neck that is. You really want to make changes BEFORE you publish. (For those of you who ship your work out for formatting this can become very expensive. Especially if you keep making changes.)

So the more books you have ready to publish, BEFORE you publish, the better off you are.

Loss Leaders. And FREE.

So, let's say, for the sake of argument, you've written the first 3 books in the Susie and Bob saga, and you're just about to publish them all, but then you get sidelined by the arsonist who wants to be heard so you write a short little something-something just to get him out of your head. He's not supposed to be in the books until the very end, but he just won't shut up.

This is what I call BONUS material. It's not anything you want to use in your story lines because that's all about romance (more or less), but it's an integral part of the story. What do you do with it?

Naturally, you would polish this and publish it as the loss leader. (A loss leader is something you want to lure your customers with. Stores do this all the time. "Come look at our super cheap TV." But then they put the most expensive one right next to it and the sales associates tempt you into buying the more expensive one.)

In my own example, I had already written MASQUERADE, FATE, and COINCIDENCE, but then Winsbarren wouldn't shut up in my head, so I wrote down his story. It came in around 19K. More than a short story, less than a proper novella, but it had a beginning, middle, and end. I decided when I published THE LADY'S FATE, I would publish A WIFE FOR WINSBARREN at the same time. Fate went out at $3.99, Winsbarren for .99 cents. That way, those who wanted to try my writing could, for the fabulous price of .99 cents, and if they liked that, they could then buy the more expensive one.

This had been my marketing campaign. Publish a novel, publish a novella at the same time. Somewhere between publishing the first set of books and the third, I wrote a short companion piece to A WIFE FOR WINSBARREN called A HUSBAND FOR MISS TRENT. I decided at that time to market this book FREE. This would be my loss leader. MISS TRENT is still free. But, free is not what it used to be. (We'll also touch on that later.)

Now, some authors I know, write the whole series first, and then when they finish it, write that little something something that they will use as a loss leader. I found mine in the middle. You might not want to write one. However, I think it's a good idea. A short something for free or .99 cents will allow the customer to get a feel for your voice, and your story. They won't feel bad about spending .99 if they don't like it.

Publishing

To get back to Susie and Bob -- Let's say, we have 3 books and a short introductory novella ready to go. What do we do? Publish everything at once? Publish one a week over the course of the month? Publish once a month and hope something sticks?

My suggestion would be to put out the novella free (or .99 cents with the caveat you're not a new writer. If you're brand new, I would set the price to free), and then publish the first novel. At the end of the first novel, place the first chapter of the second novel in the back. There's your HOOK. Just make sure that first chapter is polished and will entice the reader into reading. (And for every consecutive book make sure the first chapter of the next novel is in the back. I did NOT do that and found it was a HUGE mistake. ALWAYS give the reader a taste of what is to come.)

I would then wait six weeks before publishing the second novel. However, now that Amazon and Smashwords have the pre-order option, I would use that for the second book. Once the second novel is published, I would do the same with the third novel. Again, six weeks with pre-order option. You might ask, "Why can't I just publish everything at once and just change the dates on the pre-order option?" And the answer is, you will frustrate the reader that they can't buy it now.

Look at it this way... I made a decadent chocolate cake and put it in a store window for display. However, I gave you a cupcake to taste for free. It's delicious and over the course of the the first week after the cupcake tasting, you come in and buy a slice of that chocolate cake (Novel #1). Every week you come in and ask when you can have another piece of that cake (Novel #2). I tell you six weeks, but if you pay me now, I'll hold your order for that cake. Your mouth waters for those six weeks. On the day you come into the store, not only is the chocolate cake ready, but I also made an apple pie (Novel #3). You want a piece of apple pie now. But you have to wait six weeks. Again, if you pay me now for the pie, I'll have it ready and waiting for you when you come back in six weeks. You want to build supply and demand. You want those six weeks to work for you. (This is part of the marketing plan for Susie and Bob's books.)

For example

Jan 1 Free novella
Jan 1 Novel #1
Feb 15 Novel #2
April 1 Novel #3
May 15 Novel #4
June 30 Novel #5

Using the pre-order option allows the reader to know there is more coming. And if the first chapter of the next novel in the back of the book hooks your reader, they may pre-order it, which is a guaranteed sale. (I've used the pre-order option recently, and although it didn't raise my standing in the ranks as some of the big name authors said it would, it was a nice bonus in my paycheck.)

