Today I’m giving two presentations at the Willamette Writers Conference in Portland, Oregon. One is on researching your novel to make it more authentic; the other is on writing a book series. The fun part of putting the latter talk together, was delving into the history of series. Here, for fun, is some of what I found. These snippets of information will also serve as downloadable notes for those taking the course today.

  • 75% of book series are for kids, and most are fiction
  • Series got their start in the early 1900s because dime novels made them affordable

An article to read: “Writing series: Three authors tell all”:

Historical perspective: How many titles did various series go to back when? (Wikipedia)
Wizard of Oz, starting in 1900, went to 14 titles
Tale of Peter Rabbit, 1902, 6
The Bobbsey Twins, 1904, 72
Tarzan, 1914, 26
Nancy Drew, 1930, 175
Little House on the Prairie, 1932, 12
Perry Mason, 1933, 82
Curious George, 1941, 58
James Bond, 1953, 14
Master and Commander, 1969, 21
Sweet Valley High, 1983, 400
Dummies, 1991, 1,800
Captain Underpants, 1997, 11
Harry Potter, 1997, 7
Popular Culture and Philosophy Series, 2000, 89
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, 2001, 5

Currently, the most popular series (first title represents series; info from Wikipedia):
1. Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling
2. Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
3. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
4. Divergent, Veronica Roth
5. Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan
6. Twilight, Stephenie Meyer
7. Vampire Academy, R. Mead
8. Clockwork Angel, Cassandra Clare
9. Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin
10. Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R.Tolkien
11. Lost Hero, Rick Riordan
12. Eragon, C.Paolini
13. Uglies, Scott Westerfeld
14. Maze Runner, James Dashner
15. Hush, Hush, Becca Fitzpatrick
16. Chronicles of Narnia, C.S.Lewis
17. Bad Beginning, Lemony Snicket
18. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson
19. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, D. Adams
20. Dead Until Dark, Charlaine Harris

Books I recommend for outlining a novel:

        The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler and Michele Montez
        The Weekend Novelist by Robert J Ray and Brett Norris
        Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas


        10-20% kids books are series
        20,000 series/sequels (English)
        104,000 titles (English)
        14,500 authors (7 titles/author)
        foreign series: more titles

Adult series’ most popular genres (in alphabetical order)

·       cookbooks
·       fantasy
·       history/current affairs
·       mystery
·       romance
·       sci-fi
·       westerns

Children’s series’ most popular genres (in alphabetical order):

·       adventure
·       fantasy
·       mystery
·       sci-fi


·       biography
·       history
·       nature
·       science
·       technology
·       sports

Resources I recommend:

·       Children’s Writers Market
·       Literary Marketplace
·       Children’s Writers’ Word Book
·       Writing Your First Fiction Series
·       Publisher’s Weekly/Kirkus

Examples of publishers who specialize in series (for more, Google “submission guidelines” and “book series” or check out,

·       Bedford/St. Martin’s
·       Holtzbrinck Publishers
·       Scholastic
·       Chronicle Books
·       Hyperion Press
·       Simon & Schuster
·       Buddhapuss Ink: “We specialize in series fiction for the serie-ous reader.”

Top-earning book genres (

·       romance/erotica ($1.44 billion)
·       crime/mystery ($728 million)
·       religious/inspirational ($720 M)
·       science fiction/fantasy ($590 M)
·       horror ($80 M)

Inside Stories of writing my books:
I’ve now completed 17 “inside stories” that reveal how my books were born — how or why I grew them from vague ideas into completed books. Helpful, I hope, for both readers and writers.

Here’s how to locate them.
1. Go to my home page (
2. Click on “Books” at the top right.
3. Note the list of my titles on the middle right, and click on the one that interests you.
4. Click on “Read the story behind the book” just below the book summary.

Which inside stories are most interesting? I’d say First Descent, Andreo’s Race and (if you like horror stories, because every author has at least one) Paintball Island. Happy reading!