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Motivating Writers Worldwide

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How to Write a Book Series…and Avoid Some Mistakes I (Almost) Made

The Book Series Gauntlet

Right, so you’ve sat down and written a standalone novel which you have tons of ideas for the sequel, correct? Awesome, you just took a proactive step in your career as a new author.

 

Why?

 

Binge society, people.

 

I’m still waiting for Game of Thrones to officially end so I can binge watch it all…or just grab some of the books and binge read.

 

Aah.

 

See what I mean?

 

Netflix and Amazon have started something in their respective niches; binge watching and binge reading. The masses love a good old binge read, especially our avid readers.

 

So, I have Northern Knights out, Book One in the Lord of Columbia (LOC) Series, with two more on the way within the next six months and a fourth this time next year whose first draft I’m working on as I write this.

 

Being a rather new author myself, I want to give the novices and even our grizzled vets out there some tips and quick hits of what I learned when I decided to turn the standalone Northern Knights into the LOC Series.

 

Below are four tips on writing a compelling series.

 

Benefits to a Series

As Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn often mentions, there are many more benefits to writing a series than writing a standalone. For one, as mentioned above, we live in a binge society where people will binge watch their favorite series or binge read the new book series they discovered.

 

A series can make a book timeless. The Chronicles of Narnia became new to me in the mid-2000s although C.S. Lewis wrote the series fifty to sixty years prior. Any book in any series, young or old, backlist or hot new release, is new to the reader.

 

Therefore, if a reader comes across Swords of Destiny (November to December 1st release date) before Northern Knights, that book will likely cause an uptick in sales.

 

This is especially helpful if you’re enrolled in Amazon’s KDP Select, which is great to do for fewer than three books in a series. So, both Northern Knights and Swords of Destiny will be in KDP Select. Better yet, use simultaneous free days and promote Book One with Freebooksy or Free Kindle Books, or any reputable book promotion site.

 

Some authors may groan at paying to promote the free books, but per Mark Dawson, you can expect thousands of downloads.

 

More groaning?

 

How about for every one hundred downloads, expect a review or two?

 

That’s 3,000 downloads, equaling 30-60 reviews. It’s something I’m expecting as I release Swords of Destiny within the next month and a half, getting ready for the release party!

 

But, this is a definite advantage to having Books One and Two in KDP Select for free for five days. You’re going to get reviews and if they’re good reviews (they should be) you will get a lot of buyers for your work.

 

Why?

 

Amazon favors books with reviews over others that don’t have as many. It shows the book has been read time and again.

 

In fact, don’t be shy to ask readers to post a review on your Twitter or Facebook Page, and in the back of your e-book and print book. Make it a call to action and you’ll be glad you asked.

 

You’ll get reviews. Amazon will notice you. And when you set the real prices to your books, you’re going to see an uptick in sales.

 

Overarching Theme

What is the theme of your work?

 

In the LOC Series, the theme is liberty, from a Libertarian point-of-view. For this, you’ll see nonintervention, free markets, self-reliance, private property rights, and zero government overreach in every work. Of course, the enemy is the socialist/communist big government empire on a quest to police the world.

 

Again, in each work, this theme is prevalent. Other themes throughout include social justice, the Bill of Rights, anti-federalism, anti-globalism, and anti-cronysim.

 

Whatever your themes are, always remind readers they’re reading the same series by sticking to your core themes in your work. But again, show it, don’t tell it. I’m not going to say Northern Knights promotes a Libertarian agenda by fighting the tyrannical policemen of the world.

 

You need to show it. For me, when Cain spots tyranny, he comes running. When he and North Columbian leaders plan a defense strategy, he’s the first one on the front lines and the battlefield. But, I show him in action. Use strong verbs, little adverbs, few adjectives, and strong nouns. You’ll be creating adrenaline-rushing scenes before you know it.

 

Keep such scenes in line with the theme and bam, you have one heck of a series headed your way. Do this in each book and you’ll see a readership grow.

