Wednesday, May 16, 2018

10 Tips for Planning a Series in Advance

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). She has a podcast/vlog at www.StoryworldFirst.com. You can also find Jill on InstagramFacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website. Tagboth (Tag for short) is a goldhorn dragon from Belfaylinn, a hidden fantasy realm on the western end of the Sargasso Sea. Jill is working on the first book of this tale for this year's Grow an Author series.

As I mentioned back in February when I plotted out and made an outline for Onyx Eyes, I have decided that this will be the first in a series of five books, each with twenty-four chapters. 

This is the plan.

I've never tackled a series quite like this before, but I have been gathering information about self-publishing for many years now, and I'm convinced that the best way to self-publish a series is to release as many books as possible up front to hook ebook readers. With a five-book series, I'd really like to publish the first three all at once. I might not make this goal. But one who doesn't set goals, rarely achieves them. So here are my tips for planning out my five-book Colors of Belfaylinn series in advance.




1. CONSIDER THE TITLES
I sort of like my plan for the book titles, which are: Onyx Eyes, Ruby Eyes, Diamond Eyes, Emerald Eyes, and Golden Eyes. They will be easy to brand on the five covers, and the repetition of "eyes" makes them easy to remember. But I'm not sold on my series title: The Colors of Belfaylinn. The word "colors" is okay, since it matches the fact that each book has a different color theme and color eyes in the title. But Belfaylinn is the name of my land, and that doesn't mean anything to a new reader. I would do better to come up with a more marketable series title. Something that speaks to the genre. Perhaps Eyes of Magic or the Stonemage Saga. I will think on this some more. It's important to have a memorable title.

2. CREATE BLURBS FOR EACH BOOK
I have done this, but I'm not going to post them or there will be massive SPOILERS. I simply wrote a paragraph for each to help me plot. These will absolutely change after I've written each book and know how each story changed from my plan. Then I'll need to come up with a final back cover copy for each book.

3. CREATE A CALENDAR OF DATES
I am lost without a calendar to keep me on track. I will put everything I can think of on this calendar. And I will write in PENCIL, because many of these dates will change. And if my first draft date changes, that will set off the whole system. So pencils and erasers are my friends.

I usually Google "printable calendar," then find a website that will let me print by months. Then I'll print the months I'll need and fill them in. I'll set "hope dates" for everything: drafting deadlines for each book, editing deadlines, cover design "contact the artist" dates, "need covers by" dates, typesetting dates, a date to form my launch team, and (of course) book release dates. Scheduling these dates out loosely in advance will help me be more prepared.

4. PLOT THEM OUT
I will plot out all five books in the series before writing book one. I started this process already, but I could spend more time on it. I followed my math formula plan that I used to plot out book one, which I explained in detail in this post: How to Plot Your Story and Create a Loose Outline. I made a plot sheet for each book (which you can download in the linked post above), then I taped together sheets of paper to make a three-act structure chart for all five books as one large story. This helped me make sure I had a full series overarching story as well as individual stories for each book. As I came up with new ideas, I wrote them on sticky notes and stuck them to my huge timeline. Here's a picture:





5. WRITE FAST
With the first draft of any book, I always try to write it as quickly as possible. But since I'm hoping to release the first three books at the same time, I'll need to work really hard to get all three written. Ideally, I would write book one, rewrite it, then send it to my editor. And while my editor has it, I would then write the first draft of book two, and so on.

6. SET A BUDGET
With any book release, I try to set a budget for both book costs and marketing costs for at least the first three months. It's important to know what I can afford and to stay within that amount. It's easy to overspend if you're not careful, so setting a budget is the best way to protect yourself.

7. COVER DESIGN GOALS
With self-publishing, the majority of sales will come from ebooks, so I'll want book covers that not only match in an obvious way, I'll want book covers that look interesting and can be read in thumbnail size. I need covers that will catch readers' eyes at a glance. So simple, branded well, easy to read, and as interesting as can be. My plan so far is to have a close-up on a face with pointy elf ears with the eyes the color of the title. We'll see how that goes.

8. WRITE A MARKETING PLAN 
Release days can be overwhelming if you don't have a plan. Writing a marketing plan is a great way to get organized. You can calendar out social media posts like writing out tweets and planning images and graphics to share online. You can also come up with ideas for preorder swag and contests, special sales, parties, and other promotional items.

9. GATHER A LAUNCH TEAM
Any book release can be benefited by a launch team. I like to put together a team about three or four months before the book releases. I'll make a list of plans for how I'll involve them, special contests just for them, and how I'll thank them for participating.

10. EBOOK CREATION AND TYPESETTING
Some self-published authors pay to have their paperbacks typeset and their ebooks created. If you're planning to make a career of self-publishing, I highly recommend learning to do this yourself. It's not terribly difficult, and that way, whenever you need changes, you can make them without having to pay anyone and wait for them to fit it into their schedule. When designing your ebooks, make sure to create special backmatter pages for each book in the series that will link to the next book in the series. This makes it easy for readers to know what comes next.

So that's my plan. I'll take it one step at a time and keep you posted as to how I'm doing.

Any questions? Post them in the comments.


Also, help me out. Which do you like best for a series title?


1. The Colors of Belfaylinn 


2. Eyes of Magic


3. The Stonecaster Saga


33 comments:

  1. This is super cool! While I've only written trilogies and standalones, I'm really wanting to do a larger series at some point. I'll have to keep this post in mind when the time comes! Thanks for writing it!

