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?


  1. While I have not yet jumped onto the Series Bandwagon, my latest book is angled for just such an event. I'm seeing how well it does before I continue.

    So I would add this: Don't write the whole series before you see if the market likes it. It's a huge drag on time if you write books in a series (such as you mentioned) that readers will not pursue.

    I would also add that my take on series is to make them all ~unique~. One of the best series I've read is Ender's Game. You can pick up any of the books in the series and read it without the others. Each has its own plot and approach. Each is unique in its own way. Many fantasy books (such as Shannara) simply re-write the first book three times. Don't do that. The joke is only funny the first time you hear it.

    Also, it's nice to grow the characters from book to book. Many series read more like a sit-com, where they begin and end with the same characters returning to their steady-state existence, rather than changing with the covers.

    I don't read many series, and I get stuck when they become redundant. Give me something ~new~ each time, that separates this book from the last, and maybe I'll pick it up and read it.

    - Eric

  2. Solid advice, as always, Jody.

    I'm a series-writer, myself. I never feel like one book is enough to satisfy me, either as a reader or as a writer, so I look at everything with an eye to its series potential. And nothing is quite as disappointing as seeing a series start strong, then fall down in later books.

  3. I know what you mean. I got hooked on the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon simply because I fell in love with the characters and had to know what happened to them. The books are way too long but I didn´t care, I just had to read them. I don´t often read a complete series either (except for Harry Potter of course) These are great tips to keep in mind. I write a series as well, although the books are stand alone and do not need to be read in sequence.

  4. Likable characters and a strong plot. I could get into Maze Runner. Didn't care what happened to any of them. Read Divergent and Insurgent and the second book was such a disappointment I never read the third. Hunger Games was the same but I went ahead and read the third. The only thing I can remember is that it seems like it's a long list of people who die. Harry Potter I quit with #4 because the writing was getting worse and worse and so many scenes that seemed to serve no purpose.

    There are other series where I've felt a sense of loss when the series were done because I knew I'd miss the characters. Crazy, huh?

  5. This is so true. Making secondary characters worth the trouble is key. In my underwater shifter series my original couple adopted a blind toddler. My readers email me that they love watching Cole grow and bond with his family.

    Great article.


© All the articles in this blog are copyrighted and may not be used without prior written consent from the author. You may quote without permission if you give proper credit and links. Thank you!