Last week, I gave two presentations at the ECPA Publishing University conference where I shared details about the rise of self-publishing along with a talk on how to sell more books on Amazon for free. However, during the conference, I had the opportunity to meet Jerry Jenkins, who is one of the most successful authors of our era. Jerry has written over 195 books, which have sold over 70 million copies with 21 New York Times bestsellers.
Jerry has written non-fiction biographies for notable figures, such as Hank Aaron, Billy Graham, Walter Payton, and Joe Gibbs. But, he is best known for writing a series of novels called Left Behind. That string of 19 books has sold over 63 million copies. The first book in the series was published in 1995. Yet, Jerry told me that sales for the franchise are still going strong even after 23 years in print.
Jerry’s success provides a major lesson for any author who wants to establish a long-term career. If you want to make a big-time living from your books, here’s the secret…
Write books in a series.
Writing a sequence of related books may seem like an obvious idea, but few authors take full advantage of the power that a series offers. Yet, if you review the most successful authors in history, the majority wrote books as part of a trilogy or multi-book series that turned into a huge franchise, such as:
Agatha Christie, J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien, Danielle Steel, Dr. Seuss, James Patterson, Robert Ludlum, Nora Roberts, Lee Child, Jeff Kinney, C.S. Lewis, Clive Cussler, Arthur Conan Doyle, etc.
Creating a series can also send a non-fiction author’s career into the stratosphere, such as the Bill O’ Reilly Killing series, The 5 Love Languages series by Dr. Gary Chapman, the You’re a Badass series by Jen Sincero, the Boundaries series by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, etc.
When you create a franchise of books, your ability to sell more copies is dynamically enhanced by several factors:
1. If readers like Book #1 in the series, there is a natural progression to leads them to buy Book #2 and the next one in the sequence. It’s like a domino effect that creates consecutive sales on an automatic basis.
2. A book series enables the author to make a lot more money per each individual reader, which creates the potential for exponential income growth.
3. A book series enables the author to gain larger “shelf space” awareness within bookstores and online retailers. Plus, there are multiple entry points for readers to discover the author. It’s like having ten doors to enter a house versus only one.
4. A book series enables the author to make up for a misfire. If readers don’t like one of the books in a series, the other books can help make up for the loss. For example, not every James Bond book is great, but people move on and read the other books written by Ian Fleming.
5. A book series enables the author to be more aggressive giving away free content to boost discovery or build an email list. For example, novelist Mark Dawson gives away the first book in his 15-part John Milton spy thriller series. His generosity is strategic, because it allows people to try his material at no risk and build an email list of over 80,000 subscribers. Giving away a free book doesn’t hurt his income, because Mark has 14 other books in the series to sell to happy readers.
You’ve probably guessed that I’m going down a similar path by creating my new Author’s Guides series. I hope you will buy all three of my new books, because they are equally beneficial. But, I am also planning several follow-up books to release in 2019, such as:
The Author’s Guide to Public Speaking
The Author’s Guide to Media Interviews
and so on…
Not every book belongs in a series. But, every author has the opportunity to create a series. If you’re serious about creating a long-term career as a writer, then think seriously about developing a series of books. Every author wants happy readers. But, when you create a franchise of happy readers, then you get a very happy author.