Mauricio Betancourt

I write when I dream the stories

Mauricio Betancourt

Mauricio Betancourt
Cali, Colombia
February 06
Colombian journalist (37). Gay advocator and social worker. I like people and believe people like me. I am as honest and transparent as I can be and like to meet people around the world. I´ve been away from OS for a while but I intent to keep writing and reading of course as it is the only thing that really awakes my heart... Hugs from Colombia and much love

Mauricio Betancourt's Links

Editor’s Pick
NOVEMBER 17, 2010 7:55PM

Book Series Are What Publishers Really Want

Rate: 32 Flag


jugglingExecutive Editor at Jossey-Bass, blogger and publishing market guru, Alan Rinzler, posted a very interesting installment for newsletter on what publishers are looking for writers to create today. If they want to capture some attention; series are the pot at the end of the rainbow.

          Rinzler explains that "For a publisher, producing a successful book series is like winning the lottery. The rewards can be enormous and ongoing" and that makes me contemplate the fact that most writers are focused on their precious first novel and thinking about creating a whole series on the same plot might feel overwhelming. But if a writer cares about the market and the profits, Mr. Rinzler´s post is a piece of information one can not pass unnoticed.

           I believe that we all have the dream of finishing our first novel, our first book. We all dream about the reviews, the lenient gasp of air out of nervousness when knowing that our names are out there, somewhere, printed and held by someone who was captured by those worlds we created for them.

           I know now that all I want to achieve is to finish my first book. Feel comfortable with the plot and close my eyes and live the life of my main character. But, I haven´t thought of a series on this one plot that I have in my hands and I´m sure, I don´t want to make a series out of it. As if it wasn’t enough with all the work that finishing one book demands. Must of us want one book at a time, one plot at a time. But, I have a confession to make, now that I consider this new fact in the industry, producing a series from ONE plot, is actually a very attractive idea.  

jhan572lI can picture my self getting comfortable with the characters in my mind if I spend a larger amount of time of my life with them. Letting them take a room in my everyday montage for a long period is a doable thing, if I center my mind in the fact that I won´t have to be creating new plots every time the industry demands me to write a new book -when that happens of course-.

             For me, what Mr. Rinzler states is a simple real commitment to my characters and could be the path for a good comfort zone in my life. I could really get into the characters´ skin. Into their minds and I will for sure be able to cross their limitations and bend their minds and psyches. I can play with their souls; mold them to the point of maturity that a reader always wants. I can have them grow as my heart and mind get older and wiser. I can even improve my self as a writer while writing a series that can be satisfying.

jhan758lMr. Rinzler continues his installment with a list of book series and writers and the number of copies they´ve accomplished to sell. I have to say that those numbers sound like a sweet lullaby that gives me peace and hope.

           This well known editor starts with Harry Potter which, according to him, has sold about 400 million copies of the series worldwide. I did some research and the plot created by J.K. also reaches the Lego  Industry (the toys industry). Lego presented the numbers for their latest acquisition with Potter´s franchise and revealed that Potter: Years 1-4 has sold 2.7 million copies around the world. And as if this was not enough the young wizard also has a theme park, a fan club  that also produces money and all the list of things coming from the magic hat are just mind-blowing. You get the picture, right?


rrs0257lThere is another series, which I never heard of before and also holds big figures; Nancy Drew; this, 175 installments of the well known mystery series sold more than 200 million copies around the globe and keep on counting by the second.

          Twilight’s four books released from 2003, have already sold a total of more than 100 million. Mr. Rinzler continues with his presentation of the tops, and he keeps introducing me to writers I have never heard of, for instance, Stieg Larsson Millennium Trilogy´s writer, who has sold more than 45 million copies and he keeps  licking the finger and counting the bills. On Larsson, Mr. Rinzler has something very interesting to say: "His publisher Alfred A. Knopf estimates that by year’s end they will have sold a phenomenal 15 million copies in 2010" a foresight most writers would appreciate to get, I have to say.

