Five Things I’ve Learned About Shared Series

Reading a great series, who doesn’t love it? I know I’m the type who might wait for the whole series to be out so I can binge read it, one book after the other.

So why wouldn’t I want to write for a publisher who ONLY publishes shared series?


Well, duh. I would. And I do.

You’ve heard me declare my love for my small publishers before. If you need a refresher, find it here.

But what is a shared series? And do I love writing for it as much as I enjoy reading a series by my favorite author?

A Shared Series

A shares series is a little different. It’s series written by multiple authors around a common theme or location. There might be appearances from previous (and future) main characters, but the “shared” element is generally a place or situation.

 

Five Things I Learned

1. You Need a Series Bible

I didn’t realize how important this would be until I wrote my manuscript, and I wanted to know things about St. Judith, Virginia, where MOMMY LOVES THE BANKER takes place.

Simple things like:

  • Where is this bank in relation to where my shero lives?
  • What are the baseball fields like?
  • What sort of neighborhoods are there?
  • How far is the bank from the baseball fields?
  • Who else lives around here that my people can talk to

And there was nothing. We knew there was a military base nearby, and we collaborated on names for the schools.

Those things were discussed and decided upon in our group, but after that, it was only a sketchy outline of a commercial district and a residential area.

So I floundered around trying to get a feeling for this setting. Thankfully, I was able to read a couple other books that preceded mine, but still the town felt vague and unformed to me.

A series Bible names businesses. It gives a general map of the important locations. It also mentions and describes any CHARACTERS who might be available to be shared (which they often aren’t because my characters are copyrighted along with my story.)

All these things were provided for the First Street Church series, so I took them for granted when I applied to right for the MOMMY’S LITTLE MATCHMAKERS series.

2. You Want to Work with Other Professionals

Most of us author-types work in a room by ourselves. When I’m creating, I don’t care if I EVER leave the room. In my office, the characters are real and their story is essential.

But in the larger world, I want—no NEED—to interact with other authors.

I expected to become “friends” with the people in this shared series. I would read their stories. They would read mine. We’d talk about the town of St. Judith and how to weave more reality into our plots.

It would be one big happy family.

Except some people didn’t show up with anything more than the required posts. They didn’t offer input on questions or toss out ideas for naming things.

It’s like they wanted to be on their own.

Flakes aren’t just for breakfast. Sometimes they show up at work, too.


3. Leadership is Key

I’ve taken several personality quizzes and assessments. The one that always stands out for me is one my husband and I did together shortly after our first son was born.

I was a lion. He was a golden retriever. I don’t need to explain how that can create a less-than-favorable dynamic in a home where a wife WANTS to follow the Biblical concept of man-as-head of the marriage.

I demand a LOT from my leader. Mostly, I expect them to be present, prepared and ahead of the game.

But I’m a creative, so I don’t want them meddling with my creative stuff.

The first argument I had with the series leader was over the title of my book. After reading the reviews for my story, there are readers who are JUST as confused as I am about the requirements for having “Mommy” in the title when my story wasn’t about a mommy but a MIMI. Would it really kill anyone to rename it Mimi Loves the Banker?

After all, we were encouraged to use OTHER caregivers in the story so all the matchmaking wouldn’t be between moms and dads. But all the titles had to begin with “Mommy.”

Enough said about that.

4. You Can Ride a Successful Author’s Coattails

Honestly? This is why I wanted to be part of a shared series through Sweet Promise Press.

I know there are authors publishing there with thousands of followers and who make more in ONE HOUR than I made the first YEAR I was published.

My publisher is a marketing genius. She knows exactly how to leverage her reading audience, and that pays off with sales for authors like me who don’t have a huge personal following.

The series lead for MOMMY’S LITTLE MATCHMAKERS had been skyrocketing with another series she was writing. Another author said she had an email list of 12,000 names. Oh-kay. And I was so thrilled when I hit 500 followers (by the way, that swelled to over 800 with a promotion and has since dwindled back to 680, only 400 of which actually open my emails).

People would buy those early books. They would love them, and they’d keep reading the series. Even though it wasn’t by the author they loved, that author would be telling them to try the next book (mine) and that would generate sales.

Once people READ my story, I knew they would enjoy it. Hopefully they would convert into a follower of ME. Maybe someday other authors would want to join a series so they could ride MY coattails.

5. Professionalism of All Authors is Mandatory

In a shared series, each author is getting paid for their own title, sure. That’s different from the anthologies and collections I’ve been part of where there was ONE sale that had to be divided among all the participants.

SPP contracted each of us and guaranteed us our share of royalties from EVERY book we sell.

Contracted authors are surely professionals, right?

Well, they should be. And when members of a shared series drop the ball, they affect everyone else. Whatever tie-in was supposed to exist to keep readers engaged to buy the next book is important.
If there’s no communication from the author you’re intended to follow, how are you supposed to make that connection?

This was a dilemma that I faced. Partly because I draft my stories early. Looming deadlines do NOT improve the clarity of my prose.

Apparently, not all authors work the same way.

If you enter into a shared series, you should expect that you’ll need to stretch out of your writing comfort zone. That you’ll share your story with others writing BEFORE it’s ready for public consumption. Why? For series continuity.

If we’re all professional authors, that shouldn’t be a problem.

But having a book (or many books) published by big-name publishers doesn’t make an author understand this sort of professionalism.

Have you read anything from either of the shared series I’m part of? Do you enjoy reading a shared series as much as a series from a single author?

What do you think? Add to the discussion here.

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