Three Smart Strategies for Your Nonfiction Book Series
Writing a book is like running a marathon. Some of us finish the first one and immediately want to run another to clock a better time. Then there are those of us who say, “Checked THAT off my bucket list—never again!” And then there are the folks who decide to run a marathon on every continent… Enter the book series.
You already know that a nonfiction book can enhance your authority and support your business goals while providing value to your readers. Writing a book series can magnify those benefits.
Sounds good but daunting. How to pull it off? Just like the marathoner who wants to circumnavigate the globe on foot, you must plan. Planning your book series—mapping out the how—will benefit your writing, your marketing, and your productivity.
Let’s explore three key strategies for writing and publishing a book series.
Strategy 1: Map Out Your Topics
Before you begin writing, map your key topics into books. As you write each book, you’ll get into more detail, but to start, think high level:
- What’s the focus of the series?
- What’s the focus of each book?
- What are the core topics in each book?
- Do you have enough content to work with?
- Are your books sequential or standalone?
For example, Joanna Penn is an indie author who writes both fiction and nonfiction. Her nonfiction titles are aimed at helping authors. They are nonsequential, and each book has a defined focus: How to Market a Book, Productivity for Authors, Audio for Authors.
By mapping out your topics, you understand the breadth of the series, which helps with your next two strategies: branding and timeline.
You also set clear boundaries for what you are writing in each book, which helps your writing process feel more manageable.
As you begin to write, you may realize a book has too much content and you need to split it. Or maybe it doesn’t have enough content and you need to fold in another topic and reposition everything.
You also may come across new topics, or realize a planned topic just doesn’t work. Always remember that a plan is just a plan—it can be changed. Leave yourself some flexibility.
Strategy 2: Create Consistent Branding
When you understand the content in your series, you can create consistent branding to support your business and book goals. Three areas to pay attention to:
- Titles – If possible, create clear linkage in your titles. For example, Stan Phelps is a professional speaker who helps businesses create differentiated experiences. He has a book series with “goldfish” in every title—Blue Goldfish, Pink Goldfish, Red Goldfish—with each color representing an aspect of business that can be differentiated.
- Covers – Using consistent design guidelines across book covers gives readers a visual cue that your books are related. Stan’s Goldfish books all use the same font, the same positioning of the main title, a colored strip that contains the subtitle, and an image of a goldfish in the title’s color.
- Content – The length, tone, and structure of your book create an experience. While this element of “branding” is more nuanced, a reader of one book who picks up a subsequent book should have a sense of familiarity and know what to expect.
Consistent branding in your book series helps support and reinforce your business branding and strategy.
And… when readers like your books, can easily identify them, and know what to expect, they’re more likely to keep picking up future books.
Don’t let a desire for consistent branding stop you from starting to write. You don’t need to plan every detail up front. (The perfect is the enemy of the good, right?)
You can always evolve the branding or rebrand completely. For instance, Stan’s books started with simple white backgrounds, causing visibility challenges on white websites (like Amazon). They’ve now evolved to have colorful backgrounds while maintaining the other design elements.
Strategy 3: Decide on Your Release Timing
By mapping out your series, and understanding the focus of each book, it becomes easier to map out a schedule. Depending on book length, book complexity, and your writing schedule, you may find it possible to release a book every quarter or every six months. (Or every few years—that’s okay too!)
Having a planned release schedule gives you deadlines that keep you writing. And the more regularly you write, the easier it usually gets.
Additionally, once you’ve launched the series and gained a readership, the promise of forthcoming books can build readers’ anticipation.
Many people are “time optimists” and don’t realize how much effort goes into producing a book. Learn your own process before committing to a set release schedule.
Whatever you do, don’t put out a half-baked book simply because it’s scheduled. Just as running a marathon without adequate training can result in injury, a poorly done book can injure your brand.
One Final Tip
When setting up your book on the two major print-on-demand platforms, KDP and IngramSpark, indicate your books are part of a series so readers can easily identify them as such.
Here’s what to look for in the KDP setup (IngramSpark’s is similar):
One Final Benefit of a Book Series
As mentioned, a book series can magnify the benefits a single book brings—more authority, supporting your business goals, providing value to your readers. But there’s one thing I haven’t mentioned…sales.
Many authors find that book sales are relatively low until they reach book number three. By the time they publish their third book (and even if it’s not part of a series), they’ve found some followers and proven they aren’t a one-hit wonder. People who read and like one book can immediately go buy the other two.
In a nutshell, book number three helps you gain momentum. And when running a (literal or metaphorical) race, a little extra speed is nice.
Ready to strategize on your book series? Get in touch.