According to a piece published in Los Angeles Times this story has already three movies out in Larsson´s native Sweden and one is already in the making in U.S. This plot was reviewed by O´s (Oprah Winfrey´s magazine) book editor Sara Nelson, who says "the heroine's not terribly well defined. Is she lovable? Yes, but she's not necessarily likable. Lisbeth is a hybrid, but the books are hybrids too — a chronicle of the media business, a comment on society.... It's not a standard police procedural." This kind of publicity can not get any better.

  shu0155lThe post continues disserting the publishing market and presenting really interesting facts; it says that publishers always aim their radars to find a plot that can be worked from a series angle and if they smell a potential series in a promising new submission, they surely will try to nail it down with a multiple book contract. These are the current numbers in the following genres:

Top genres for multi-book deals in 2010

Romance – 108 deals

Mystery & Crime – 73

Young Adult – 56

Middle Grade – 53

Science Fiction – 31

Thrillers – 29

Paranormal – 27


Rinzler gives away a great pointer on what is it that writers need to focus on: How to keep a character alive. He says that the writer should create a characters based on an ambitious kind of fictional autobiography, not a true-to-life memoir, but a romantic idealization of the author´s own life. As a develpmental editor, he invites writers to view their plots with the series potential angle and apply these simple advises:

1. Let the main and supportive characters age

2. Keep them close to your heart

3. Give them an interesting day job

4. Make every new crisis relate to their inner development

5. Surprise the readers. Twist the hero/heroine faith.

 And he ends the post saying to the reader, who is also a writer, that if he or she is developing a serial character he´d be very interested to hear how you’ve tackled the challenge of sustaining interest from one story to the next”. 

With these ideas and pointers in the table I sat in fron of the computer and started thinking about what the market has become and what kind of challenges  writers have to face now. It is not an easy task to come up with a plot and a subtantial main character. It is breathtaking sometimes. But what I now figure from reading this post is that ED I TORS have become even more difficult, more demanding. For them right now, ONE book is not enough. So, we, writers, need to convince ourselves that our hearts are going to meet the heartlessness of a market that only sees you if you hold a seven figure number in your portfolio. What to do then? Measure our selves to the challenge? Oh yes. That is what we need to do. Write our asses off. Life´s short. Series are not. Get to work now!

By Mauricio Betancourt©




Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Informative and wonderful! Thanks for sharing this. I am gonna print it and look at it until I DO IT! Ha. Good Work. R
Thanks for this. Maybe I shouldn't have killed off G at the end of my story. Just kidding, but that is very interesting stuff. I'll have to look into it. I am contemplating doing some more serious stuff! Thanks M~
Yup..I'm printing it too! Thorough and well researched. ..and fascinating...ah yes...our book dreams persist! xo
Nancy Drew, Girl Detective, kept me occupied for hundreds of afternoons during my childhood. Your life story would make quite a series, Mauro.

Good information, and I paused to remember the complete set of Nancy Drew I discovered in a sleeper sofa compartment my aunt inherited when a tenant moved out in Los Angeles when I was a girl. I devoured every book. The formula seems to hold its own magic.
Interesting. And it makes sense. I love really, really long and involved novels, but a series is the next best thing! Like Lezlie, I was a Nancy Drew fan...
I am a lover of series as well. The one author I know of a mystery series says it has become a huge burden for her, she is pressured to do more of the series and she wants to write something different.
I guess there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
rated with love
I can barely get one out...:)
Rated with hugs
Makes sense (for some genres), but here's the most important thing -- you still have to write and then sell the first book, and if it sinks (as most books do) your series is DOA.
Thanks for the information, my friend.
Very informative Mauricio! So very well written!
Congratulations on the EP, you are awesome!
Good to know. Thank you for writing this. I love a good series also. It's like seeing an old beloved friend.
The author must also be prepared to stay focused with the project for a long, long time. And that might mean putting anything else on hold.
I do believe that a series will demand to put life on hold.... and start living the lifes of the characters for a long period of time. Will that compromise my sanity? I think a writer of a series would have to go to rehab to get all the characters off his/her system and mind....
exhausting thought
Damn... SPAMERS... I so much hate their guts... I want to whack them in the head....
I've written a few novels into a few series that I've started, but the problem is that getting an agent or a publisher interested is one of the hardest things I'ver ever encountered. They're not any more interested in a series than they are a single novel, if you're not already making a name for yourself.

All of these books mentioned are already part of very famous series that really got a lot of attention right from the start. Becoming the next series is as possible as becoming the next best seller of a single novel.
What I really want is to take the first step
The first book out in the market is my main goal right now... meanwhile I will have to learn how to write in proper English....
They say that is what Editors are for but... I am looking for an oportunity to study a Major in English... after that I will be feeling comfortable writing a book... I just can´t write a single articulated page in Spanish... this is just too weird
I love you all
The concept of series books goes back a ways. One of my favorite series are the two big series by Anthony Trollope written in the mid-19th century: the Barsetshire Chronicles and the Palliser Novels. Not only was there continuity of the characters within these novel series, each novel was itself serialized and released in volumes. This was the marketing concept of the 19th century.

Mauricio, you can always line up (or hire) an editor to clean up any problems related to native English syntax--in other words, don't wait for perfect English to get the story written.

