Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Eight Ways to Launch a Series--By Linda Kozar

When The Fat Ladies Sing Cozy Mystery Series

Not that I'm an expert or anything. I've come this far by learning, reading, listening and experimenting. Did I mention praying? Well I did that too. A lot of that.

Everyone knows that experience is what you get when you expected something else. And I've learned a lot by the experience of failure. But instead of curling up into a ball of self-pity, I used my stubborn drive to succeed in a positive way and a kept on trying new things.

Where ever you are in the publishing process, I hope you'll benefit from what I've learned. Of course we all know that experience is non-transferrable. Ask any parent. But you might just try to absorb some of this stuff and save yourself the trouble of learning the hard way. Like I did.

By the way, I'm still learning, and trying and doing. But mostly writing. Because I'm a writer, not a shady salesman flashing my books to readers from a dingy trench coat. The part of marketing that drives me is simply connecting potential readers with my books. The decision as to whether or not to like those books belongs to them. My part is to deliver on the promise, to meet reader's expectations, to be true to the characters, true to my voice and true to the God I serve wholeheartedly.

1.   Pick out an engaging name for your book series and your brand.

The first and second books in my series were contracted by Barbour Publishing back in 2008, but only the first book was actually published. Happily, I was paid for both!!! My editor and I were talking on the phone and in a burst of inspiration, she came up with the name for the series. At first I thought she was joking, but I soon realized she was serious, so I mulled it over in my head. It seemed like a good fit--intriguing, even engaging, so I agreed.

2.   Make sure each story revolves around the main character(s), along with a cast of interchangeable, yet memorable secondary characters. 

While the main character(s) should evolve and grow, resist the urge to radically change or cause them to act or react in a manner contrary to their personal code of ethics they've followed in previous books. Readers will feel betrayed, even angry if your characters behave "out of character."

3.   The books in a series should have a visual continuity that daisy-chains them together.

Visual cues stimulate a reader's memory. Each book should visually tie-in with the other books in the series. The books should be instantly recognizable to fans. My "When The Fat Ladies Sing" series covers (above) each have:
  • Similar slanted banners
  • Bright, cheerful colors
  • Quirky, playful art work
Another element to consider, one I have yet to implement, is to have all the covers in a series designed at once and to include a piece of a larger image on the spine of each book. When all the print books are together and in order on the shelf, the unique design would then be revealed. This is my dream!

4.   Include a list of each book in the series, linked to Amazon or other online bookstores.

The back of your book should include a comprehensive list of all books in your series, even those not yet written. List the titles you plan to write so your readers will keep checking to see if your new one has come out.

Each title should be linked to an online store where readers can conveniently purchase the other books in the series.

5.   Include a QR Code to your author website.

Google a QR Code Generator to create your free QR Code. You can even personalize the QR with a cover from your latest release or the first book in the series. Worked for me! Here's mine:

6.   Offer the first book in your series free for either a limited time or permanently.

This technique will trigger a large spike in sales of the other books in the series. The only downside might be a landslide of reviews from those who downloaded the free book. There will be good reviews and certainly bad ones as well.*

7.   Consider publishing a digital boxed set after the series is complete.

Readers who are new to your series will appreciate being able to acquire the entire set without waiting for the next release to come out. And if they become fans, they will eagerly look for other books you've written--ideally more series!

8.   Release a special Christmas (novella or short story) edition with a bonus of some sort.

*Many authors and publishing houses offer these books free as a way to interest readers in acquiring the other books in the series. It is actually better to offer this edition rather than the first book in the series free of charge. There isn't usually as much personal and financial investment (hiring editorial help, etc.) in writing a shorter book.

Include mouth-watering recipes appropriate to the season as a bonus to your readers. Or come up with other innovative ideas to satisfy fans.

Below is my Special Christmas edition set to release SOON. If you'll notice, it's not branded like the others. Why? Because I fell in love with the design and made the cover myself. And...I'm still experimenting.

My Special Christmas Edition releases October 2014

Linda Kozar is the co-author of Babes With A Beatitude—Devotions For Smart, Savvy Women of Faith (Hardcover/eBook, Howard/Simon & Schuster 2009) and author of Misfortune Cookies (Print, Barbour Publishing 2008), Misfortune Cookies, A Tisket, A Casket, Dead As A Doornail, (“When The Fat Ladies Sing Series,” eBooks, Spyglass Lane Mysteries, 2012). The series continues with, That Wasn't Chicken, 2014. Strands of Fate released October 2012), (Hardcover/eBook, Creative Woman Mysteries). Her latest foray into indie publishing, produced Alligator Pear, (historical fiction) and her nonfiction anthology Moving Tales, Adventures in Relocation, (2013). Doomsday Devotions released in June, 2014. She received the ACFW Mentor of the Year Award in 2007, founded and served as president of Writers On The Storm, The Woodlands, Texas ACFW chapter for three years. In 2003, she co-founded, co-directed and later served as Southwest Texas Director of Words For The Journey Christian Writers Guild.

In addition to writing Linda is Lead Host of the Gate Beautiful Radio Show, part of the Red River Network on Blog Talk Radio—interviewing Christian authors from Debut to Bestselling, airing the 3rd Thursday of every month. She and her husband Michael, married 25 years, have two lovely daughters, Katie and Lauren and a Rat Terrier princess named Patches.

Member of: CAN (Christian Authors Network), RWA (Romance Writers of American), NHRWA (North Houston Romance Writers of America), ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), Writers On The Storm, The Woodlands, Texas Chapter of ACFW, Toastmasters (Area 56) The Woodlands, Texas, The Woodlands Church, The Woodlands, TX.

Represented by Amanda Luedeke, MacGregor Literary.


  1. Great post, Linda! I am so going to use some of these awesome ideas for my series. You rock!

    ~Nancy Jill

  2. Thanks so much Nancy! I wanted to share more, but I need to test out my ideas before I do that.

  3. Thanks for sharing these ideas. I'm especially intrigued with the idea of the spines of a book creating an image.

  4. Beth--It's my dream! If I could redo the covers on my present mystery series, I would add sections of a fortune cookie to the spine of each book to form one big fortune cookie. How cool is that!

  5. Always enjoy your take on things. Great ideas to put to work. Thanks my friend.

  6. Thanks Janett--er! Miss you. Steer that vehicle to the Lone Star State, willya?

  7. Love your ideas, Linda. Hope to put them to use in my Mattie Mitchell series.