It All Comes Back to Book Number One

Everyone buys the first book in a series. When you run promotions, they’ll be for the first in the series. When readers ask you where to start, it’ll be with the first in the series. When you calculate the viability of a series based on read-through or buy-through, the first book is your baseline. Everything else will be a subset of that first book’s numbers.

The first book can be longer than the others in the series. That’s better from a revenue perspective because everyone gets the first book. If you participate in the KDP Select (Kindle Unlimited) program, then your page reads from the first book will bring home more revenue for you. 

You won’t have more people reading the second book in a series than read the first. Even with a ninety-nine percent read-through rate, you lose one reader out of every one hundred. Anything north of fifty percent is a good number of readers moving to the second book in the series. That means only half of the readers will pick up the second book. (But with future volumes in a series, more people will pick up the first book. You see how the snowball gains mass as it rolls?) From the second to the third, you want a number of ninety percent or higher and from the third to fourth and later books in a series, you want a consistent ninety-plus percent. 

And it all comes back to the first book.

Will later books in a series be written better? Probably, but that first book is your exploration of a new idea, the development of new characters, and the world-building that adds color to the backdrop of an exciting story. 

First books are written with passion and energy. Readers can tell. The authors can feel it too. Build a better springboard from which to leap higher into your author career. 

Let that first book be a beacon for those that follow, a signpost to a great adventure, and most importantly, the moneymaker. Turn it loose, and let it earn its keep (even as a loss leader, which is a different topic, but if it gets readers into the series, you win).

The first book. Everyone always buys the first book.

Picture of Craig Martelle

Craig Martelle

High school Valedictorian enlists in the Marine Corps under a guaranteed tank contract. An inauspicious start that was quickly superseded by excelling in language study. Contract waived, a year at the Defense Language Institute to learn Russian and off to keep my ears on the big red machine during the Soviet years. Back to DLI for advanced Russian after reenlisting. Deploying. Then getting selected to get a commission. Earned a four-year degree in two years by majoring in Russian Language. It was a cop out, but I wanted to get back to the fleet. One summa cum laude graduation later, that’s where I found myself. My first gig as a second lieutenant was on a general staff. I did well enough that I stayed at that level or higher for the rest of my career, while getting some choice side gigs – UAE, Bahrain, Korea, Russia, and Ukraine. Major Martelle. I retired from the Marines after a couple years at the embassy in Moscow working arms control. The locals called me The German, because of my accent in Russian. That worked for me. It kept me off the radar. Just until it didn’t. Expelled after two years for activities inconsistent with my diplomatic status, I went to Ukraine. Can’t let twenty years of Russian language go to waste. More arms control. More diplomatic stuff. Then 9/11 and off to war. That was enough deployment for me. Then came retirement. Department of Homeland Security was a phenomenally miserable gig. I quit that job quickly enough and went to law school. A second summa cum laude later and I was working for a high-end consulting firm performing business diagnostics, business law, and leadership coaching. More deployments. For the money they paid me, I was good with that. Just until I wasn’t. Then I started writing. You’ll find Easter eggs from my career hidden within all my books. Enjoy the stories.

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