more than one book in a series

Question: I have a few ideas for how my books are going to lay out. I would like to see which is the least time consuming, but the best way to bring out everyone's back story.

1. Two books: one for the main character and the other for her ancestors.

2. Three books: book one- childhood to second almost death of main character. book two- ancestor brings her into the bridge between life and death and tells her the story of her ancestors. book three- starts with main character awakening her dormant power.

3. Five books: book one- main character. book two through five- ancestors' individual tales.

ALL of her ancestors are very important because the whole line leads down to her.
I feel that the third option would be too much. But what do you think? Or do you have a better idea?

Answer: Reality is hard on the creative spirit. And the reality is always all about sales and money.

The challenge every writer faces is how to make the first sale. If you sell one book, and it sells well, then the publisher might offer you a contract to do one or more books, depending on how well they estimate the sequels will sell. The sad truth is that it isn't always about the ideal number of books to tell the story, but the number of books that will sell profitably.

What you need to do is look at this fictional history you have sketched out and ask yourself what the strongest story is. Who is the most engaging character, the one your readers will fall in love with? Which story will resonate most with the readers?

That's the story you should write and market first.

If you find a publisher who agrees that it's a great story and offers you a contract, he or she may ask if you have ideas for a sequel (to which you say, "yes").

Once the first book's sales figures are in, and if they are good, the publisher may then offer you a contract for a sequel.

By that time, years may have gone by, and you will have matured as a writer. The ideas you have right now may have gone through considerable refinement and revision. You may have an idea for an even better sequel or sequels by then. You may have re-written the backstories and added new ones--or created stories that happen after the first book.

At that point, you will choose again what the strongest story is. But be warned: if readers really like the main character of the first book, they will want more of that character, and the publisher will want you to give it to them, because that will drive sales.

I'm not saying all those backstories won't be important, but often they become part of the fabric of the story world which may be alluded to but never published in their entirety.

To take an example, it is only because of the extraordinary success of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit that J.R.R. Tolkein's Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and other volumes of background material were published. Most fantasy writers have stories like these that never see the light of day.

Best of luck.

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