Recently there was a large discussion on Reddit from a meme about having more than one project.

Obviously, some readers were quite upset about that since some projects were set aside by other authors, sometimes because the works were abandoned, sometimes because they were rotated.

Completely understandable, and I’m not here to discuss reader preferences. Nor am I going to discuss the craft aspects of working on multiple series. It’s a given that certain writers need to work on multiple series to keep themselves fresh, because that’s the way their brain works, etc. Again, I’m not here to discuss that because all that has been covered.

Rather, I’m going to discuss the business aspects of working on multiple projects, the way this happens on the backend that might not be entirely obvious to readers (or newer writers!), business considerations and mythbusting.


Perhaps one of the biggest reasons for working on multiple projects at a time is timing. Now, during the actual writing process (and I include plotting & drafting and revising here); if you are prone to exclusive focus, it’s not much an issue.

However, the moment you are done and ready to send your work to your editor, you run into timing issues.

  • booking your editor and waiting for them to revise your work can sometimes be off (significantly potentially) depending on how close you hit their deadlines
  • Most editors do something 10k a day (copy, line, proof – some faster, some slower). The editors I use most often take around 3-4 weeks minimum to finish a 100-150k book. That means, in general, I am looking at a downtime of 3-4k while waiting for the copy edits to return from the first book.

Now, you might be thinking, I can work on the second book. And yes, I could. However, the concern is plot holes and problematical scenes being caught in the copy/line edit stage (nevermind dev editing! That’s even more likely to happen if you do it that way). It makes it tricky (for me at least) to work on the next book before at least copy & line editing is done and finalised.

So downtime that needs to be filled. Which is why another series or a bunch of shorts are extremely useful. A short series (say 40-60k) theoretically could fill that space, with only minimal gap in time before you tackle the original series (if you write fast. Obviously, timing and how many projects you take on varies per writer).

It’s why even when a writer wants to work on one series, it might not necessarily be viable. If they are working in trad pub, this can be even worse in terms of timing. I know people who have deals agreed upon but wait 6+ months to even see their contracts.

Book 1 and Series Sales

It’s a given fact (among most writers) that book one of a series will sell more than other books. And, for the most part, this is quite true. It’s highly unlikely you will see more book 2 sales than book 1.

The usual maxim though is that series sales are better than standalone sales because as you build up sales over a series, your total series sales increase. That’s pretty true (see my writing in a series and Hidden Wishes analysis posts).

However, this is not always true. One thing to consider is that if you have a hit series, later books can easily outsell book 1 (initial) sales. For example, say book 1 sells 100 copies. Every month afterwards, you get 20 new readers. It takes you another 6 months to publish a 2nd book.

Book 2 readthrough rate is 50%, so by the time book 2 publishes, you have (50% and 100 + 6 * 20 = 220) readers. In that case, you actually sell 110 books of book 2, which is HIGHER than your book 1 sales.

Now, this almost never happens with book 2’s as far as I know. I have, however, seen my subsequent books from 4 or 5 onwards generate more income than book 1 initially in my System Apocalypse and A Thousand Li series.

Of course, this does NOT always hold true. More below.

Generating New Fans

Writing in a new series helps create new fans. After all, whether it’s your covers or blurbs or just slightly different take on the same topic, you can generate new eyeballs by having more than one book 1.

However, while it’s true you do get new eyeballs and new readers on new books, it does not mean you will get new fans. I went into detail about fan types and true fans, and the numbers I get in another post.

Suffice to say that it’s rare to get ‘true’ fans who cross across genres and even if fans will cross series in the same genre, that number is lower than you’d expect. If you have a hit series, you’d still be better off writing in that series, than writing a new series from a pure business perspective in most cases.

Writing in Trilogies are Best / Standalones or Complete Series are Good

So, one of the evolving realisations I’ve had is that having a finished trilogy or series does not always mean you’ll get a book 3 bump in series sales (though it’s still likely better than book 2 series sales) or even renewed interest in that series because ‘it’s complete’. Sometimes, books or series just die on the vine, as marketing or series conception just does not hit.

Now, there’s always ways to try again (new covers, new blurbs, etc.) but sometimes, a series is unrecoverable.

And while I think writers should develop series such that they can end the series at books 1/3/5/6/9, etc. so that they can complete a series, this works for writers with more experience who can envision and develop ‘ending’ points at those stages.

It’s a skill that not everyone has developed, especially in ‘new’ genres like LitRPG. Nevermind the skillset to write ‘complete’ standalone books in a series that do not require you to read previous books in that series. That’s very tricky, and in some ways, almost impossible with the progression fantasy nature of our genre unless you remove the (majority) of the progression side.

Lastly, this problem of insufficient sales is particularly concerning for slower writers. It’s one thing for me to sacrifice 1-5 months writing the ending of a series. It’s another thing for an author who writes one book a year to sacrifice an entire productive year of writing to a series that might sell a few hundred books at most.

More Series, More Chances of a Hit

This I think isn’t so much of a myth as just reality. Personally, I now have like… 7 series and of those, only two would be what I consider ‘hit’ series. The others have done okay to not great. And I have to think that many of my ‘non-great’ series only do as well as they do because those are other fans from my other series coming over.

So, yes, the more works you write, the more chances you have of hitting it big. Yet, I can’t help but agree that if readers see multiple series abandoned (which, btw, is why 2 of those series are structured to be complete works in each book and are thus ‘complete’ already and I’ve already completed 1 other series and will be finishing 2 more by this time next year) they will write an author off due to concerns they will never finish.

Of course, communication helps. But… there’s a certain point where you have to bite the bullet and realise you need to finish the work you started. Or, you know, unpublish those old series that never caught on so that you don’t poison the well for new readers.

Anyway, I think that’s it for me on series thoughts. I’ve got a bunch of other posts about other practical aspects, of writing and numbers and what not. Have a read, maybe some other things are covered there.

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