You may ask, "Well, if the first three books are ready, why can't I publish them all at the same time?" Because you want to keep the momentum of your readers looking forward to your next book. If you give them what you have all at once, they'll read the first 3 books in two days and then have to wait how long until you finish book #4. By that time, they've moved on. If they eat the whole chocolate cake in two days, they'll want more, but if there is no more, they'll switch to vanilla ice cream. If you publish every six weeks, your momentum builds. If you can only have a piece of cake every six weeks, it tastes much better. You look forward to it more.

Marketing

Now, here comes the hard part, once you publish something, you have to market it. Agents say you need to be on social media to sell books. Every author I know (and some of the big name authors too) maintain that social media does NOT sell books. It doesn't. I see Twitter campaigns and blog tours, and give-aways, and all kinds of foolishness going on over the interwebs, but it doesn't work. Word of mouth is still the best way to market, which is where I think the Twitter campaigns originally started, but then they just got to be spam.

I have never done a blog tour. Nor a Twitter campaign. I am what is known as a Quiet Marketer. I don't push people to read my book. I don't nag, or campaign. I'm not everywhere. I announce the publication once on my blog, and once or twice on Twitter. That's it. I don't believe in ramming my book down anyone's throat. It doesn't sell books, and only annoys people. And if you annoy people they won't read you. (And this is only MY opinion. You can do whatever you wish for a marketing campaign.)

There's also a thought out there that having as many reviews of your work as possible ready to go as soon as you publish will bring more sales than if not. In my experience that's not true either. When I first published, in the back matter was a little line that said, "If you liked this book, I would appreciate a review" or something to that effect. I didn't get any. For two years. So I took it out. It didn't make a difference. (I have very few reviews, but that doesn't keep people from reading my books.) People will either write a review or they won't. However, if you do have some people who will read it and write a review, by all means, have them ready. (And just so you know, one or two bad reviews won't bother your sales. Unless they're all bad and then you should rewrite the book. Some books with bad reviews even make it to the bestseller lists because people want to read it out of curiosity. Like rubbernecking a bad car wreck.)

Back to word of mouth for a second. One of the best ways to market, I've found, is to let people see what you're writing. I used to put scenes on my blog to let people read what I've been writing. But then the big name gurus said you shouldn't because of plagiarism. I then figured I would put cut scenes and polished first drafts on the blog to be read. However, now there's WattPad. I don't know how it works, I've never been there, but I hear it's a great way to be noticed. (I actually know of 3 people who found agents from using that site.) Word of mouth sells books. If your writing is good, people will talk about it.

Back to FREE for a second. Now, there are some people who think the first BOOK in a series should be free. I don't subscribe to that notion. Why should I give something away I worked so hard on? If I were a wedding cake maker I wouldn't give away the 7-tiered creation with the little roses and birds and fondant candies that I've been working on for the last month. If I wanted to entice people to buy my wedding cake, I would make cupcakes and give those away.  If you're going to go free, the littler the better. Here's why. I would rather give them a throw away book, ie. the arsonist's story. Because, if you give away the BOOK you've lost a sale you otherwise could have had. If you give away a LITTLE something something, you're not really losing anything, and potentially gaining customers/readers. Like the wedding cupcakes. They were made using leftover batter. You don't want to throw the batter away, but you can't really use it for another cake.

My Example -- A HUSBAND FOR MISS TRENT was a single POV novella I wrote to offset A WIFE FOR WINSBARREN. After I published it, readers commented that they wanted to see Davingdale's POV as well. So I then wrote LOVE FINDS LORD DAVINGDALE. Somewhere along the line, readers commented they wanted BOTH of those stories put together. So I mashed them up. I published Davingdale with both POV's for .99 cents. However, with Miss Trent, I kept her single POV and set the price to free. To entice those readers who wanted to try me out before buying anything else. Cupcake anyone?


*****

Having said all that, and using the example for Susie and Bob, you might say, "Well, my series is nothing like that. I'm writing novellas and going to publish once a month until the conclusion of the series." Okay, so how many novellas are written? How long does it take you to write one?

