Why I Probably Should Have Had More Than One Book Ready Before I Published

As I mentioned in a prior blog post, I’ve had a number of people ask me about independent / self publishing.  I decided to write more posts about what I’m doing regarding said publishing, why I’m doing it, and what I’m doing wrong in the hopes it may help others.  This is one of those posts.

In order to write this post, and those that might follow, I have reserved a meeting space in the woods (for the fairly high price of four bags of non-genetically modified corn) so I can reach out to the little furry woodland creatures in the area who are interested in indie publishing.  Hopefully this will generate some synergy and dialogue to make these posts more worthwhile (aka entertaining).

Let us begin…


*Betsy is sitting on a boulder in the middle of a clearing, deep in a forest*  *After a moment, small woodland creatures enter and settle around the boulder*  *Specifically, there are two bunnies, four squirrels, an opossum, and a  hedgehog*

*Betsy looks at her audience and frowns*  This is it?  There were supposed to be flyers.

*The woodland creatures shrug*

Well, okay.  *Betsy clears her throat*  Today’s presentation is about why it is better to write a series, and to have more than one book in the series written before you publish the first book in the series.

*The creatures all pull out their various tablet computers and dutifully tap a few notes* *The hedgehog raises her paw*


Why should we listen to you?

*Betsy smiles*  Because I did it wrong.

*The hedgehog frowns*  That’s not good.

No, it is.  Because I did it wrong, I can tell you why it was wrong and why I did it anyway even though I knew it was probably wrong and what I’m thinking I’m going to do about it now.

*The hedgehog keeps frowning*  What if you’re doing other things wrong?

Oh, I’m sure that I am.  *Betsy smiles confidently* But I can only talk about what I know I did wrong now that I know I did it wrong.  If I’m still doing it wrong, and I don’t know it’s wrong yet, then I can’t tell you it’s wrong.  Right?

*The woodland creatures look at each other*

Okay. *The hedgehog sounds uncertain*

*Betsy adjusts papers*  Good.  So when you first think that you’re going to be a fiction writer, most experts tell you that you should write a series, and that you should have several books in the series ready before you publish.  Does anyone know how many books you’re supposed to have finished before you publish?

*Paws are raised*

Yes? *Betsy points at the opossum*

Lynn Kurland said you should have at least three books ready.

*Betsy points at a squirrel*

Liliana Hart said you should have at least five books done.

That’s right.  *Betsy nods*  I would say that Liliana Hart is more correct.  I’ve heard multiple authors say they didn’t start to make any sales at all until the fifth book was out.  So, let’s say the more books you have ready in a series, the better.

*A small squirrel looks up from his tablet*  Is that what you did?

*Betsy smiles benevolently*  Good heavens, no!  Can anyone guess what I said to myself when I was starting?

Oh!  Oh!

Yes?  *Betsy points to the gesticulating bunny*

*She clears her throat*  You said, “Dear God, if I wait until I have five books ready, I’ll be a hundred years old! I’m not going to wait!  I’m putting it out now!”

*Betsy nods* Yes.  Yes, I did.

*A large, aggressive squirrel frowns*  So that was wrong?

*Betsy leans back on the boulder*  Oh my, yes.  The experts are right.  If you can wait, you should have several books in a series written before you publish the first one.

*The aggressive squirrel persists*  So then it was bad.

Not exactly.

*The squirrel shakes his head* Huh?

*Betsy smiles*  I don’t really regret what I did.  I was so terrified of publishing, that if I’d waited I probably would never have followed through. For me, it was definitely more important to get the books out there. And for the Hardy Falls books, publishing has helped me work my way through the learning curve of independent publication. But it really wasn’t the best idea to put the books out one at a time, with a year (or years) in between.

Why does it matter anyway? *The opossum is squinting*  So what if you don’t have them all done?

