Friday, 26 January 2018

Series Potential

By Fiona Veitch Smith

When pitching a book to an agent or publisher, a question often asked is: is there series potential? Although I am a fiction author, I know this applies to non-fiction too.


Non-fiction series

A search of any publisher’s website – an absolute must if you are planning on writing a book which you hope will one day be sold – shows that both fiction and non-fiction series dominate their lists. I remember once pitching a non-fiction book to a number of publishers and I was asked if it would fit in with any of their existing series or imprints. I quickly went and checked their lists and discovered that my book might very well have fit in terms of subject matter, but it had been written in a very different style. It was suggested I rework my book to the existing style and re-submit. As my fiction career began to take off at that time, I never got around to the rewrite.

 But the experience taught me something: if you want to get published you would be well advised to cut your clothes to your cloth. Writing for an existing series increases your chance of getting published. Writing your book first then checking to see if it fits in, decreases it. This is not to say there is no room for original books that stand out as different, but publishers are nervous about taking a chance on a completely new name. Being a new name but writing for an existing series, minimises the risk.

Click through here for examples of series published by DLT and SPCK.

Fiction series

I have authored three children’s series (one as a ghostwriter) and one adult series. In addition to that I have two adult stand-alones and one children’s standalone. Sales figures tell me the series always do better than the standalones. Unless you are very lucky (perhaps I should say ‘blessed’ as this is a Christian forum J ) a standalone title has a short shelf life. The majority of sales take place in the first year; thereafter they slow down, sometimes, sadly, to a standstill. However, with each new book in a series that is released, interest in the earlier books (the back list) is renewed. As an example, sales of my first two books in the Poppy Denby series had slowed by last summer, but with the release of the third book, The Death Beat, in the autumn, the first two books started selling again. Hence why publishers are interested in series: they build a following of dedicated readers. The same is true of my picturebook series of Young David and Young Joseph books – each new release stimulates sales of the older books. The flip side of this, for a writer, is that you may feel tied in to producing another book in the same series when you want to branch out into something new. But despite that, I feel that the advantages definitely outweigh the disadvantages.

Click through here for examples of series published by Lion Fiction.

Fiona Veitch Smith is a writer and writing tutor, based in Newcastle upon Tyne.. Her mystery novel The Jazz Files, the first in the Poppy Denby Investigates Series (Lion Fiction) was shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger award in 2016. The second book, The Kill Fee was a finalist for the Foreword Review mystery novel of the year 2016/17, and the third, The Death Beat, is out now. Her novel Pilate’s Daughter  a historical love story set in Roman Palestine, is published by Endeavour Press and her coming-of-age literary thriller about apartheid South Africa, The Peace Garden, is self-published under the Crafty Publishing imprint. Her children’s books The Young David Series and the Young Joseph Series  are published by SPCK. 


  1. Came on here to write my own blog post to find my books used as an example in yours :-) Thanks for featuring me! It's an interesting post. I've been feeling the expectation for a third 'heart' book already (from readers, that is) ...but I have to put that aside for now, and see what catches my passion, first! Series writing is great but I suppose you have to be quite disciplined, quite determined to see it through - would you agree? (That of course is looking at it from the perspective of the author, rather than publisher.)

    But I think my experience has taught me that readers do like a series; perhaps because the next book does not feel like such an unknown quantity. They've read and liked the first, so there is at least a chance they'll enjoy the second.

  2. Yes I think it is important to know when to bring a series to a close too. Not to become a slave to reader or publisher expectations. However, for you, three might be the number...