Last year, I wrote Bushido with the intention of making it the first installment of a series of short stories. Unfortunately, unrealistic expectations of the market (thinking I would get a bunch of sales in the first month from my Facebook blasts alone) combined with a lack of planning to stop the series at issue one.
I justified not moving forward with additional issues by telling myself that I would continue the series if there was sufficient interest. As it stands, Bushido is a good standalone story, with a three act structure that wraps up nicely and leaves the setting open for more.
Personally, I love the story of Bushido and would love to continue it, but at this point interest in different stories and settings has stolen my attention. Hopefully, once I’m more well-known as a writer, fans will beat down my digital door demanding to know more of Hisashi’s tale. Until then, I’ll be focusing on new projects to add to the portfolio.
When Thomas Edison failed to create the lightbulb 10,000 times, he said he didn’t fail that many times, but that he found that many ways that it wouldn’t work. Similarly, I’ve found a few ways to write a series that won’t work. Here’s what I’ve learned from the experience.
- Plan Ahead: Don’t write the first installment with an idea of where you want to go with it. Plan out, at least with a sentence or two, the life of the series (or the first primary story arc, if it’s to be an ongoing series).
- Have a Meta-Plot: Learn from popular television shows. Have an ongoing story taking place with the main character that traverses all the issues, linking them together. Dropping major developments to this plot at the end of an episode is how screenwriters keep us clicking “Play Next Episode” on our Netflix player.
- Be Regular: Set a realistic release schedule and work it. Don’t put twelve months between episodes (which is how long it’s been since I released Bushido as of this writing). Readers will respect a regular release and can plan on it. And readers planning on buying your next installment before it’s even published is a good thing!
- Don’t Expect Early Success: I hope your series takes off immediately, earning you a full-figure salary and getting television and movie adaptation options from big production houses (I really do!), but don’t expect it, at least not that early. Plan for the long haul. Build the series and keep at it. It may take six months, it may take a year, but you’ll eventually make it worth your time.
Of course, this is all in addition to JA Konrath’s primary four elements: professional looking (covers, formatting, editing), low prices, good product descriptions and well-written. But don’t only concentrate on those four (I did for Bushido, but didn’t look at the longer journey).
Do you have any advice for building a successful series?