At KidLitVic 2018, three publishers shared their expertise and insight into the world of book series. Series were a long term investment for publisher and author. A good series (eg., the Narnia series by CS Lewis etc.,) will have readers read, follow and love the characters, their world and plot line. Michael Wagner, interviewer, lead the panel discussion. A snapshot follows.
1:30 – 2:30 Panel — Creating An Appetite For Series
Kimberley Bennett (Penguin Random House Australia), Lisa Berryman (Harper Collins Publishers Australia and New Zealand) and Marisa Pintado (Hardie Grant, Egmont).
- In series, voice is the first thing you notice. ‘It’s all about the voice’. It’s the way you write, speak and see the world. It entrances and keeps readers turning the page. Readers are drawn to characterisation, scenes of play… . Also focus on telling a good story, get it read, critiqued, put aside, re-worked, 15 drafts if needed. Your manuscript can be – if you wish, assessed and edited before submission, but it does not guarantee publisher will accept it.
- Trilogies are popular – huge investment for publishers. They allow time to see how series goes. One book every 12 months allows books to seed in market place. Publishers work on key trade accounts, look at sell through from bookshops, big push in the market to teacher/librarians, bookshops etc., Use long lead in time, 10 months before publication would be ideal.
- Books often between $4.99 and $9.99. Expensive to make one little book. Financially more viable for publishers to publish multiple titles/series under a brand.
- In series, character growth arc spans across the whole series, giving kids a world to develop their reading skills with familiar characters, familiar worlds and twist in the plot lines. Characters of boy and girl, gangs of kids appeal to both genders and are good for sales.
- Series have multiple arcs within books. Character development shows growth development of character, their moral compass, getting in and out of scrapes, solving problems, learning along the way (not didactic). Fantasy is used to get rid of the parents to allow kids to make their way into their story world.
- Synopsis has to be ‘short, sharp and sweet’. Include plot points, go beyond the one book, introduce the characters, setting in their world.
Series Reader Age
- Junior 5-7/8 years, 1500 – 5000 words, two whole manuscripts required plus 2-6 story ideas for series.
- Upper Junior 7/8 – 9 years, up to 20,000 words, one manuscript plus new story ideas, character development – to show not hitting the same beat.
- Reluctant readers Upper Junior 7/8 – 9 years, 12,000 words.
- Middle grade, 9 – 12 years, 40,000+ words.
- Young Adult (YA) 12+ years 45,000+ words.
Series on a Shelf
- Spines very thin, difficult to make it stand out on shelf, but together they stand out. Down side – some bookshops don’t want whole series taking lots of shelf space, reducing book diversity.
- For and against numbering books – Informs reader which number in series they’re up to eg., Ranger’s Apprentice Series by John Flanagan #1-12. Against, when reader introduced to series eg., if only #3 on shelf, then reader will want to read #1 – delay in sales.
What Makes A Series Stand Out
When you read a manuscript, voice is great, characters are great, you know what’s at stake, you know what the character wants, you can’t wait to see how it ends, it’s a great ending. You smile and laugh. It’s like you’re nine again, in bedroom with torch under the covers. It’s a magical experience. You’re excited to tell colleagues and everyone joins in. Being transported and imagining yourself reading it at the appropriate age. You want to see the characters again. All that makes it stands out.