 

Character Arc

As mentioned in a previous article of mine, character arc is key. Where is your character starting? Why are they in their current predicament?

 

But, where do they go in each book? Each work of mine shows Cain evolving through his character arc. In Book One, he’s an arrogant college athlete who cares little about anything else, but his character evolves. Ditto for Book Two, Book Three, and however many LOC books I decide to write.

 

The best thing here is to create an arc for your characters in each book, but like theme, create an overarching character arc. This will keep your readership engaged with each work, interested not only in theme and plot development but overall character development and evolution.

 

The audience will be asking how Character A responds to the trials and tribulations presented to them in the current work, as they were in previous works.

 

Setups and Pay Offs

Just like with character arc, let’s talk about plot development. Every single good plot has a setup and payoff. The best book series’ contain the following:

  1. Setups and payoffs per chapter.
  2. Setups and payoffs per act (divide that book into three acts).
  3. Setups and payoffs per book.
  4. Setups and payoffs from one book to another (maybe have one of these, two tops).
  5. Setups and payoffs overarching the whole series.

In Northern Knights, one of my favorite setups was a mysterious cold chill Cain felt during tense moments. Toward the end of the novel, at the climax, I give the reader a payoff.

 

Foreshadowing works in this regard, too. Hint the reader something big is coming or even minor, and they’ll keep their eyes glued to the work until they find out what the payoff is.

 

Just Evolve

In a series, everything must be moving forward. Everything must be evolving. Everything must be flowing in sync in one direction.

 

Not only is it necessary for the story to make sense, but readers are going to demand it.

 

And when you follow the benefits of creating a series in a way I outlined, taken from Mark Dawson, you’ll have a legitimate, real readership demanding a lot from you.

 

Now you must evolve as an author. Follow my steps, double check for plot errors and typos, and build that readership now.

 

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The Prequel Series to Northern Knights Displays Author’s Purpose

My Author’s Purpose: Liberty

Author’s Purpose is something we all need to invest time in when writing our masterpieces.

 

My pro-liberty for all message is happy and healthy in my prequel series to Northern Knights. Both Fighting Tyranny and Fighting Treason in the Neo Skyehawk Series tell a tale of two best friends born with element control ability defending their free republic from overreaching imperials.

 

 

The antagonists in the prequel series, Tamuria, resemble the American Empire of today and the British Empire of yesterday, a nation with political corruption from top to bottom looking to continually finance a perpetual warfare-welfare state.

 

 

Tamuria and its allies have engaged in the following:

 

1. Failed nation building.

 

 

2. Election meddling.

 

 

3. Staging coups.

 

 

4. Policing foreign affairs.

 

 

5. Threatening nations it deems enemies.

 

 

6. Scapegoating nations it deems enemies via propaganda for acts the offending nation may or may not have committed.

 

 

7. Trade wars.

 

 

8. Staging protests in other nations.

 

 

9. Intervening in other nations militarily without the other nation’s consent.

 

 

10. Maintaining standing armies and executive law enforcement in times of peace.

 

Tamuria and the American Empire

Here are some influences the American Empire have had on my purpose for writing the Neo Skyehawk Series.

 

 

Never in human history has an empire covered so much ground.

 

 

Never in human history has an empire been given a green light to cover such grounds via fearmongering, as in the case of Russia and Iran, to where nations like Poland are willing to give away billions for a permanent US base.

 

 

You know, to keep them safe from a country whose cut military spending in recent years…those evil Russians! Hey, all you have to do is flatter Donald Trump and his America-first leanings are thrown out.

 

 

Tamuria acts on a similar basis, policing the known world in the novella series, always looking for the next enemy. If an enemy can’t be found, they’re manufactured, provoked, and coerced into a fight.

 

 

Here’s a step-by-step process.

 

1. Tamuria, like America, wants something from the other nation. It may be in the form of resources, oil pipelines (Syria, anyone?), or something for the interests of its elite class.