Or, "My series won't take long to write. I can write 4000 words a day."

Or, "I'm just going to write and publish, write and publish until the series is finished. I don't care how long it takes to finish it, but I'm going to write and publish as I go along."

Okay, so you've finished the first book and published it without a hitch. You're moving right along and then your kids come down with the flu, the washing machine floods the basement, and your in-laws are coming for Easter break all on the same day. What happens if your husband finds another job across the country and you have to pack and move in less than a month? What happens if your computer explodes and you didn't back up your files? (God forbid. Back everything up! Twice!)

You cannot foresee the future. You don't really know how long it will take to write the second book, or third, or last. You only have the first book written. And here's my final argument for having three books written in the series BEFORE you publish.

If you have 3 books written, and you publish according to my timeline above, if Fate decides to slap you upside the head, you will have (hopefully) enough time to recover from that and settle down to write the next book. And because you have 3 books published, (or on their way), your readers, (who will hopefully become fans) will wait just a little longer for the next book to come out. Fans will endure the wait if they know it's coming SOON.

In my own career, I published a novel and a novella every four months or so.(Because I had already written 3 of my 5 novels.)  I published THE LADY'S MASQUERADE in June 2013 and THE CAPTAIN'S COINCIDENCE was supposed to be published in September. Everything was going according to plan when Fate stepped in and said, "Uh, no." It took almost nine months to get back to COINCIDENCE. When it was finally published in March of 2014, it was not SOON enough. It didn't do well. I cannot tell you why but I have my suspicions that the readers who became fans got sick of waiting for it.

Attention spans are limited these days, and if you don't have new writing every few months, readers will move on to someone else. Oh sure, they MIGHT come back when you publish again, but it's not a guarantee. Would you rather overhear this conversation --

"Oh, did you hear, Anne has a new book out. Number 4 in the series. Have you read it yet? It's fantastic."
or
"Anne has a new book out. I'm not going to bother with it though. I've already lost the gist of the storyline and I don't want to go back and reread the whole series."

In publishing, it's all about the hook to get them to read in the first place. In marketing, it's all about keeping the reader coming back for more.

Next week, I'm going to discuss marketing a series a little bit more. Hope to see you.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2014

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Writing a Series -- Research






No matter what kind of genre you write in, you will have to do some sort of research. Whether about zombies, or murder, or even downtown Kansas City, you will have to do research.

Back in the old days, before computers, I bought books. I would go to library sales, and garage sales, and scooped up whatever I thought might be relevant to my research. Now, I do 99.9% of my research online. Some authors might say that's cheating, but I don't care. I don't have time to read 3 biographies on Napoleon to know he was a cruel dictator. I don't have time to read Shakespeare's plays to find the right quote. I just don't have the time to read period.

And sometimes, being on the internet is a time suck as well. I can't tell you how many writing hours I killed
with research for THE CAPTAIN'S COINCIDENCE. It was all about ships and boats, and traveling time and knot tying, throw in a little American history as well. Nine months later I had a story. Problem was, when I first started writing this story, there was going to be an abolitionist theme to it. The second time around, I had to delete all that. Some research you just can't use without your story sounding like a 7th grade history project.

And sometimes, for all the research you do, you can't use ANY of it. I once spent 5 hours researching boats/ships looking for the perfect boat for Richard to use. I spoke to a learned sea faring man about it, and he told me I couldn't use any of them. They were either too big, or too small, or wouldn't be able to carry the gun load I wanted. So, I built my own ship. I drew up makeshift blueprints and everything. (Another time suck but well worth it.)

Yes, sometimes you can fudge the research, I've done it on numerous occasions. BUT, there's always truth behind the fudge. In THE DUKE'S DIVORCE I found out that gaining an annulment was harder than getting a divorce. So I tweaked my story to fit the research because Robert was going to get rid of Fiona one way or another.

So, what do we do with the research once we find it?
As I mentioned in previous blog posts, there's Evernote, and Scrivenir, and Google Drive, and let's not forget my favorite "Favorites" on my dashboard. You find something on the internet and just click on the "star" at the top of the page. (On Internet Explorer it's near the little house. On Google the star is at the end of the search bar.) Once you have it "starred" it remains on your "Favorites Bar" until you put it into a "folder". I have almost 50 folders and cannot even tell you how many "pages" I have in those.

