8 Ways to Maximise Your Book Series

8 maximiseThere’s this trend… I’ll try not to be skeptical, actually who am I kidding I’m always skeptical. This trend involves finishing your novel series, whether its a trilogy or ten book epic and then promptly…unfinishing them… to make money because there’s more story to tell.

Take Veronica Roth and the Divergent series. She finished her books and then did a whole spin off series based on the character Four. She wrote shorts, novels and all kinds of other crazy empire expanding nonsense and of course the fans all loved it.

I hadn’t even considered writing more than my planned number of books for my Fallon series as an option. But then I read James Howell’s latest book, Guinea Pigsand realised I’m half way there anyway and I haven’t even published the first book.

So here’s some tricks on maximising your book series empire inspired by Howell’s latest book.

Disturbed GirlIf you haven’t heard me talk about Howell before, I’m surprised. I’ve interviewed him here and his first book A Disturbed Girl’s Guide to Curing Boredom is on my all time fave list.

But his latest book isn’t related to his Disturbed girl trilogy. It’s different. It’s a set of three longish short stories. Set in the same world (ours) albeit with a lot of fucked up individuals! Each short story has a different protagonist and all the stories culminate in a final joined up ending.

Veronica Roth (author of Divergent) took her protagonists love interest, Four, and wrote another set of stories too.

But what she did was dangerous. We were used to one character, frankly I liked the protagonist I wouldn’t have spent weeks worth of baths and bottles of wine indulging myself in the story if I hadn’t. AND lets face it – not many people like change – taking another character into a spin off series is riskier than knife throwing under the influence.

Photo taken from Wiki

Photo taken from Wiki

But Howell didn’t do that, he took completely different characters and embroiled them in a completely different story – I thought it had no connection, no relation to the original series and I’ll be honest, that concerned me. I worry when reading an authors ‘other work’ because nine times out of ten, if I love one book series, I’ll hate the next. It happened with Charlaine Harris’ True Blood, and I’ve no doubt it will happen again.

But it didn’t with Howell.

I’ve heard of other indie authors doing this, writing longer shorts and combining them all in the final story, but I wasn’t sure it would work, let alone work off the back of a trilogy.

But it did.

The reason it worked, was the way he connected the stories to his original work. There is a reveal, it’s tiny, barely a sentence but it clearly links back to his original series and opens the door WIDE to a whole other storyline (in new books) with our fave protagonist – just when we thought it was all over too.

And who knows, maybe it was really all over. Maybe ‘just carry on your story’ sounds too obvious. Except that it really was over for JK Rowling until apparently it wasn’t and now we have a whole new book/play thing coming out. Likewise, Roth executed her main character, how much more over can you get? Except that it wasn’t either because now there’s the four series. This is an emerging trend and I don’t think it’s going away.

This trend is like the ultimate cure for a book hangover – and selfishly, means that even when you write ‘the end’ on a trilogy/series you (the author) get to continue to write about that world you love so much too.

I’ve had to write shorts to work out plot problems, and back story in my own novel. In fact, I have entire chapter length stories that were written about side characters, all of which I was happy to leave in some obscure e-folder never to be opened again. But given this trend, maybe I’m missing a trick. Who’s to say these won’t be useful for something else once the series is over.

8 Different ways to maximise your series

  1. Use world building short stories – explore different worlds, or cities and locations within your own world. What happens in them when the reader isn’t looking.
  2. Use minor, secondary characters or love interests to write spin offs whether thats a short or an entire series in its own right.
  3. Move your world on, what happened 100 years after your trilogy ended? World buildings hard work – why waste an entire world on just one series.
  4. Use brand new characters but in the same world
  5. History (write the prequel to your novel)
  6. Like twilight, write the SAME story from the love interests POV (E.L. James copied Meyer once by publishing 50 shades as fan fiction but, is it just me, or was she taking the piss by publishing the grey series when Meyer tried to do it first and had her MS leaked?! talk about copycat)
  7. Write a radio play or a Westend using your characters or your world
  8. Write short stories about the main characters past or their future

and here’s a bonus one, inspired by this post from Linda, write your protagonists autobiography.