*Betsy shakes her head sagely*  Think about the age we live in. In the same way that people binge-watch Netflix or Hulu, they pack their Kindles with books and binge-read. We love book series in the same way we love television series. We want to invest in characters or a place for multiple books, not just one. We want to live with these people. That’s especially true in romance, where series and trilogies have a long history, but it’s equally true for every genre.  Think “Lord of the Rings.”

Ooooohhhhh.  *Tapping from various tablets*

So, not only do you want to put out a series, you want to have multiple books in the series ready to go when you start. In our world, there are just too many distractions competing for people’s attention. Too many movies. Too many shows. Too many games. Too many books. If you can’t deliver new books relatively quickly, you are forgotten and lose any momentum you might be building. Millions of authors are publishing books every day, there are plenty of other things for people to read. They will forget you in a heartbeat.

Like you.  *A squirrel looks up*  You aren’t delivering quickly at all.

*Betsy squirms*  Well, um, no.

So do we have to take years and years and have the whole series ready first?  *One of the bunnies is frowning*

Well, no.  But if you have a couple of books ready, you can publish them every month or every two months for a while. That keeps your name out there in the new release column and gives you time to be working on the next books while you’re finding your audience. And if people like your books, you have a backlist for them to work through.

Instead of just one or two.  *The hedgehog mutters*

Right.  And if you are a reader like me, you’ve waited to start a series because you wanted to see if the author would let it drop or if they would persevere. There’s nothing I hate more than starting a series and being left hanging because the author doesn’t continue. I often don’t even start reading a series until there are at least three books out there.

*The frowning bunny continues to frown*   Which is why it was stupid for you to write the prequel to “Handling It” first, instead of immediately writing Hardy Falls book 2

*Betsy fidgets*  Um, right.  But I had my reasons.  *Woodland creatures stare at her*  I did!  Except, um, at the moment I don’t have any proof that the series is going to move forward, because I kind of took it backward.

So what are you going to do now?  *The hedgehog sounds a little dubious*

*Betsy beams*  Well, I’m glad you asked.  Hardy Falls Book 2 takes place in the time leading up to Thanksgiving. Book 2.5 takes place between Thanksgiving and Christmas. So instead of rushing to get them published, I’m planning to release them in the fall.

Assuming you get them done.  *The frowning bunny frowns*

Then I can release them in the appropriate season, and I’ll be able to release 2 and 2.5 closer together.

If they’re done.  *The frowning bunny crosses her arms*

And I’ll be working to make sure Hardy Falls Book 3 can come out soon after Book 2.5

If you get it done.  *The frowning bunny taps a foot*

*Betsy winces* Uh, right.

But you won’t have any new books until the fall, then. *The hedgehog is frowning too*

*The aggressive squirrel shrugs*  Does it matter?  She doesn’t have any momentum anyway.

*Now Betsy is frowning*  Hey! I need to have things to publish.  Then I’ll worry about momentum.

*The opossum looks stern*  As long as you actually get the books done.

Right.  *The frowning bunny agrees*

Yes!  Yes!  *Betsy throws up her hands*  It all depends on whether or not I get the books finished.

*The woodland creatures exchange looks*  *They all shake their heads and gather up their tablet computers*  *One by one, they leave the post*

*Betsy calls after them*  Don’t forget to come back now!  Lots more to say!





  1. Good point about the attention spans today, and how people want to read a whole slew of books in the same family. I wonder how long it took to write The Lensmen series? I’ll bet he didn’t have them all ready at once, but back then people waited to read series in magazines until the whole book was there.

    • Betsy Horvath says

      @Athena: The pulp writers (although I’m not sure Doc Smith would be considered a pulp writer) were churning out books so quickly that it’s basically the same idea – you build your audience by being in front of your audience. Isaac Asimov always had three typewriters with three different stories going at the same time – and he wrote over 500 books/stories. If you’re writing more slowly – like me at the moment – it’s nice to have a backlist before you publish so you can stay in front of your audience while you’re working on the next book. But I didn’t do that. 🙂

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