Organization is the key here. Folders are labeled according to "stuff". I have --

Army
Nautical
Napoleon
Parliament
Regency
Maps
Foreign Office
Home Office
to name a few

So, if we go back to our series about Susie and Bob, the firefighter and the nurse, where do we start? Well, I would start with what shift Susie was working when Bob was brought in. Second, third? And what unit is she in? Critical care, emergency, surgery? What hospital does she work at? Is it real or imaginary? What town does she live in? Is it real or imaginary. If she works in ICU and Bob comes in with burns, what kind are they? 1st, 2nd, 3rd? What does he need to survive? Who would treat him? Doctor? Burn Specialist? ER doc? What exactly does Susie do for Bob?

Okay, so you can see how this scenario would spiral out of control. However, if you don't know at least a little of what you're talking about, the writing would sound flat. "Bob was rushed into the hospital with burns, and brought right upstairs to the ICU."

or

"Bob was rushed to St. Barnabas Hospital with second degree burns on his hands and face. His breathing was shallow, sweat dripped into eyes, and he trembled uncontrollably. X-rays could wait. The attending physician in the ER sent him to the ICU without a preliminary exam, and had the nurse call upstairs to the burn unit requesting Dr. Traeger, the burn specialist, to take a look at him. He also had her call the optician on staff to take a look at Bob's eyes. They were unfocused. Could he have burnt his corneas?"

And in the second paragraph, I ask, could he have burnt his corneas? I have no idea. I wrote it out like that, but in keeping it real, I would have to look it up, (or ask somebody) if a firefighter could actually burn his corneas, OR is it retinas? I don't know. Do you? Research. It will make or break your book.

So, in my Favorites Folders, I would have subjects such as

Town
Hospital
Fire Station
Medical equipment
Arson
to name a few

Now, once I started writing my story, I will naturally have to do more research. Here is where "real" people are your friends. With the Susie and Bob story, I would get in touch with my local fire department and see if they have someone I could talk to about, not only firefighters, but arsonists. Perhaps the Chief could recommend a retired firefighter to speak with. Same with a nurse. I might know one who could take me around the local hospital to check out how the shifts work, which department handles what, etc. (Because hospitals are pretty much zipped up now, you can't just walk around by yourself. You need a tour guide.)

In speaking with Real People, you need good questions. You don't want to take up their time with nonsensical ruminations -- you shouldn't really play the "what if" game with them. Write your story, do your own research, and then, when you feel you need "more", ask the tougher questions.

One thing I will tell you when you're looking up anything on the internet that has to do with firearms or bombs or arson or murder, will set the spam bots onto you, and if you do too much research in one area, or land on a secure site too many times (like the RN and USN) you might get a letter, or a visit perhaps, from the local constabulary. (My story was a little easier to explain away, I was doing research for a Regency romance and needed the history of both. Hence my need for cannons, weapons, and gunpowder research.)

And research can happen anywhere, not just in libraries, or on the internet. On my vacation this summer, I met a man who played the bagpipes. We talked for maybe 20 minutes about his bagpipe playing skills. Do I need a bagpipe player in any of my stories? Not at this time, no. But perhaps later, I may need to know the exact key one begins playing Amazing Grace. OR how many tubes there are? OR where the wind comes from to make the pipes sing. Or just how much pressure does it take to make the bellows operate?

Everything is research, and sometimes you just don't know it.

I always keep a notebook and good pen in the car. If I'm stuck at a soccer game, doctor's appointment, whatever, and there's 45 minutes to kill, I'll whip out the notebook. I won't necessarily write, but I will take notes, make up names for characters, places, perhaps eavesdrop on a conversation and jot it down if it works within my story. I'll flesh out a plot, or write down a character sketch. I'll play the what-if game.

If I'm at home and have 45 minutes to kill before I have to go somewhere or do something, I'll get on the computer and search for characters (remember I'm a "visual" creator) on Pinterest or IMBD (the movie site) or go to ReMax and search for houses and neighborhoods, use Google Maps to look at a city.

