Thursday, September 19th, 2019

The Series Series, Part 1: Planning a Series

I’ve been on a series of deadlines and taking a bit of a break from blogging, but as I promised last week, I’m picking it up again with a series of posts about… writing a series.

My mother and I have developed three series to date:

The Dumpy the Dump Truck picture book series; the Little Bo series of chapter books (the conclusion or final installment of will be published this Fall); and our current The Very Fairy Princess series of picture books, and now leveled readers – the first of which will be published in time for the holidays.

A question that I get asked frequently by editing clients is, “how do you plan a series? Do you start out intending to write a series, or does one book just evolve into more?”

The answer is: it depends.

Generally speaking, in today’s market, publishers want to see if a picture book character or concept will fly before they commit to more of the same. We had always hoped that The Very Fairy Princess would be a series, and had pitched it as such, but our publisher was nervous about committing to any sequels until the first book had demonstrated a sales record. Happily, it did – though we continue to bite our nails with each new installment to see if sales will warrant another.

With chapter books and middle grade novels, the price point tends to be less – and there is also a greater demand for multiple titles in a series for this age group. This makes pitching a chapter book or middle grade series a little easier.

To be on the safe side, when conceiving a series, it’s probably best to draft no more than one to three complete manuscripts before attempting to sell them. It’s important, though, to brainstorm a handful of other ideas, titles even – and to write a paragraph or so on each.  This way you can be ready if an interested publisher or agent asks for more information.

Next up: Starting a Series – How do you establish the world and the characters?

Series NavigationThe Series Series, Part 2: Starting a Series


7 Responses to “The Series Series, Part 1: Planning a Series”
  1. Beth says:

    Thanks for this, Emma. As you know, I’m keenly interested in the topic of series, and I look forward to the unfolding of this series series!

    It is somehow heartening to know that even with authors with a proven track record, and readily recognizable names, the publisher still wants to see the proof of sales before making that commitment. I certainly hope that sales of VFP books will continue to warrant sequels! I assume that you continue to work on new ideas for the series, in the hopeful anticipation of the series going on for some time.

    One question that perhaps you will address at some point in the coming posts — with the Little Bo books, there is an overarching plot and story for the entire series, which basically determined the number of books. With series such as the Very Fairy Princess, which is more episodic in nature, do you just continue producing the books as long as the market holds? Do you have an ultimate number in mind that constitutes a good number for a picture book series?

  2. Emma says:

    Great questions, Beth – all of which I intend to address in detail in this series. But the short answer is that the Bo series was always intended to be four books which tell the whole story. The series encompasses the discovery of what happened to all Bo’s siblings, and four books seemed the right number to tell the entire story. The Very Fairy Princess series was always intended to be open-ended, a series of books chonicling the adventures of Geraldine, the very fairy princess, in various different situations, for as long as the demand continues, just as you guessed. We have no definitive number in mind, but will let the market guide us.

  3. Patricia Tilton says:

    Enjoyed this Emma. Everything I’ve written so far is stand alone. Am very interested in what you have to say. Love your answer…”it depends.”:)

  4. Melissa says:

    Thanks for this Emma, I’m looking forward to the series of posts. I’m looking at writing a series of chapter books. 🙂

  5. Diane says:

    This was very interesting and look forward to the more indepth posts. Thankyou.

  6. Gary says:

    Emma, I agree with Pat. “It depends” is an interesting answer and highlights one aspect of the writing world that I am trying to pay more attention to. True, there are a “jillion” rules to follow as in any aspect of the arts. Knowing that there is much more flexibility has confirmed (and continuing to affirm) that the constraints of rules are meant to be challenged. I tend to get so caught up in trying to “do it right” that I slow myself down or defeat myself. So “stick it in your ear” rule makers…

    My current mantra: rules are a guideline….hard fast rules are a barrier.

    Gary in Coventry

  7. Emma says:

    Absolutely! Keep up the good work, Gary!

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