 

 

2. If the country declines, a series of intelligence-funded protests erupt. These protests are fueled by propaganda against a certain leader. Think Bashar al-Assad in the case of Syria.

 

 

3. When protests reach mass media, they’re relayed to the public. The leader of the opposing nation is always, always, always in the wrong, where their sole crime in the whole affair is declining a nation’s or nations’ access to resources.

 

 

4. Demand for removal of said leader spreads due to one-sided propaganda. Syria again.

 

 

5. Invasion, uninvited into the nation is underway, where the public is fed a lie stating the operation will be a cakewalk and everything will take six weeks maximum. And fifteen years later, we’re still in Iraq, seventeen years later Afghanistan.

 

 

Or, the following occurs:

 

 

1. Citizens of a certain nation vote for something that might threaten the power of an empire. Think Crimea, where an overwhelming majority voted to be annexed back into Mother Russia.

 

 

2. The empire says ‘no, you’re not going to (somehow) threaten our power’ and stages mass protest in the nation. Much like the CIA did in Crimea’s case.

 

 

3. A coup is carried out, as in the case of Viktor Yanukovych, to instill a puppet government. In this instance, Yanukovych’s successors, Oleksandr Yushchenko and Petro Poroshenko.

 

 

4. The new government adheres to the empire’s interests. Handpicked by the West!

 

 

Themes in Fighting Tyranny and Fighting Treason

Whereas Northern Knights and its successors (Swords of Destiny coming soon, keep checking the blog) focuses on fighting an empire that has already established itself on their nation’s land, Fighting Tyranny and Fighting Treason is all about fighting off imperial influence.

 

 

Think of Northern Knights and the Lord of Columbia Series as an urban fantasy retelling of the American Revolution, whereas Fighting Tyranny and Fighting Treason represent nations the American Empire has invaded and have been blackballed due to constant media propaganda.

 

 

Both possess strong Libertarian values with one issue where I tend to break a little from Libertarian principles, which is the utilization of the non-aggression principle.

 

 

While I believe in non-aggression, I also realize Libertarians believe fully in Second Amendment rights.

 

 

However, we’re not about utilizing our right to bear arms solely for self-defense as much as we are for what the Second Amendment is intended for: To keep an overreaching government in check.

 

 

It’s a theme that speaks clear in both series’ and the non-aggression principle is thrown out the window the minute the antagonists threaten our characters.

 

 

In other words, I’m a believer in “Don’t fire unless fired upon.”

 

 

But, if fired upon, it’s no holds barred.

 

 

It’s lights out.

 

 

It’s any kind of fill-in-the-blank cliché you can come up with.

 

 

And when an overreaching empire threatens such civil liberties, ideas of what true liberty means must be spread among the populace.

 

 

And if the empire bites, well, it’s why the Founding Fathers implemented a well-regulated militia into the Second Amendment.

 

 

No, it’s not to kill off a deer uprising, as some on the Left would have you believe.

 
It’s not solely for self-defense, as the NRA loves to point out.

 

 

It’s to hold a government in check. It’s there to ensure the government doesn’t get so big that it threatens and usurps civil liberties among its populace.

 

 

Lord of Columbia and the Neo Skyehawk Series spread such ideas.

 

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Links

Corruption, Fraud, And Waste – The Fruits Of American Empire

 

This interactive map reveals just how big the U.S. military’s footprint really is

 

https://www.rt.com/news/438771-us-poland-fort-trump/

 

https://www.rbth.com/politics_and_society/2017/03/18/whats-life-really-like-in-crimea-3-years-after-reunion-with-russia_722136

 

US Staged a Coup in Ukraine — Brief History and Facts on Medium.com

Northern Knights’ Sports Allegory

Strange Ideas to Promote Northern Knights

*NOTE! TODAY, SEPTEMBER 1ST, 2018 IS THE LAST CHANCE TO GRAB NORTHERN KNIGHTS FOR FREE AT AMAZON KINDLE*

 
It is midnight on September 1st, 2018, and I wanted to give you all one final chance to snag Northern Knights, Book One in the Lord of Columbia Series on Kindle before it becomes permanently priced at $2.99 for the foreseeable future!