I love Google maps because not only do I have correct street information, I also have the "street view". For instance, yesterday, I needed to find another parish in London besides St. James. I plugged St. James's Parish into London, got the map, and then moved my cursor until I found another smaller parish in Grosvenor Square. I looked at the street map of the church (after looking it up on Wikipedia to make sure it was in use in 1812). The church looked exactly as it had in 1812, right along with the neighborhood and street corners. Now I can write my wedding scene using the visual of the church, and not have to worry about where the horses will stand, or how the bride and groom will exit the church.

Another example -- Everyone knows Hyde Park in London. Then there is also Regent's Park. Did you know that Regent's Park wasn't there until after 1812. It was called Marylebone Park.Yes, it is sort of a no-brainer, George wasn't named Regent until 1812, but I did not know that it was called Marylebone Park, and that its history went back over 400 years and that it belonged to the Monarchy as a hunting ground. Did you know that?

Of course, we all do research our own way. Some people research at the beginning. Some after the first draft. Some not until the book is finished. It all depends on how you work. There is no right or wrong way. However, what you need to know, is that research is crucial for every story and you will have to do some.

Next week -- Mash-up of Marketing and Publishing. Hope to see you.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2014



Sunday, October 26, 2014

Writing a Series -- Setbacks

Today we were supposed to indulge in Research as our topic, however, as the blog title implies, we are dealing with a setback today.

I am nearly finished with THE SEDUCTION OF MR. SUMMERVILLE. If you have followed my sporadic Tweets from this week you will see I stopped writing. I would like to say the book is done, but it's not. I need to write the ending. Oh, yes, all the loose ends are tied up, all the plot holes are fixed, I've edited until my eyes are blind. I am right where I want to be, on schedule and everything.

But the book is not moving forward. I'm stuck in the middle of the denouement and it's not working. This happy ending is a little too saccharine. Needless to say, I'm stuck until I figure out a way to fix it. And don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with a book that has a happy ending, but as we know, I'm working on the finale to a series. To me, it has to be BIG, and luscious, and just WOW. I want my readers to say, "Oh, hey, let me read that whole series again." I want them to say to everyone, "Oh, you should read this series. It's fantastic." Because the last book has to satisfy your reader, the same way your first book got your reader hooked.

I'm no different than any other writer on this planet. We write so people can read our stories. And we want them to be GOOD stories.

Okay, so here's my secret to setbacks. Let it go. Just get up from your chair and walk away. There's no use trying to eek words onto the page because they'll only be crappy words and you'll end up throwing them all away anyway.

Do something physical. Clean the house, car, garage, kitchen cabinets. Do laundry. Do something that you wouldn't normally do. Rake leaves, pull weeds. Go to the mall. Take a walk. Use the other half of your brain for a few days. Do art (writers are usually creative in other aspects of their lives). Scrapbook. Make tie-dye t-shirts. Find a great picture for your holiday cards. I don't really care what you do, just take a few days away from the story. Allow your brain to think about other things. And I don't mean everyday things. Not the kids homework, or your mother-in-law's birthday party, or Christmas. Concentrate on something else.

Okay, so if you're of the idea that concentrating on your book is first and foremost on your mind, and you don't think rearranging the linen closet is going to work, and you really want to be "working" on it, go to IMBD and search out your characters. Go to ReMax and pick out the houses for your characters to live in. Scour census records for names. Watch movies in your genre. ( I don't have time to read these days, and I can easily give up two hours for a movie instead of eight for a book. I can iron in front of the tv.)

I try to give myself at least three days of non-writing for my brain to decide how to fix the problem. If that doesn't work, I play the what-if game. (I generally only use this as a last resort because the story is already fixed in my head.) If that doesn't work, then I light something on fire. Metaphorically speaking. Sort of. I find something BIG to throw the characters into. In THE CAPTAIN'S COINCIDENCE I blew up a ship. In THE LADY'S MASQUERADE, Penny was kidnapped.

And mind you, this kind of set-back is just a little bump in the road. Sometimes it's referred to as writer's block. Other times, you realize you've boxed your characters into a corner with no way out. (We'll discuss the larger issue of External Controls later on.) But you know you can fix this, it'll just take a little more creativity.

Okay, so I'm three days out on my setback. I've done all the laundry I can find. I've scoured my kitchen floor, I've vacuumed every dust bunny. Today I have to dive back in and see if I can get over that final hump. If it doesn't work, there's a yard full of leaves waiting for me.

