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:
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 BUDGETWith 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.
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.