    As for your question, I think either The Colors of Belfaylinn or The Stonecaster Sage sound the best.

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    1. You're welcome, Sarah. Thanks for your feedback on the titles. :-)

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  2. Great post!

    I also vote for The Stonecaster Saga or some variant thereof. Short, sharp, and memorable due to the alliteration.

    If it were me, I'd shy away from using Belfaylinn in the title for exactly the reasons you mention: it's not immediately recognizable by an unfamiliar reader.

    As for Eyes of Magic, it's perhaps a little common? A lot of books have "magic" in their titles, and each part of your series already uses the word "eyes".

    Coming up with titles is so much fun, isn't it? But stressful too!! I'm playing around with a title change for one of my WIPs right now and it's doing my head in! It's basically just switching the order of two words...but after over a year of having one thing in your head it's not easy to do!

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    1. Thanks, Rebecca. I know what you mean. I called By Darkness Hid Bloodvoices years after it was published. Haven't done it in a while, though, so I guess my brain has finally gotten used to the name change. ;-)

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  3. I like Eyes of Magic, personally. It just links nicely with your titles. Stonecasting Saga is good too, though. It's nice and alliterative. It shows off the most important part of your world (which also links to the titles), but it's a more interesting word than just the name of the country, a word that makes people want to learn more about it, rather than turning them off with its unfamiliarity.

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  4. Thank you for the helpful post!

    I like Stonecaster Saga is the coolest there. Have you thought about calling it Stone-eyes Saga?

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    1. Thanks, Rebecca. And that's a fun alternative. I'll add it to my list. :-)

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  5. I personally like The Colors of Belfaylinn still personally, the name of the country in the title doesn't set me off at all :)

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  6. Love this! To me, #2 sounds a bit cliche. I like #1 and #3 about equally. :)

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  7. I like "The Colors of Belfaylinn" better than either of the other two as it's unique and sounds good. Incorporating the word "eyes" in the series title might work, though it might end up being redundant due to the same word being in every book title. Coupled with "magic," it's a bit too vague. "The Stonecaster Saga" sounds cool, but it doesn't stand out as particularly memorable to me.

    Great post!

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  8. Oh, I'm bookmarking this to come back to later, because I have a ginormous fantasy project that really, really needs to be replotted. :D I feel like I'll have to write all the books before I think about publishing the first one, because there will inevitably be changes that have a ripple effect.

    As for titles, I'm partial to The Stonecaster Saga. Eyes of Magic is good too, but feels a little more MG than YA to me. (Unless this is a MG series?)

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    1. It's YA, Tracey. Thanks for your feedback. And best of luck to you when you get back to your fantasy project. So much work, but so worth it!

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  9. I like The Colors of Belfaylinn and The Stonecaster Saga. Eyes of Magic just didn't grab me. Thanks for the post! Helpful, as always!:)

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  10. I think The Colors of Belfaylinn is my favourite.

    I've been playing with ideas for a few different fantasy series recently. Creating a blurb for each book and writing fast are both ideas that will probably be really helpful for me, thank you.

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    1. You're welcome, Annia. (Pretty name, by the way.) And thanks for your feedback. :-)

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  11. This is so helpful!

    I'm not a fantasy / magic reader, but I would probably merge two of you titles into, The Stonecasters of Belfaylinn. Just a thought.

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  12. This is a great post! I'm really enjoying watching your progress on your series and can't wait till it's published. As for a name, I think The Stonecaster Saga sounds best.

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    1. Thanks, Kira! I can't wait until it's published too. ;-)

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  13. Great post! Stonecaster Saga is the best - it immediately attracted me as something interesting, the others did not.

    God bless, Anne Marie :)

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  14. My first serious writing project is a series, so this is super helpful! I will definitely have to write blurbs for my books (I have to write seven of them!). I was wondering how I was going to figure out which book covered which part of the plot, but writing summaries for them is a wonderful idea!!

    Also, the Colors of Belfaylinn sounds like a fantastic beginning to a book series!

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    1. Thanks so much, Charisma. I'm glad the post was helpful. :-)

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  15. I favor #1 out of the three. Have you considered naming the series The Eyes of Belfaylinn? I like the way that sounds. I'm not sure if it works with the series or not, but it makes the unfamiliar word feel a bit more personal, I suppose.

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    1. That's an interesting idea. Thanks so much. I'll add it to the list. :-)

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  16. I really love "The Stonecaster Saga". Nice alliteration, sounds mystical. I'm looking forward to reading these books!

    For all other authors who are looking to self-publish books right now, there's this amazing formatting tool called Vellum. Look it up. You won't regret it. My friend is self-publishing her book hopefully this summer after years of her book being in the making, and Vellum has made it look gorgeous. Vellum is extremely user-friendly and lets you put in your own custom section break artwork, so if you like to draw, you can add your own touch to your book's section break art.

    Thanks for sharing your series planning/preparation with us, Jill! I'm excited to read more about your books.

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    1. Yes, good advice! Lots of authors I know use Vellum and love it. I don't use it because I'm pretty sure it's only for Mac users, and I have a PC. Thanks so much for your feedback. :-)

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  17. The Stonecaster Saga sounds really cool! That would be my pick. :)

    I hate when blurbs later in a series spoil the books before them...like the Wingfeather Saga. I read the blurbs for them all before buying, and well...they kinda spoiled part of the first book. *facepalm*

    Series are so much fun to write, though. I love planning them out, though I still need to get a calendar made for my trilogy....

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