by Ken Brosky
A few helpful tips on how to write a series publishers will want.
|It took Roland of Gilead seven books and more than twenty years to finally reach the Dark Tower, his final destination of Stephen King's wildly successful Dark Tower series, which spanned seven volumes and included crossovers in almost all of his previous novels. The books are a must-read for anyone who has ever contemplated attempting to create a series of their own--not just because of how successful they turned out (all have sold over a million copies), but because of how well done The Dark Tower truly is.
No matter how much King's trademark cheesy dialogue and murky side plots shine through, the series is a testament to the craft of writing.
And here's a secret: publishers--and agents--love finding a new series. Why? Because when you write a successful first novel with promises to continue your characters, your readers will come back for more. Likely, they're willing to come back quite a few times, provided you can keep making the stories fun. Readers will follow a series just like viewers will follow a TV program. And how long do you think "24" will last? Quite possibly another handful of seasons, provided the writing stays fresh (it always boils down to us writers, doesn't it?).
When I first began talking with other authors and agents about my first novel, everyone told me to leave it open-ended.
"Promise a sequel," one agent friend suggested time and again. "Publishers love it. If a book sells well, then the sequel is going to sell just as well. You get another book contract, and they get another hot seller."
So what makes a successful series? Characters. You need at least one person that the reader will want to follow. If you have two or three, then all the better--but you absolutely have to have one. It can be a hero or it can be an anti-hero, but it has to be someone the reader can relate to. In most cases, it has to be someone the reader can root for; but in some cases, it can be someone the reader wants to see fail. But you need the character.
Study the successful ones as much as you can:
The Dark Tower by Stephen King -- A great series focusing on a handful of characters. Also, if you're already a published author, it's a great example of how to build upon and incorporate other universes into your novel.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein -- The classic trilogy, of which the movies do no justice, no matter how great they are. Each one is an epic in its own right, and worth researching.
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling -- An example of how you can mold a lovable character into a moneymaking hero, no matter how simple and asinine the writing may be.
A Stephanie Plum Novel by Janet Evanovich -- Mystery and thriller novels that follow an investigator or detective are at an advantage when it comes to building a cult following. Janet Evanovich's series following Stephanie Plum is an excellent example of this and a must-read for mystery writers.
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket -- There's a reason the novels draw in adults as much as they do kids. "Lemony Snicket" has created a series that smartly and humorously deals with adult themes in stories that are only aimed at children on the surface level.
Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind -- This fantasy series has amassed such a cult following that bookstores literally carry dozens of each book in back stock because they're so difficult to keep in stock.
There are scores more, in every single type of genre you can imagine. Go to the bookstore and find the section where you want your book to be some day. Research the popular series and find out what makes them good. Then go home and develop a character you want readers to follow. While you're writing the first manuscript for your series, always keep an eye out for something you can put in the second book