I contacted James, to see what his thoughts were and asked a couple of questions on how he has maximised his series:

James, what made you put the reference to hannah in when you had finished your trilogy?

Although the Disturbed Girl trilogy finished quite neatly with Hannah (or what was left of her) sailing off into the sunset, I always thought there was scope to explore what she did next. Where does she go after Cyprus? How does she recover from her injuries? Does her relationship with Luisa survive? Can she really be a mother to Naomi?

I suppose I semi-retired her at the end of A Disturbed Girl’s Redemption, meaning that I could move on to other characters – as I’ve done with Guinea Pigs – but still bring her back if my readers wanted more and I felt there was a worthy story to tell.

Readers have told me they want more Hannah, and to be honest I’ve rather missed her, so my plan is to bring her back in some way for my next novel.

How do you think an author can maximise their book series?
I only intended A Disturbed Girl’s Guide to Curing Boredom to be a one-off, but when readers fell in love with Hannah Harker I decided to develop a series for her.
Because “Boredom” was written as a one-off, I found it tricky coming up with a realistic plot line for the sequel. Some people have said that the plot of A Disturbed Girl Implodesis too much of a stretch, and that’s probably a fair criticism. I’d certainly urge authors to consider sequel options while they’re writing their debut novel (killing off your hero isn’t a good idea, for example!)
Once you’ve decided to write a book series, it’s important to develop a strong network of other characters around your central protagonist. If you try to write a series just focusing on your hero, I think you’ll soon run out of steam. Creating other characters gives you the chance to explore different themes, voice different opinions, use different locations and vocations, and test your dialogue writing skills. How the different characters come together and interact then throws up numerous plot lines for the series.
That said, never lose sight of your lead character. A successful book series needs a very clear central character who grips readers, surprises them, shocks them, makes them laugh and makes them want more. Hannah Harker is not a “good” person and I don’t expect readers to sympathise with her, but I do want my readers to empathise with her. No matter how crazy your lead character goes, make sure your readers can still relate to them in some way.
Another way to maximise a book series is to start developing your lead character into a brand. I’ve given Hannah Harker her own Twitter account (some of her drunken tweets are filthy!) and she has started blogging on the Disturbed Girl website. A photographer I work with in Holland commissioned a model to pose as Hannah for a photoshoot, which has got a lot of international press, and an electronic music artist called Himuro Mansion produced a Disturbed Girl album called “Hannah’s Mix”. I’ve also launched a range of Disturbed Girl mugs and T-shirts, which all helps with the brand and offers another income stream between books.

How else can you maximise your series? Let me know in the comments.

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Find out more on about James and his genuinely amazing Disturbed Girl series on his website follow him on Facebook or buy the book using the amazon blurb link.

Photo taken from Amazon

Photo taken from Amazon

Amazon Blurb

This dark collection of short stories examines three seemingly unconnected people as they slide along separate paths towards chaos and tragedy. Will any of them find salvation, or will they all be destroyed by the terrible deception that unites them?

Guinea Pig 1 – The Man Who Couldn’t Laugh
Colin Jones is a neurotic suburban nobody who has a serious problem with his new neighbours. Spurred on by what he reads in the tabloid press, how far will he go to get them evicted?

Guinea Pig 2 – A Wild Life
A damaged woman travels to Africa to escape from her life of sex and violence. As she touches down in the Gambia, she has no idea that her nightmare is just beginning.

Guinea Pig 3 – Red Demon
Detective Josh Brody works in the bleak underbelly of south London trying to protect victims of hate crime. It is a grim world, and he might be closer to the misery than he realises

26 comments

  1. Wow, Sacha! I am amazed again and again about the detailed and understandable way you explain. Your 8 points are great ways to keep the story interesting and build it up.

