It’s so weird that this is a myth. Like, most recommendations by indie authors who are successful is to write in a series.

Yet, we (okay, I) see the justification that book 1 will sell more than a book X (4 / 6 / 9) of an older series.

And… that’s sort of true and yet, not.

The Truth

Here’s the part that is true. The first book in any series will ALWAYS sell more than any other book in that series – if that series is written in a linear fashion (and not, for example, a book that is part of a series but can picked up at any point) -just because everyone has to start with book.

So book 1 will include fans, non-fans, casual browsers and the forgetful in its sales numbers.

Every other book (again, for a linear written series) will sell less. Book 2 will have few readers than book 1 because everyone who picks up book 2 will only do so because they liked book 1 enough.

The Numbers

I’ve mentioned this before, but for most authors, a ‘decent’ series worth continuing (at least to a trilogy level) will have a readthrough of 50%. Any series with less than 50% readthrough has issues with book 1 and isn’t a series you want to make particularly long. Of course, you don’t know the readthrough till you release book 2 so…

Plan for a 3 book arc. That way, worse case scenario, you get the book 3 (trilogy complete) bump and you finish up the series so that people don’t feel cheated. 

But, most ‘good’ series, the ones people want to continue writing see a readhtrough between book 1 and 2 of around 60%+. Blockbuster series see 80-90% readthroughs.

After book 2, readhthrough fluctuates more between 70-90% if you are doing it right. Cliffhangers can push that readthrough even hurt up to the 95-98% range.

Again, numbers are from personal experience and listening to others talk.

The Mistake

Alright, so book 1 will always outsell all the other books. However, book 1 of a new series will not necessarily outsell book X of an older, successful series. 

Firstly, it’s always worthwhile understanding every single new series is a gamble. The wrong cover, the wrong launch timing, the wrong blurb, the wrong concept or protagonist and it can fail.

Remember that only a certain % of your current fans will shift over (see my weird ass true fan calculation numbers for an idea if you want of what that number might be. But it can be as low as 1 in 20 even if you’re writing in the same genre) to a new series. 

That means each new series is a gamble to grab hold of people and make them interested in your new work. Sometimes, you hit it out of the park and do incredibly well (see Dungeon Crawler Carl, a new series for veteran author Matt Diniman). Other times… 

Other times you get Leveled Up Love.

So, every new series is a gamble.

On top of that though, there’s the simple fact of compounding readers. 

Here’s using some numbers (proportionally) from one of my series.

Book 1 Launches. I get 550 readers for book 1. In the next 3 months, I also acquire another 350 readers from continual sales. 

Total readers – 900.

Book 2 comes out. Now, book 2 actually gets 75% readthrough rate (not actual, but close). So, I actually get 675 sales in month 1.

That’s MORE than book 1 launch.

At the same time, book 2 launch INCREASES the number of book 1 readers, so that over the next 6 months, I get another 410 sales of book 1.

My total book 1 readers are now 1310.

Guess what happens when book 3 comes out? That’s right, 1310 readers at a 75% readthrough equals to 982 readers of book 2. At 75% readthrough again for book 3, I have 736 readers for book 3 on launch month.

That’s again MORE than book 1’s launch of 550 readers.

And on, and on, and on this goes. So long as your books keep coming out, so long as readers are still excited in the series, you actually have bigger and bigger launches.

Now, if you even launched as well as book 1 for the first series (and assume that’s a ‘good’ series launch); you still won’t beat a new book in the existing series.

And that’s why the idea that new books in an existing series won’t do as well as book 1 of a new series is a lie.

The Cavaets

Obviously, there’s a lot of assumptions. Among them – that it’s a good series. That you have good readthrough. That you give enough time between books to build up more readers (rather than potentially rapid releasing and never having time to build up more readers).

Not to say rapid release doesn’t have it’s place but… well, it’s not the discussion here.


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