 
Anyway, I wanted to run a strange idea to promote books by you all, and I think you’re all going to like this:

 
Northern Knights has a blatant sports allegory, primarily toward the Browns-Steelers Football Rivalry.

 
If you know anything about the rivalry, it’s been one-sided for the last two decades, since the Browns returned to the league in 1999. In fact, the Browns are 6-32 against the Steelers since 1999.

 
I wanted to pay homage to the rivalry, which should get a little better this season, by making it a mainstay in Northern Knights. When one reads Northern Knights, they can find a lot of correlations between my book and the modern rivalry.

 
Anyway, I came up with a strange way to promote the book if I generate a good amount of sales. Jerseys, buying jerseys from my main characters, similar to what they would’ve worn in their respective sports in Northern Knights.

 
The featured image of this article provides a handful of many jerseys I made on NFL.com’s customized jerseys section and snipped it onto Canva.

 
It was a fun way to let readers know…especially both fanbases, that there are some correlations to real life in Northern Knights.

 
In fact, my overall marketing plan looks to hit both Southwest Pennsylvania and Northeast Ohio. So, if the Steelers continue to dominate the Browns in the rivalry, maybe I’ll spread some bad blood among the fanbases once again!

How to Select Sound Book Titles

Why I’m Calling Lord of Columbia, Episode II ‘Swords of Destiny’

Okay, fun fact, I completed the first three manuscripts in the Lord of Columbia trilogy, the first in the series can be bought by clicking the link at the bottom of this post for anyone interested (I swear I won’t advertise the hell out of it!).

 
But, I want to release the second title and tell you all why I’m calling it Swords of Destiny. For one, I had several different names for the Lord of Columbia series before deciding on Lord of Columbia.

 
Ditto for Book One, Northern Knights.

 
I’ll be honest, I had not a clue on how to select sound book titles until I researched SEO. Yes, it’s that important. And early returns on my first book, Northern Knights in Amazon’s rankings tend to dictate that, too, as my key words have the book appearing within the top forty in all my categories. This is out of a few thousand when narrowed down.

 

How to Select Sound Book Titles

Research, research, research the hell out of the books that are in your genre. The two best places to go are Google and Amazon. Type in several words or phrases that fit your book title or series title and compile a list.

 
For instance, I did this when selecting my series title. I saw the words Age of didn’t match well with anything and no one was searching for it. The results were in the lower-triple digits. Not a good sign. However, I dug deeper and continued until Lord of garnered decent results. I want to say it was in the upper triple-digits.

 
Ditto for Northern Knights. So, my initial title for Northern Knights was this: Age of Columbia: Uprising. Again, Uprising didn’t grant me decent results.

 
So, I typed in Northern and Northern Knight was the first result in the drop-down on Amazon’s search menu. Hence, Northern Knights fit. Now, I wanted to get my book as much visibility as possible, so choosing Lord of Columbia as the series name and Northern Knights as the first book, I was able to do just that.

 

About Key Words

So, Amazon only allows you to pick two categories and I’ll be honest, the book will get lost in a sea of books. What are there, four-million books on Amazon these days? So, if I merely put my book in urban fantasy and contemporary fantasy, I’d have done very poorly early on.

 
So, in my book cover’s subtitle, I decided to add in the phrase, ‘A new adult, urban fantasy.’ Upon typing new adult into the search engine, badabing-badaboom, Northern Knights was right there, meaning my book is essentially in three categories as opposed to two. So, now I’m in urban fantasy, contemporary fantasy, and new adult.

 
I’ve heard there are ways to get into as many as five categories, and it’s what I’m going to try with Swords of Destiny. Being a rookie at this, I’ve a lot to learn, but I’m also relaying what I do learn onto you guys, who are giving My Freedom Flame more and more traffic each day, so thank you very much for that, it literally means everything.