And I announced this on my other blog last week. Today it's your turn. Here is the cover for Seduction.








American shipbuilder, Stephen Summerville has a bit of a dilemma when he meets two very beautiful English sisters. However, when Stephen is confronted with the aristocratic father he never knew, deciding on a wife seems like a small task in comparison to what he must decide for his future. The last book in the Reluctant Grooms series coming Christmas 2014.

I'm attempting to make it a pre-order by November 15th. But it won't be out until Christmas.

Next week, we'll tackle research. Hope you'll stop by.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2014




Sunday, October 19, 2014

Writing a Series -- Formulaic Writing

This week we'll take a look at Formulaic Writing. It's a little more detailed than an informal outline, (or even a formal one). There is a definite list of things that need to be taken into consideration. This kind of writing is usually reserved for certain genres (romance, cozy mystery, some sci-fi and YA). We're going to look at romance, because it's what I know.

THE ACTS

Formulaic writing is a technique that is used to bang out manuscripts quickly. There are three acts (basic structure), the word count is generally not high (55 - 70K), and there are minimal characters. Harlequin, Zebra, and Kensington authors were famous (and some still are) for this kind of writing. The formula/outline is laid out like a map, and you just follow along. Basically it looks something like this --

(Remember we're writing romance)

ACT 1

Hero and heroine meet within the first 5 pages.
The goal of the main character is stated.
1st obstacle is shown for the MC to overcome
Sub-plot and secondary characters (if any) are introduced
1st climax (obstacle is overcome)
2nd obstacle is introduced


ACT 2

Goal is re-introduced
2nd obstacle is bigger than the first
Sub-plot and secondary characters are fleshed out
(especially if this is a series)
3rd obstacle is introduced
2nd climax (obstacle is overcome)

ACT 3

Goal is within reach
3rd obstacle is the hardest to overcome
3rd climax resolved
Sub-plots are resolved
Goal is reached
Denouement

Now this is a very simple simple way to look at it. (I'm sure there are 1000 books on writing the 3-act structure for you to peruse.) Let's take a look at how I would plot a book for our friends from last week -- Susie and Bob

ACT 1

Susie and Bob meet at the hospital (Susie is a nurse at the hospital Bob is a firefighter) because of the huge fire that is started by the arsonist
Susie's goal is to get away from her wicked stepmother
Susie's obstacle is she doesn't have enough money because of school loans
Amy, Joe, Larry, and Abby are introduced (secondary characters)
Susie sells her car (1st obstacle overcome)
But she still doesn't have enough money to get her own place (2nd obstacle introduced)

ACT 2

Susie is desperate to get from under her wicked stepmother
She goes on a double date with Bob/ Amy and Joe
Amy doesn't like Joe, she likes Larry (Secondary characters and sup-plots fleshed out)
Wicked stepmother says she won't get any of her father's inheritance if she moves out (3rd obstacle introduced)
Susie has a giant yard sale to get more money (2nd obstacle overcome)

ACT 3

Susie has enough money to rent an apartment -- now she only has to find one (3rd obstacle hardest to overcome)
Amy and Larry get together (spin-off book 2)
Abby and Joe get together (spin-off book 3)
Bob asks Susie to marry him (3rd goal reached)
Denouement -- all goals are met, sub-plots (spin-offs) are tied up (Except for the arsonist who is our underlying problem throughout the series)

Okay, so I know this is a silly simple plot for a story, but that's what I came up with to show you how formulaic writing works.

I do not write like this. I have never used an outline (okay, truthfully, I tend to make up an outline once 2/3rds of the book is written so I can find my ending.) But for the most part, the characters tell me what they're doing. I don't force the writing because then I feel the book is forced. It has no flow. Other authors can do this kind of writing all day long and come up with greatness. We all have our own way of writing. There is no right or wrong. You just need to find what works best for you.

THE NUMBERS

We all know writing is hard work, and if you have a job (and yes, Motherhood is a full-time job) we have to be creative with our time. I used to write for two hours every morning while my daughter was in pre-school. After supper I would edit what I wrote. Now that she's in school full-time, I have 6 hours in which to write every day. Believe me when I tell you, you cannot sit down and write for 6 hours at a stretch. (Unless you're extremely disciplined, have absolutely no distractions, and your characters are well-behaved.)

