How to Help a Book Series Thrive

When readers reached the epilogue in Cajun Kiss of Death, my 7th Cajun Country Mystery, they realized it was the last book in the series. Many emailed me to share their sadness about the series’ demise. I thanked them and shared that I was sad too. While sometimes authors make the choice to end a series, often the choice is out of their hands. This got me thinking…

Publishing is a business. And like most retail businesses, sales determine the future of a product. Besides buy books – and bless everyone who pulls out a credit card or library card to claim one of our tomes — if we love a series, what else can we do to make sure it thrives and is evergreen? How do we save a series from this…

And turn it into this…

For thoughts on this topic, I reached out to four author friends who like me have had a series go to the Resting Shelf in the Sky: Leslie Karst, Daryl Wood Gerber, Sherry Harris, and Edith Maxwell/Maddie Day. Read on for the wonderful conversation that ensued…

LESLIE: Write reviews on Goodreads and Amazon! Even if it’s only “I loved this book!” Because the number of reviews counts as much as what’s in them. Talk about the author on social media. Did you enjoy the book? Say so! Are you excited she has a new book coming out? Say so! Do you love her new cover? Say so! (And share it!) Ask your local library to buy your favorite authors’ books. Ask your local bookstore to stock them. (And note that my Sally Solari series, which was dropped by my publisher two years ago, has now been picked up by a new publisher! No. 5 in the series, The Fragrance of Death, will be released by Severn House this coming August!)

DARYL: My two cents: Word of mouth matters. That’s what Leslie is saying. We authors need our reading fans to tell people about our work. That means write reviews.  Post an Instagram of you reading your author’s book. Post pictures of your favorite authors’ books.  Share, share, share. If you talk to a bookstore, ask if the author could do a virtual event with the store and maybe send bookmarks to those who attend. Pre-order. This is major in making sure a series gets picked up.  Right now, my publisher is looking at pre-sales trying to decide whether to pick up the next Fairy Garden Mystery. Pre-sales show enthusiasm!

EDITH: Yes, all of that. I always say to fans that a short positive review anywhere (everywhere) means so much to the author. Also, word of mouth can take many forms. Church newsletters. Book groups. Interest groups, whether it’s gardening, bicycling, knitting, baking, heck, even Quakers! The main point is to share, share, share. I love it when a fan snaps a photo of themself with my book or takes a shot of my book “in the wild” in a bookstore or on the New Books table in their library. Even better when they share the picture with everyone they know.

As Daryl said, pre-orders are huge. Readers don’t have to order from the yellow giant. Pre-orders from any independent bookstore count. And they mean so much for a publisher trying to decide whether to renew a series contract.

DARYL: I love Edith’s idea of mentioning books to other groups…even Quakers.  Our readers are diverse. They come from all walks of life. They belong to churches, sororities, the DAR. They have the ability to tell lots more people than we do about our books. Yes, they might be one of the rare few who read 300 books a year (and mentioning 300 books would be daunting), but if they’re more like us and read 30-50 books a year, they could mention those favorites to their groups. Start a book club with one of our books. We’ll Skype or Zoom with them. A friend of mine recently recommended my book to her local newspaper’s book reviewer. A small paper I would never have thought to contact. The reviewer then reached out to me for a quote and reviewed the book. How cool was that? A new audience for sure.

SHERRY: Daryl is so right that we are willing to Zoom, Skype or even meet in person if it’s safe. I just met with a book group in Florida and we had so much fun talking about writing and books. Sign up for an author’s newsletter, follow them on social media. If you have a blog or podcast don’t be shy about asking an author to do a blog post or interview for you. I can be reluctant to ask but always appreciate being asked.

And like everyone said photos of books and recommending books is very helpful. When I put out the news that my Sarah Winston Garage Sale mysteries series was canceled a woman started a campaign to get people to write the publisher to ask for more books. It was lovely.

DARYL: Sherry, it’s so true that if readers would start campaigns, that could really help authors. I know a couple of authors who have street teams that readers created to help them foster their books. Readers created it.  Not authors.  That is invaluable.  They promote. They do giveaways. They do all the PR the author feels she should do but just doesn’t have the time to do because she’s writing books!

SHERRY: Excellent point! Readers also help those of us who are shy about PR and feel like we are always shouting, “buy my book, buy my book.” No one likes that, but it does help. I saw an author ask on social media to buy her book so the publisher would pick up the second one and it worked. The author was renewed. The message is really “read my book” and “talk about by book” and “thank you so much for helping.”

ELLEN: Promotion does fall into our own laps these days. I joke that I have two careers: Ellen Byron, author; and Ellen Byron, Marketing Director for Ellen Byron Author. My discomfort with self-promotion led to me owning it through my Shameless Shilling campaigns for my releases.

LESLIE: It’s SOOOO hard to promote yourself. Ugh. I know some authors who have street teams, and it seems like a great idea. But then again, you have to ask folks to be on your street team (unless you’re lucky enough to have readers do it on their own), which brings you once again back to selling yourself.

