Ask A Ghostwriter – Write The Series? Or The Book?

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fiction book editing services, mertz, erick, ghostwriter, portland oregonBack in early August, I had the opportunity to teach at Willamette Writer’s Conference in Portland, Oregon. One of my favorite parts of teaching is sitting on panels. They’re a chance to experience the different ways that my colleagues look at writing, publishing and editing. Providing high quality fiction book editing services requires constant education and new perspectives.

On one of my panels this year I sat beside screenwriting guru, Danny Manus. Anyone who had the chance to meet or work with Danny knows two things about him:

One, he knows his stuff. I mean, really knows it. And the second is, he’s not afraid to speak his mind.

The question we were asked was: “How do I keep the first book in my series interesting when so much of the good material comes in later books?”

Danny seized hold of the microphone as fast as he could and said something I won’t soon forget:

“Stop writing trilogies. Stop thinking about series. Start writing books.”


The temptation is understandable. Walk into any writer’s conference, book store, or on-line book discussion, and the conversations tend to run toward series. Everyone wants to read (and apparently write) episodic content.

That truth is reflected in the publishing market: franchises are white hot, and that trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. That truth applies to every storytelling medium too, not just books, but movies and television and podcasts. Stand alone books, ones without recurring characters or locations or villains, are almost unheard of these days.

A straw poll tells me, these are the luxury of established writers.

Knowing that truth, and most of you I would guess are at least partially aware, it would seem almost like an act of self-sabotage to expect to sell a book without two, three or ten in mind for later on.

The crux of Danny’s point is this though. Write a good book. Write your best possible book. Leave none of that “good stuff” back for the others in the series. If your recurring character is strong enough, or your world is deep and strange and wondrous enough, those subsequent books will follow, naturally.


library full of booksYou may be saying to yourself as you read this blog, Erick, I know better. Really, my stuff is pretty darn book.

I know because I have that voice inside me too.

What writers of all levels of experience have to understand though, is that the book market is wise. It is the job every day of agents, editors, managers and publishers alike to vet potential projects for commercial viability. That’s what they’re doing as they listen to your pitch. They are deciding whether or not the project you’re describing has a chance to make them (and everyone that works for them) money. If your project doesn’t feel like a money maker, your not getting through that gatekeeper.

Self-publishing authors encounter a challenge that is even more difficult, I believe. Serving your readers directly, if you don’t build an exciting world, a deep and meaningful character, or a compelling story line, they’ll put the book down. They’ll tell others not to pick it up.

Faced with that reality, can you really afford the risk?


As a provider of fiction book editing services, I encounter quite a number of half-baked book concepts. Usually, they’ve got about 60% of the ingredients, and I’m often assured the other 40% will come in that sequel.

The people who work with me are generally eager for advice though, and my advice is almost always the same. Write the best damn book you can. What Danny Manus affirmed for me is that this tendency toward sequels is a product of putting the market coming before the craft. Everyone reads series, so the natural belief that comes out of that is, I must write one.

Story development is one of many key fiction book editing services I provide. Often that role is not limited to getting that first book whole and on the page. I work with people on how to write and leave the road open instead of dead ends.


erick mertz, fiction book editing services, portland, oregon

Why not Ask A Ghostwriter?

Are you also struggling with writing the book series before the first book? Leave any comments you might have in the comments below.

Do you need fiction book editing services for a project?

If you’re serious about having your fiction, screenplay or non-fiction story professionally written, or you need self publishing help, please contact me via email, or call for a free 30-minute 1:1 consultation.  

Erick MertzAsk A Ghostwriter – Write The Series? Or The Book?

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