How to Write Book Two

Planning to write a series or stuck in the thick of it?

A stand-alone book is one thing, but there are some unique questions an author must ask themselves when writing a series.

I’ve only just begun the second book of my PSS Chronicles series, so I thought I would blog about this topic while it was still fresh in my mind.

Now, whether your first book ended in a cliff-hanger or has a full story arc of its own like my YA paranormal thriller Ghost Hand, the fact is, you are continuing that story in book two. You will be using many of the same characters, presumably the same world, possibly the same setting, and many of the plot components of book one will need to be expanded in book two. Here are some questions you should consider before launching straight into that second book.

POV:   Will you use the same point-of-view character or characters for book two?  When answering this, keep in mind that fans of book one may be disappointed if you switch POV characters, particularly if book one was from one POV or in first person. They got to know and love being that character, and they’re probably picking up book two to be that character again. You don’t want to lose readers you gained in book one by changing the POV they loved.

Story Time-Lapse:  How much time has elapsed in the story since book one? Does the story start up the minute after the first book left off? In most series, time has elapsed between books, and the reader must quickly be brought up to speed without the author doing too much telling or info dumping. Try to start the second book in a place of action, and let the characters slowly fill in, through internal thought or dialogue, what has happened since the last book.

Book Time-Lapse:  How much time has elapsed since the writing of the first book? If you are writing your second book directly after the first, then there is much less chance readers will have forgotten anything major from book one. However, if you are writing the second book years after book one, then you must take into consideration that readers may not remember much of it.

Marketing Questions: How is marketing the second book of a series different than marketing the first?

Book Two Covers:  If you’ve done it right, the first book of your series will have a distinct look, style and brand. Be sure to keep this same brand for the cover of subsequent books. Use the same designer, illustrator, cover model, and colors, if at all possible. If that isn’t possible, be sure to have your new cover designer looking at the first book cover and trying to match it. I also think it is very important to clearly mark the second book as the second in a series. Most people don’t want to buy a book or pick it up at the library, only to find, when they get home, that there is a book they should have read before it.

Shelf-Life: Try to imagine yourself as a reader or book buyer going into a book store or library and finding the second book of your series. Book one is all sold out, so all they have to go on as a selling point of your series is book two. What crucial information should be in and on that book for you to sell a book to that person that day? First, there should be clear information directly in the front of book two on where that buyer can get book one for themselves, both as an e-book and in print. Preferably, this would include a short hooking blurb about book one. This makes it more likely that they will buy book two that day, confident that they will like and can get book one soon. Second, the first chapter of book two should have a strong hook, something that even someone unfamiliar with the series would find interesting, rather than confusing. Ideally, you want book two to do much more than sell itself; you also want it to sell book one, and any subsequent books of the series.

Two-Directional Marketing: Most importantly, don’t forget to market book two to all the fans who read and loved book one. You already have an audience, and your job is to keep it, and build it. So, don’t forget to market back towards the audience you have, and forward to the audience you hope to gain.  

Bringing the Reader Up to Speed:  There are several different approaches that can be used in a second book to bring readers up to speed on the story.

The synopsis method: One way is to have a 1-2 page synopsis of the first book at the beginning of the second book, but I do not recommend this. You want to sell your first book, not just your second book. Why would a reader/buyer bother seeking out your first book if they can read a summation of it right there in book two. Plus, this kind of synopsis can’t help but dumb down the wonderful plot and twists of your first book and make it seem dull in comparison. The most you should use in your second book is the hook or cover blurb of the first book, along with some glowing review blurbs.

The info-dump method: This is where the writer uses the characters and the first few chapters to tell the reader what happened in book one. Again, this is not recommended because you want the reader/buyer to need to read book one so you can sell it too. Not to mention that info-dumping annoys the reader and impedes good storytelling.

The integrated method:  It takes skill and some thought, but the ideal scenario would be to integrate just enough information from book one to make book two understandable and interesting. This info should be sprinkled subtly throughout the first few chapters of book two as it builds to its own unique story arc.

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Ripley Patton lives in a 22-foot camper in the woods of Southern Illinois with a cat named Lemmy. Her two young adult children, a daughter and a son, are her favorite people. When Ripley's not out exploring nature and getting her hands dirty, she's usually reading or writing a book.

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