ELLEN: A simple way readers and fellow authors can help a series is by sharing the posts we create to sell ourselves. Sharing posts taps into a potential readership beyond our own base and that growth can extend the life of a series.

EDITH/MADDIE: Julie Hennrikus, aka Julia Henry, always says social media is ninety percent about others and ten percent about yourself. Share, retweet, and share some more!

DARYL: For those of us who are PR shy, it’s hard to always sell. It just feels fake at times. We want to write. We all wish we had a magical PR fairy to take care of our promotion. But, alas, PR fairies don’t exist.  Other fairies do. 😉

Thank you all so much for weighing in with your incredibly helpful thoughts! Readers, do you have any ideas to add on how to help a series thrive? Any questions for us?

Bayou Book Thief, by Ellen Byron

Batter Off Dead, by Maddie Day, aka/ Edith Maxwell

A Hint of Mischief, by Daryl Wood Gerber

The Fragrance of Death, by Leslie Karst

Three Shots to the Wind, by Sherry Harris

50 thoughts on “How to Help a Book Series Thrive

  1. While I find myself reading slower these days, and far less often, street team or not, I love to plug my favorites! It’s an honor for me to try and help. I’m much more cozy than anything else. Sometimes I need a break and read a romance or a dog book. If it’s good, I’m going to plaster it everywhere I can!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I will try harder to post a review, a short review, and share. I belong to Goodreads, Amazon, Bookbub, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I belong to quite a few cozy groups on Goodreads and have lots of friends on the site. I would hate to lose my favorite series. I also recommend books when asked too.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. To answer the call of fans, authors can move from a reluctant traditional publisher to self-publishing. Given today’s technology and profit-splits, a practical way to perpetuate a series.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. After publishing to KDP and more recently, Draft2Digital, the self-publishing water is fine!

        For my wife’s non-fiction, D2D made it easy-peasy. She loves the results, which included wide-distribution at zero cost.

        Liked by 3 people

  4. I hear you on this so much! My Allie Cobb series is ending due to lack of sales. All I say to readers is that if you enjoyed a book, please tell others about. Doesn’t matter how – word of mouth, social media, text message, whatever. Just please spread the word!

    Liked by 4 people

  5. After joining the Save Our Cozies FB group, I learned how important it was to post reviews. Since retiring in 2016, I have been more proactive in posting my reviews (mostly ARCs) on Goodreads and Netgallry, and on Amazon after publication day. I also spread the word online & verbally about books i loved reading.

    CHICKS: Keep up the good work in writing and promoting your books!

    Liked by 5 people

  6. I always leave a review for an indie author and for trad published authors who are not big names. I’ll post those reviews to several places – Amazon, Goodreads, Bookbub and my 3M Detective Agency Blog. I’ve tried really hard to get discussion going on my Natalie McMasters Facebook page, but I get crickets more often than not. I’ve recently started doing newsletters swaps (any takers here?) and it’s seemed to help sales. I’ll be at Malice in two weeks and the Natalie McMasters series will be on sale by Level Best Books, with me hanging around as much as I can to meet fans and sign copies. As you can see, I’m not shy about self-promo, but it does take time for what I want to do most of all–write!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. First of all, thank you for recognizing that publishing is a business. As an accountant, it always drives me crazy when people complain about something being cancelled when no one was buying it/watching it as if the companies that put it out don’t need to make money to stay in business.

    Having said that, as Leslie said, it’s a brutal business.

    The reason I started reviewing at Amazon in 2001 (and my blog eventually grew out of that) was to help others find series I love so that the authors would get contracts for more books so I’d have more great books to read. See, it really is selfish of me. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I was going to add, I understand the promotion issues you are all talking about. I get tired of promoting my blog everywhere. And I especially worry about promoting my blog so my friends who aren’t readers see it and get tired of me talking about nothing but books.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Mark, first of all, thank you SO much for all you do for readers. You and bloggers like Dru Ann Love are so essential to our community and your support is incalculable. And yes to feel exhausted promoting everywhere. But thanks to your reviews, WE get to help YOU promote by sharing your reviews! I don’t think your friends would get tired of hearing about your blog. And you also have those great ornament reviews, which are lots of fun.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. What a wonderful post! It’s so important that readers talk up and review their favorite authors if they want series to continue. And we authors can and do support each other via social media. I promote a fellow author’s new book in most every edition of my newsletter.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I review on Amazon and Goodreads after I read my books. I tell people about all my favorites, authors and books alike. I feel especially close to to some authors that I interact with on social media and think of them as friends like any other Facebook friend. I tweet, Facebook and Instagram post and share posts . I love my books and the authors who write them.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. What a great post! Like others have said, word of mouth is king–or perhaps emperor?–when it comes to helping a series survive (and hopefully thrive). Whether it’s via reviews, social media posts, or pass-alongs, it’s how books and authors are discovered. They’re all great, and I think reviews can be particularly powerful in our Google-y world!

    Liked by 2 people

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