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How to Plan an eBook Series

This post is part of a series called Profiting with Business eBooks.
How to Promote Your Self-Published eBook on Social Media
Advanced eBook Formatting for Kindle

Writing and publishing an eBook on Amazon feels great, especially when you pick up your first five star review. But even if you've written an enticing description and chosen killer keywords, sales can still be slow.

What's the best way to boost your sales figures?

Write another book. In fact, write a whole series. In this article, I'll show you how to plan out a book series.

1. Know the Advantages of Writing a Series

Writing a book takes discipline and focus. Writing a series of books, at least in some ways, requires even more determination. As such, before you start writing your series, it's good to know the benefits of having a series over a single book. Then you can decide whether a series is right for you.

Step 1: Bust the Myths about Books and Writing

Writers who are just starting out on their self-publishing journey often hold a series of misconceptions about writing, books and publishing. These include:

  • A book is 200 pages.
  • Books should come from the soul. You write what's on your heart, then you stop when you're done.
  • Books take a long time to write.
  • Writing is (and should be) hard work.

All these myths have some truth to them. Traditionally published books are around 200 pages (or 75,000 words). That's not because 200 pages is the best length for sharing a story or idea, but because 200 page books make the most sense economically when marketing and distributing paperback and hardback books. In fact, many books are filled with unnecessary waffle to make them 200 pages, when they could be a lot shorter.

Ebooks can be as short as 5,000 words.

As such, ebooks change the rules about how long a book should be. Ebooks can be as short as 5,000 words. You can easily write a 5,000 word book in a week in your spare time, especially if you learn speedwriting. Writing a book doesn't need to take a long time or be hard work.

As for books coming from your soul, it's true, books written with passion are more likely to connect with the reader. But books sell because there's a market for them. When you're creating book ideas, and if you want your book to be profitable, it's about finding the crossover between soul and potential sales.

Step 2: Put Your Marketing Hat On

Books can make you money, but ultimately, as a business owner, books are a marketing tool for you, your brand, and your business.

Writing a series is great for marketing because:

  • You're more likely to be discovered. The more books you have on Amazon, the more likely a potential reader will stumble across one of your books during a search or in Amazon's recommendations engine.
  • Every book you write is a marketing tool. If a reader enjoys the first book they pick up by you, they're more likely to buy your other books. You can also use examples from your business in your book as a subtle promotion tool.
  • If you plan the series well, you can give the first book away for free, creating a nifty sales funnel.

Step 3: Discover the Advantages of Short Books

If you're thinking of putting together a series of books, I recommend making each book much shorter than a typical paperback. Between 5,000 and 20,000 words is ideal. This benefits both you and your readers.

  • From the writer's point of view, shorter books are faster to write and edit. That's not only because you're writing fewer words. It's also because with a shorter book, there's less work to do giving the book a coherent structure.
  • Shorter books are better for readers. People buy business books looking for a solution. From a reader's perspective, the quicker and simpler you make the solution, the better. What's more, you can sell shorter books at a reasonable price, making them better for your readers' wallets.

2. Brainstorm Ideas for Your Series

What will you write your series about? Your books are most likely to sell if each book in the series helps readers solve a specific problem.

As a business owner, you can target your book at clients, helping them to solve common problems you know they face. Or you can target your book at other entrepreneurs, telling them how you tackle problems in your business.

Step 1: Start With a Single Book Idea

When I'm coming up with ideas for a book series, I find it's best to start with a single book idea. Getting your book idea down on paper helps you decide the topic you want to write about, and who you want to help with your book.

At this stage, all you need is an idea of what you want to write about.

The key point to remember is that each book should solve one specific problem.

Step 2: Let the Ideas Snowball

Once you've nailed down your book idea, you can expand it into an outline. I find it best to do this with a pen and paper, but you can also do it in a word processor.

Here's where the magic happens, because as you start your outline, you'll find ideas spark more ideas. You'll watch - astonished - as your book grows and grows, like Cinderella's pumpkin.

Step 3: Break Down Your Ideas Into a Series

As your book grows, you'll begin to see how to split it into a series. I'll give you more ideas on how to do this in the next section. The key point to remember is that each book should solve one specific problem. As you're writing books (rather than blog posts), each book should explore that problem in depth, and provide a range of solutions.

The important thing is to keep each book narrowly focused. When your focus broadens out, you're probably starting an idea for another book.

Remember: You want every book to help your readers. But you don't want to give away all your ideas in one book. Split up your best solutions between books.

Step 4: Allow Time to Brew

Creativity is a lot like making a cup of tea. If you give tea time to brew, it develops a fuller flavor. If you give your ideas time to brew, they'll grow richer and deeper. It's helpful to carry a notepad around with you during the ideas stage, as you'll find your best ideas come when you least expect them.

Don't let your ideas brew too long, however, as like tea, if ideas are left too long, they become cold and bitter.

Step 5: Rinse and Repeat

From your starter book, you'll create ideas for more, smaller books. These smaller books might split again into two or three books. You can just keep going until you have a list of book ideas as long as your arm. The important thing is to choose the ideas that give you energy. After all, you're the one who will be turning the ideas into a full book.

3. Decide How to Structure Your Series

Step 1: Give Your Series a Theme

Chances are, your book ideas have grown organically around a common theme. If you haven't yet taken note of what this theme is, browse through your book ideas and notice what connects them. Two or more distinct themes? Great job! You've got ideas for two or more series.

Step 2: Give Your Series a Name

When you upload your books to Amazon, you'll be asked for the name of the series.

eBook Series

Try to connect the series name to the name of your business. For example, if FreelanceSwitch was publishing a series, we might call it "FreelanceSwitch Guides".

Step 3: Give Your Series a Structure

Organize your series into a coherent structure. You can link your ebooks:

  • Around a theme. This is the loosest and easiest way of connecting a series. For example, you could create a series around Internet Marketing.
  • As a progressive e-course, with each book acting as a stand-alone module within the course. For example, a series on getting freelance clients could start with a book on Getting Your First Freelance Client and progress up to a book What to Do When You Have Too Much Work (Starting an Agency).
  • Around a specific problem from a range of perspectives. For example, you could write a series of books on social media for restaurant owners, including Twitter for Restaurant Owners and Facebook for Restaurant Owners.
  • You might also think of your ebooks as a box of building blocks to help your readers create the life or the business they want, or as a set of maps to help them reach their desired destination.

Step 4: Write

Now you can write your ebook. Although technically, writing isn't the final step, as writing is what you've been doing through all the steps.

As you write, you'll likely come up with ideas for other ebooks. Keep a notebook handy to jot these down.

Most of all, remember to enjoy the writing process! Your passion will show to your readers.


Graphic Credit: Iconochki Set by Brave475 Vector Icons by talrevivo.

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