  2. Wonderful post. Everything seems to have spin-offs and tie ins these days. Sometimes that’s lovely, other times, not so much. Personally I love graphic novel condensations or tie-ins. Good art doesn’t come cheaply of course, but a good graphic novel is as close to a “movie” as a lot of books are ever going to get.

    1. That’s a great idea, the thought hadn’t even occurred to me, so thank you 😀 I shall add that to my list. But damn… don’t i know that art isn’t cheap, just trying to find someone to draw some symbols for me is hard enough!

  3. Wow, I was ahead of the curve for once! I already posted different stories on my blog set in the Underground City world I built for The Necromancer’s Apprentice, because I figured if people loved the world, they’d enjoy the book. A lot of the reviews for Apprentice kept saying “I want more stories in this world!” The Necromancer books will only be a trilogy but there’s scope for me to skew off into other stories in that space.

    But your 8 points are totally spot on. 🙂 As always!

    1. That’s awesome, and hey, don’t do yourself a disservice, I think you are WAY ahead of the curve in a lot of ways. Like your videos. Google is going nuts for them it really raises your profile and pushes your site up their rankings. I must try them but… I can’t do my make up as well as you, so I will have to cower behind for now! :p I LOVE that you have used your world. I think it’s something I will definitely consider now. I’ll have to remember to pick your brains at the bash

  4. Interesting, Sacha. I haven’t been able to write series yet. Once I finish my stand-alone book, I’ve lost interest or it just feels forced when to me the story feels done. I can write a story across three or four books, but it’s still all one story. That said, I like how your tips offer new ways to approach a series (setting a new story in the same world or giving a secondary character a story of his own). I might be able to do that. Excellent post 😀

    1. I think thats an interesting point you make actually. because a lot of the series/trilogies I read, (YA dystopian ones) are actually just one story but told over three books. I had never thought of it like that but its really true, because even though they have mini stories within each book, really they are just building to one climatic ending. Thanks for making me stop and think 😀

  5. I think the Harry Potter series is a pretty good example of this trend right now, with J. K. Rowling overseeing a whole website of new material, a new movie trilogy and a new play, all spinoffs of the original series. From a fan’s perspective, the line between expanding the universe and milking the series does seem a bit thin. When does it all become too much, Sacha?

    1. Yeah, I think that is a good question. I think a lot of people will be worried that they should have left Harry Potter alone. I mean it’s not just a series, its an industry… I am not sure you can re live that, or if you even should. We shall see, I guess it will be really hotly anticipated though.

  6. This is for sure a trend. And a lot of authors make it work. (Confession: I really liked Four.) Where were we… Ah. Yes. Love your 8 points. There are so many ways to make this work. Sure it’s done to extend the series and make money but also because readers sometimes just want more. Like me. I want more. Although, I do miss the good ol’ days when a book was just a book, you know? 😉 Maybe I should talk to someone about that.

    (A good example of this is Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey series. I think it was originally just a trilogy with, you know, three books which then added a this-is-what-happened-in-between-before-after-and-sideways which then spun off in a new trilogy from another character’s POV and I lost track after that. Just to note: I love her. And her books. I’m just saying.) <3

    1. Aloha, sorry for delay #Life! Interesting that you liked Four. I haven’t read it. Couldn’t bring myself too. I was so annoyed over the ending of the series.

      I have to say I agree though. If the audience love it, and are calling for more, then WHY NOT? Hell, it’s an authors baby I am sure it’s a win for them too! Win-win all round. But I can’t help but throw a pinch of cynicism in!

      Ok ok, who now? *trots off to Amazon to add to TBR pile*

  7. All very true, and I’ve done all those things myself. Now, I’m going to pour cold water over it by pointing out that none of it makes any difference at all if book number one isn’t a success. Get that first one booted into orbit then worry about spin offs. Then come back here and tell us all how you hooked readers on your series because I, for one, would really like to know.

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