Ideas for Promoting a Series

ideasAs the author of the Bonded By Blood Vampire Chronicles, I've run into a few challenges with promoting the other books in my series after Book 1.

The biggest challenge has been trying to get people to review the 2nd, 3rd or [insert #] book in my series when the reviewer hasn't read the previous books. Though the books in my series can be read as standalones, there is the over-arching storyline the reader might miss out on if they read the books out of order.

So how do you catch a reader up to the main storylines of the previous books without them having to read the books? The Synopsis!!

I know…I can hear you groaning now, but the full synopsis can be a great marketing tool! AND if you convert it to an eBook, you can send it to the reviewer with a nice cover image, your publishing and copyright information and buy links.

The Synopsis

Remember the synopsis is not the back of the book blurb. This will have the beginning, middle and end of your story. And when I mean end…I mean it needs to tell the reader how the book ends. This is most definitely the spoiler…but if you write it in a way that is intriguing, they'll want to read the wonderful details of the actual novel, which might encourage some sales. If not, they'll at least get the gist of the other books and won't be missing out when they read a book in the middle of the series.
If you're an author who has pitched the first books in your series, you may already have a synopsis, because that's probably what you submitted to the publisher. Dust that puppy off and get ready to work on a few rewrites!
However, if you're a self-published author, you probably do NOT have a synopsis for your books. As an ex-content editor for two publishers, I learned a few things about how to improve the synopsis and make it POP! As such, here are some tips and suggestions on writing or revising your summary:
  • Stay Focused – Focus on the important elements of the story that move the main plot forward. In my first novel, the whole sub-plot revolving around my heroine's handmaid enhanced my story and pushed the plot along in the novel, but for the purposes of the synopsis, I hardly mention this side story…unless it's necessary to mention for the main plot.
  • Include the Series Arc – Be sure to mention the elements that are important for your overall arcing story for your series.
  • Pull Those Heart Strings! Try to include the emotions of your tale. Even though you're writing a summary, you can still pull the reader's heart strings. As an editor, I have read a few synopses that had made me cry. You can bet your pah-tootie  I asked for that manuscript! It can be done!
  • Don't be afraid of word count – I would recommend 5-10 pages for your synopsis. Remember, you're saving the reading from having to read hundreds of pages, so a long synopsis is not a chore to read…unless you make it really boring.
  • Breathe Life into Your Story – With that said…since you have the space, include the details that bring your world to life…but be sparing.
  • Get it Edited! Have your critique partner read it. Even better…have your editor read it!

Make an eBook out of It!

Once your synopsis is finished, you'll want to package it like you do an eBook. Read my How to Convert Your Novel into Multiple eBook Formats four-part series to learn how to do that if you aren't familiar with the process. This series will touch on how to make an MS Word document into an eBook and then convert to other formats.

The image at the beginning of this article is the image I've used as the “book cover” for my synopses of Books 1, 2 & 3 (click here to see a larger version). Additionally, here's a link to the eBook template I use to publish my novels. Just plug in your image, your information and your synopses and you can package the summaries for the books in your series just like you do an eBook. You can then e-mail the summaries and the eBook you'd like them to review as attachments. Reviewers can then load your synopses onto their eReaders just like they would your book!

Other Ideas for Promoting Your Series

Create a Lead Magnet

frostbitten-hearts-bundle-coverA lead magnet is the marketing term for a FREE sample of your product that you give out to anyone and everyone for promotion. For authors, that could the first book in your series (see Loss Leader below), but I recommend writing a smaller eBook – a short story or a novella – no more than 30k words. Here are some suggestions for lead magnets:

  • Prequel to your main series
  • Spin-off story featuring side characters
  • Deleted chapters
  • Collection of character interviews written in novel format (to show your writing style AND introduce your characters)

My lead magnet is Frostbitten Hearts, which is a novella that takes place just after Book 4 in my series. Since I've designed the story to be a standalone, readers won't need to read my main series in order to understand the book. However, it teases them enough by showing them the world in which my series takes place, my style of writing and it hints at the bigger plots in the main series – GREAT way to entice readers to want to explore the rest of my books.

Create a Loss Leader

If you've self-published your series, then you should have control over your pricing. Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, has said at several seminars that many bestselling authors have at least ONE of their books for free. And he has the sales charts to back up his recommendation. If you've written a series, the best book to have free is the first one. Get them hooked on your series with the first book and readers will be more willing to buy the rest in your series. In marketing, the free book is called a “loss leader”.

I dropped Midnight Conquest (Book 1) down from $3.99 to 99 cents when Midnight Captive (Book 2) came out in February 2013. My sales were okay for a few weeks, but diminished pretty quickly. In July 2013, I made Midnight Conquest perma-free and the sales quadrupled! It was the best thing I could have done for my career. (UPDATE: As of 9/21/16, my entire series is enrolled in KDP Select, and my books are in the Kindle Unlimited program. For now, it's making me a good chunk of money. I'm looking for alternatives to having all my eggs in one basket and I'm open to ideas! Leave your comments below!)

Tour Your Series

Need a pick-me-up on your sales for the whole series? How about having a series tour? Contact a number of blogs and ask if they'll host your series for a day (blurbs, book covers, bio & buy links). Schedule those blogs out over a week or two and be sure to interact with readers on the comments. Don't just have those bloggers work hard to post your books and then you're a no-show. That's rude and you're missing out on interacting with their audience. You help them by increasing traffic to their sites. That's why they're hosting you!

I used to be a huge advocate of gift cards…but not so much anymore. One thing I've learned, and other successful authors have confirmed, BOOKS SELL BOOKS. Period. Giving away necklaces and bath items and gift cards and all that other stuff may drive traffic to your events, but the point is to drive awareness of your novels (aka all your hard work) and get people to buy more of your books.

So, give away free copies of your books, but be sparing. Tell them about the 1st book in your series being free and then give one or two copies of the other books in your series from the list of people who comment.

IMPORTANT: Make sure the first stop on your tour is at YOUR website or blog! Encourage readers to sign up for your mailing list or newsletter when they're there. You might want to consider ending the tour at your site, too. For tips on how to create a mailing list people will want to join AND gather genuine interest in your books, read my Mailing List Series.
TIP: Try to pick reader blogs that are decorated like the theme of your books. If you write historical, try to find blogs that look historical in graphics and decor. Paranormal novels should find stops that attract lovers of vampires, werewolves and the like. You get the idea? For a wide-spread reach, you might want to hire a book tour company. I recommend Literati Author Services. They're not only good, they're affordable.
UPDATE: Blog tours are not as effective as they used to be, so be cautious of putting a lot of money into them. If you do a blog tour, focus very hard on driving people to join your mailing list. If you're giving away your loss leader or lead magnet, then use something like BookFunnel or InstaFreebie to distribute the free eBook AND collect their email addresses, too! If you do a giveaway for gift cards, pay the extra money to have people give you their email address. Rafflecopter, WishPond and Don't let those people escape with getting a free book and not giving something back in return – like their email address.

Please Share Your Tips

Do you have a series and have you been successful at promoting it? Share some tips in the comments below! We can all help each other out by sharing what's worked.
That's my two pence…

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