For the sake of argument, let's say you have 2 hours after supper to write every night M-F. On S/S you gain an extra hour so that's 3 each. That = 16 hours. Some people write fast (when it flows) others write slow (when it doesn't). Again for the sake of argument, let's say we can write 1000 words every night, and on the weekends you take the time to edit those pages and maybe write another 1000 words. That = 6000 words a week. If your goal is a 60K word manuscript, this should take 10 weeks to write. If we give ourselves two weeks for critique partners and beta readers to read and make corrections (and they can do it within those two weeks, and you're editing as you go) you should have a book ready to go in 3 months.

3 months per book = 4 books a year. Ta Da! Congratulations.

However, that is all in a perfect world. We all have lives, laundry, grocery, soccer games, sick kids, parents, work, distractions that keep us away from our writing. Don't be disheartened. We'll discuss what happens when the External Controls keep us from our goal. We'll also discuss the Publishing aspect to a series later on.

Now, I'd also like to say that some writers just write the first draft and then edit the whole thing when it's finished. I can't write that way. I have to edit as I go along. I write a chapter (or scene) and then the next day, I re-read it, and edit it so I can, not only move forward with the story, but keep my storyline in my head. (I am a certified pantster and do not use an outline. I have a "basic" idea of the story, but then the characters tell me what they want to do with it.)

Some writing gurus tell us we have to write every day. I'm not of that mind-set. I can't. Real Life is too complicated. However, when I do tell my family, "I'm writing" they know enough to leave me alone. If I can't get in writing time during the week, I make sure I try and meet my goals over the weekend.

If we remember our poster board from last week, you can have the formulas listed on them as well. Take in the BIG picture before you sit down to write the first page of the first book. See if you can figure out clearly all the plot points, the secondary characters, the obstacles, the climaxes before you begin. Set your writing schedule (but not in stone because things do change) and try and stick to it. It does help when you know you only have a certain time to write every day. It keeps you focused on the task at hand.

Formulaic writing can be a blessing or a curse. It all depends on YOU the author and how you want to write.

Next week, we'll dive a little bit more into research and settings. Hope to see you.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2014

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Writing a Series -- Plotting the Big Picture



Today we will discuss plotting a series. Now, I'm not going to tell you how to plot -- we all know how to play the "what if" game. However, to have a successful series, you might want to think about where it all leads.

Basic Plots

As I said a few weeks ago, there are really only 12 plot lines. (That theory has been discussed ad nauseum and some scholars generally believe there are only 7.) There's a whole construct about the hero's journey that I won't bore you with, but for the sake of argument, let's just go with 12.

In my series, I have used some of these basic plots. (Remember I write romance.)

Wicked stepmother. (sister/father/family member)
Forced/arranged marriage.
Mistaken identity.
Jealous ex.
Lowly servant attracted to an aristocrat. (or vice versa)
Love at first sight.

If you think about it, all romance plots can be utilized by watching any of the Disney Princess movies. It's what you do with them that makes them different. What if...?

Let's take last week's characters and give them plots, shall we?

Susie and Bob -- Wicked stepmother.
Abby and Joe -- Arranged marriage
Carol and Gary -- Mistaken identity
Larry and Amy -- Jealous ex
Linda and Steve -- Love at first sight

As you know, we have already written Susie and Bob's story. Susie has a wicked stepmother who won't let her marry Bob. For whatever reason. But they triumph because love always conquers all.

And because we have all these other characters and plots, we've already decided that we're going to write the next books in the series.

However, just because they're all friends, is that enough to tie them together?

Here is where I feel plotting a series gets interesting and helps fuel your readership.

There needs to be a larger, underlying issue, to tie all these books together. Let's play the what if game.

What if Bob, Joe, and Gary are firefighters? What if Larry and Steve are cops? What if Susie and Amy are nurses at the hospital? What if in the first book, there is a huge fire and Bob and Larry get hurt and have to go to the hospital, which is where they meet Susie and Amy? What if at the end of the first book we find out the fire was started by an arsonist? What if in the second book, there is another fire? What if in the second book, Steve gets promoted to detective and starts working the arsonist case? What if in the third book, Joe gets caught in another fire started by the arsonist?

