I've just finished writing my first novella series and the final book is set to release later this month. Check out The Dead Oaks: Cursed Asylum here!
If you're unfamiliar with the term, a novella is a story that is typically 15K-40K words in length. A novella series is exactly what it sounds like--a book series made up of these sorts of mini-novels.
So, I'm sharing my thoughts on the process of writing a novella series and what I've learned. I'm not saying this is the only way to do things. Every writer is different and you should always trust your gut. But these are the steps I took and what I feel was my biggest mistake!
1. Plan Your ARC
Chances are, if you're considering writing a novella series then you already have a pretty good idea of the story you want to tell or the characters you want to explore. You don't need to know all the details from the start but make an effort to loosely plot either a story arc or your main character's arc from the beginning. This will help you avoid writer's block along the way and is useful in spotting the overall "theme" of your series. Knowing the theme in advance will make marketing your story much easier down the road.
2. Choose Your Format
Will your books be stand-alones with a common thread or will they be sequential and necessary to read in order? Will they be written in first or third person, or possibly have multiple POVs (points-of-view)? Whichever you choose, keep this consistent throughout the series. If a reader loves your first book enough to move on to the next one, it's because they are going to expect more of what they adored the first time. Also, if possible, try to keep each book around the same length. If your readers are accustomed to your stories being 30K words then they might feel cheated if the next book is only 15K words (the exception being short-story spin-offs or those "Book 2.5" situations where the reader understands it will be shorter ahead of time).
3. Keep A Series Reference Manuel
Some writers call it the "Series Bible" and it can be as little as a one-sheet reference, or a tabbed binder, all the way to an entire intricate Wiki. This will just depend on how robust your story-world becomes and physical or digital is up to your personal preference. For The Dead Oaks, I kept everything in a notebook. For future projects, I'm considering trying the Wiki method.
4. Consider Your Marketing Early
Consistency is key, right? This is just as true when trying to reach an audience. I stumbled with this in the beginning by not having the foresight to plan for all of my covers to match. Book two in my series stands out when set next to the others because the cover is so different. I highly recommend thinking about how you want to market your series and then planning for all of the covers to have a consistent design. Whether you hire a designer or design them yourself, make things easier by choosing elements early that you can incorporate onto every cover.
Along with cover art, start thinking about the online spaces where your ideal readers spend the most time and begin constructing a plan to reach them there. The earlier you make those connections, the more readers you'll have right from the start of your first book release.
5. Create A Release Schedule (MY BIGGEST MISTAKE)
I'm telling you. That whole consistency thing is more important than you may realize! Just like keeping your covers consistent and your format similar, readers tend to prefer books with consistent release intervals. Who would've thought? Apparently, not this novella newbie. lol In a way, my books were consistent but with such short novels releasing a full year apart from one another it was definitely hard to keep up the excitement and momentum. I was juggling more than one series and also writing a few standalones in between. My biggest piece of advice if you choose to write a novella series is to focus on ONLY that series until it's completed and to keep to a release schedule. You don't have to publish a book every month, but at least 2-4 times a year will make it much easier to keep your audience's attention. There are so many great books out there vying for readers, so just do your best to make sure you have something for them more often than not.
I hope these tips help you out if you're working on your own novella series! I love answering writing-related questions, so always feel free to shoot me an email or send me a Tweet and I will try to cover it in a future blog post!
Thanks for reading!