How To Get Readers To Read Your Entire Series

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

I rarely read an entire series. I've started countless first books in a series but never gone on to read the books that follow. Even with popular and exciting series, I usually have a hard time reading beyond the first book or two.

For example, I read The Selection and The Elite by Kiera Cass (which I liked), but didn't read the other two. I read The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials by James Dashner. But I haven't felt compelled to read further. Even though I've read all the books in the Hunger Games trilogy, I only read the third one because I hate seeing a movie-adaptation without reading the book first.

I began to believe I just wasn't cut out to read series, that I'm more of a stand-alone kind of girl. But this summer, I've proven myself wrong. I landed upon a series that I'm devouring by Susan May Warren. I started the first book in the series, Take a Chance on Me, through Audible, and then quickly went on to read all the rest that are currently published.

I couldn't keep from wondering what it was about Warren's books that hooked me and kept me wanting to continue reading, especially with my inability to read series. Since series are hot right now and most authors are doing them (including me!), I reminded myself of a few key factors that may help inspire readers to keep reading further into a series (instead of stopping like I usually do):

1.Make future lead characters especially likable. Give readers a secondary character to root for, one that they can't wait to see brought to life and given a happily-ever-after. That minor character obviously can't overshadow the main characters, but he or she needs to be on stage and win the hearts of readers.

2. Consider having something that can tie all of the books together. In Warren's series, the large family and the setting run through all of the stories. Warren brings both to life so richly that you feel at home with the people and place. Because of that, you can't wait to return and see what will happen next.

3. Give each book in the series its own complex plot with a 3 Act Structure. I'm sure you've read books in a series that seem more like segments or scenes of one much longer book. The Ruby Red Series by Kirsten Gier was that way. All three books happen in a about a two week time span and each book simply continues the story where the last left off. While that can work, there's something more satisfying about books that have their own complex plot with a definite beginning, crisis, and resolution.

4. If main characters carry over into future books, make sure they're well developed. If readers don't fall in love with the hero and heroine in the first book, then they won't care enough about the characters to go on another adventure with them in future books.

5. Touch readers on an emotional level with each book. Draw them in so that they cry and laugh and care enough that they want to keep going. When we are able to bring readers into the story deeply, they gain a connection that makes them want to have that same emotional experience again, in the next book.

6. Keep the later books in the series simple. Sometimes authors try too hard to weave in information from previous books. When there are too many names, places, and events, readers may have a difficult time keeping everything straight. And all of that information starts to bog down the story.

7. Have smooth story-telling and smooth writing techniques. That's a given for all books. But it's even more important for a series. If readers are jarred by story-issues or awkward writing, they'll obviously think twice about picking up the next book in the series, even if they ended up liking the story.

What about YOU? What makes you move beyond book one to read the future books in a series?

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