Okay, so we get the drift. The underlying plot throughout this series of books is the arsonist and how we're going to catch him. This is the angle we'll work and by the end of the series we'll either have caught the arsonist, or spun it off to another series.

In another example, in my series The Reluctant Grooms, Lady Olivia is keeping a secret. She is present in ALL of my books and this secret appears as well. It may only be one or two lines, but it's present throughout, until the end, when I blow the lid off it.

Lady Olivia's secret is the underlying plot-line that holds the series together. The same as the arsonist above. Only at the end do we have the final resolution. Otherwise, I'd just have a bunch of romance novels with Lady Olivia in them.

Timelines

Now, in my series, I wrap each of the novels around another one. While Penny is getting to know William in THE LADY'S MASQUERADE, William's brother Ellis has just hired Violet to be his nanny (THE LADY'S FATE), and Richard (William's good friend) has just met Amanda (THE CAPTAIN'S COINCIDENCE).

I progress through time, yet simultaneously, stop time. If that makes any sense. Put it this way... I just did a load of laundry and will hang it on the line right now. You are sitting at work doing inventory. Your best friend is teaching underprivileged kids in the inner city. My life doesn't stop because yours has started. We are all doing "something" at the same time even though we don't know what that is.

That is what I call a "wrap-around" timeline.

Then there is the "progressive" timeline. I did my load of laundry. After that I will clean the kitchen, after that, I will take out the garbage. After I have taken out the garbage, you will finish your inventory, then you will sit in on a meeting, then you will go to lunch. Once you've finished your lunch, your BFF is going to finish teaching math, then move on to social studies, and then science. Time progresses.

I know you know what I'm talking about so I'll stop the explanation.

However, whichever kind of series you want to write, you need to figure out all the plots before hand, and how they will all tie in together. I used a huge poster board and wrote Lady Olivia in the middle of it. And like a clock, I have all my novels positioned around her (2,4,6,8,10,12) with the basic plot of each book, and where her secret comes out little by little.

At 2, we have the first hint of her secret. By 8 we pretty much know what it is, and there's danger of it getting out. At 12 Olivia is exposed and the series is over. (Also, because I also have novellas attached to this series, at 3,5,7,9, and 11, we also get to glimpse a little more of the secret.)

If we use the example from Susie and Bob, I'll put the arsonist in the middle of the poster board and the 5 books surrounding him at 1,4,7,9, and 11. In book one we meet Susie and Bob. We also meet the arsonist. In each of the next books, we have our love stories, but we also have more of the arsonist. We need to figure out where and when the arsonist gets caught.

Spin-Offs

Let's say for the sake of argument, that you've written all 5 of your books. In the end, we have 5 happy couples, but the arsonist gets away. In the third book, we meet another secondary character called Christopher who transfers to the fire department from out of state. At some point he meets Amy's sister, Jenny. And that's it.

We have one of two choices here -- we can either write Chris and Jen's story, or not. We could also write Chris and Jen's story and include the arsonist who got away leading to another series, or perhaps a sideline of novellas as we meet more firemen and cops and nurses.

It depends on how much you love your characters.

In my series, when Lady Olivia's secret comes out, there's also another piece of backstory that is revealed about Olivia's past. She was in love with another man before she married her husband. In the last book, we think Olivia is going to marry this man and finally get her happily ever after.

This man (Dunbury) was the impetus for me to think about writing another series and how it all ties in to this one. (And in actuality, the Dunbury series runs parallel to The Reluctant Grooms. When Penny is meeting William, Dunbury is meeting Catherine. *spoiler alert*  By the end of Reluctant Grooms, Dunbury is married to Catherine.)


So, to sum it all up, think about what you want to write, how you're going to write it, and where it will all end up. Think about the kinds of books (novels, novellas, novellettes) you want to write. Think about how long it might take you to actually write each story. Do you have that kind of time to invest?

With the advent of e-publishing, readers, if they like your first book, want the next one right away, and the next and the next. E-publishing isn't like old school traditional publishing when they only publish one title a year. (I'm still waiting for Sue Grafton to finish her Alphabet series. Has it really been 26 years?)

We'll discuss how to publish a series in a couple of weeks.

For more information about writing a series, Alexandra Sokoloff is also doing a blog series you might want to check out as well.

Any Questions?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2014