 

About Swords of Destiny

Being that I’m a new indie-author with one measly book on the market means I’m looking to publish quickly, so Swords of Destiny is being edited as we speak. While I still don’t have enough green to swing an editor, I have to ferociously self-edit this cat, but thanks to what I’ve learned at the Jerry Jenkins’ Writers’ Guild, it’s saved me from embarrassing myself and making a lot of errors.

 
I’m hoping to have the book up and running sometime between October and November 2018, so if you enjoy Northern Knights, get ready for Book Two. If you didn’t enjoy Northern Knights, maybe you know someone that will or you might just be a Steelers fan! Either way, guys, as always, I’d like to thank you all for coming across My Freedom Flame, please come back soon.

Amazon Link to Northern Knights: amzn.to/2KkkyOZ

Lord of Columbia, the Cleveland Browns, Indians, and Cavaliers

How I’m Going to Hand Out Freebies

I’ve been reading many articles that debut authors writing a series would be wise to hand out free copies of their series starters. Though I agree with the tactic as a last resort, I’m not particularly sold on free handouts, or even for that matter, obtaining free handouts.

Why?

Because if I come across a site with a landing page and the author’s incentive for me visiting is a free copy of their debut novel in a series, I’m not going to read it, but had I been searching Amazon or a similar site for a book, I’d have gladly picked it up for $2.99.

To me, free means zero value.

However, I am a fan of limited-time free handouts, as they create a little sense of urgency. In other words, get it for free while you can or else the price is going to rise. Yes, there’s a value in my book and while it’s free, it won’t be free for long.

While I’m publishing on KDP Select for 90 days before branching to open publishing, I’ll happily take advantage of the free days to get the book in readers’ hands. However, I want to take it a little further and incentivize readers to not only purchase the debut book, Northern Knights, but also purchase my second book, working title is Swords of Destiny, when it comes out.

So, I came up with a fun marketing strategy.

About the Browns

1. The Cleveland Browns will play in twenty games this season (four preseason, sixteen regular). After each Browns win I’ll mark Northern Knights to free for twenty-four hours, before reverting back to its original price. When the Browns win, you win.

2. If the Browns make the playoffs, I’ll set both Northern Knights and Swords of Destiny for free for an entire week.

3. If the Browns advance in the playoffs, I’ll continue to keep both books for free until they’re eliminated. If they win the Super Bowl, I’ll keep the books in the store for free up to one week after the big dance.

4. Take note the Browns went 0-16 last season, haven’t won a playoff game since 1994, and haven’t been in the playoffs since 2002. Want more fun? They’ve never made the Super Bowl.

On the Indians

1. Okay, so if the Indians make the World Series, I’ll set Northern Knights for free over the duration of the entire World Series.

2. If the Indians win the Series, I’ll keep the book for free until Swords of Destiny debuts shortly after.

3. The Indians haven’t won the Series since 1948.

On the Cavs

1. If the Cavs beat the LeBron James-led Lakers, I’ll set one or both books for free for a whole week.

2. If the Cavs sweep the Lakers, I’ll set one or both books for free for two weeks.

3. The last time LeBron left in 2010, the Cavs followed up with a 19-63 record.

So, it’s going to be a fun, challenging way to kick off my Lord of Columbia series with Northern Knights and later on, Swords of Destiny dictating the price of my books. Don’t expect miracles, however, the City of Cleveland has only won one professional sports championship since 1964, has lost three World Series, and four NBA Finals.

If Cleveland sports wins, you win, but they tend to lose…. dammit, Pittsburgh! Their claims of being large and loyal fanbases are based on twelve professional sports championships since 1974…when they get the Cleveland treatment, we’ll see how loyal they are!

I’d like to thank all of my readers for coming across My Freedom Flame, please come back soon, and be on the lookout for Lord of Columbia: Northern Knights, set to be released within the next month.

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