Good luck on your work.
I am always reminded of the old saw about everyone having one book in them. 'Tis true, 'tis true - where the rubber hits the road is to be able to produce a second and a third ... but the point is taken about a series, especially one that is taken to heart by readers.
I'm not totally enamored of the series variant of one single huge adventure chopped up into three or four, or six or seven parts, where you have to read every book in order to understand what is going on. And the endless series of a character or character having an endless series of adventures without ever changing much ... that would get pretty boring also. After all, Arthur Conan Doyle got very tired of Sherlock Holmes.
The third kind of series is much more fun to do - a huge cast of interlinked characters in one place over a period of time, where every story or so may focus on certain characters, and mention others in passing: something like Terry Pratchett's Disc World, or Angela Thirkell's Barsetshire, in which characters who may be minor walk-ons in one book, have their own story front and center in the next. That's the kind that are a blast to write - because it is not so limiting. If a character starts to take over, or the back-story for them becomes terribly engrossing, they can be spun off, into another book.
That kind of series is a blast to do - I started with a single story, which wound up as a trilogy, and gave me the chance to spin off four more complete linked stories. The reader can start anywhere, and I'm not stuck with the same character, over and over.
It would be a shame and quite unfortunate if book publishers are turning down books because the subject matter doesn't lend itself to sequels. "Sorry Ernest. That story about the old man and the big fish is okay, but the main character is too old. Have you thought about making the fisherman about 12 years old, the same age as Harry Potter?"
@David Green: I know I can relay on what Editors know best how to do but the thing is... I do want to do it my self... I mean... I want to know every single detail of the proper manner of English....
Great post, my friend. I love your enthusiasm, but to me writing is still a luxury and not necessarily to satisfy an ED I TOR. I want to be able to say 'my way or the highway', even if it means that I don't publish through a publishing house. I wish you the best in attaining your dream. ~Rated with love.
@tomreed: In two or three years, according to you, the series are not going to be the hot thing anymore... I agree with you. What about spiritual books? humanist books? Social-sense-community books? perhaps ... if we understand that the world is going to need that subject to be covered for the future... or not?
I got a series, called CAT IN THE ________! :D

"I have never heard of, for instance, Stieg Larsson Millennium Trilogy´s writer, who has sold more than 45 million copies and he keeps licking the finger and counting the bills."

I doubt that. The author died just after handing in the manuscripts of the three books; the books were written specifically to provide for his heirs.
Mais, mauvaises terrres a traverser....I did!!!
The New Orleans Trilogy, however, donated to New Orleans...but still available....It's great to have an expert help out!!!
Wow, Mauricio. What great information! I should get started right away. :)
Thank you for this information. Along with my memoir I have being working on a series; perhaps it is more marketable than the memoir.

But one correction: Mr. Larrson is not laughing all the way to the bank. He died before the first "Dragon" book was published.
I do apologize for saying that Mr Stieg Larsson was licking his fingers counting the bills from selling his series... I now know, thanks to The Traveler and Luminousmuse that he is dead
:( and he actually died before his work was published :(
Sorry for the ignorance....
Thanks for this post! I devoured it.
The numbers were fascinating but not surprising; I've worked in bookstores and always thought, "there are MORE?" when shelving in the Romance section.

I've totally never EVER heard of Stieg Larsson or J.K. Rowling and would never ever write a post or two about them - HA!
This is fantastic, Mauricio! Thank you! And congrats on the EP!!!
Good post, Mauricio. Don't let the nay-sayers bother you. Cynicism is an easy skill to acquire ... usually posessed by failures who believe that since they failed, all others will as well. If you are good ... and willing to be both patient & persistant ... you will succeed (isn't it ironic how the best player on every team is usually the one who works the hardest?).

I have a long time friend ... Randy Wayne White ... who has seventeen novels to his credit,plus other works. He began as a newspaper columnist, became a commerical fishing guide, then began his novels. He'd be the first to tell you, luck played a role. But his series ... surrounding his key protagonist, Doc Ford ... has not only led him to great literary success (NYC Best Seller List), it has evolved into an enterprise ... two restaurants (Doc Ford's), his own line of sauces, and a burgeoning array of other merchandise ... AND a lifestyle to be envied. Check out his website; read what he says to writer-wannabes, and what others say that he quotes. He's accomplished it all in roughly twenty years. Some will say he's the exception. Maybe so. But I promise you this; what he has, he worked for ... and he would have *NEVER* bought into the nay sayers. Like a wise man once told me ... as long as you're reaching for the stars, you'll never grab a handful of dirt.