What Makes A Book Series Unique? by Helen Dunn Frame

One of the topics that P. J. Nunn suggested that she felt would be of interest to her blog readers is book series. I realized that my approach had to be different from someone who had at least three or more books in a series. Why? Because I only have two in my series and am contemplating a third.

So far, I have published two books in the Jennifer Haslett Vandergriff/Lady Sarah Clarke series. Jennifer becomes a sleuth because of her husband Paul’s death in a suspicious helicopter crash. Sarah is part of the minor British royalty who works undercover with Interpol. The first book is Greek Ghosts; the second, Wetumpka Widow, Murder for Wealth. The third book is currently a twinkle in my eye and a bunch of notes written partly in shorthand on scraps of paper.  While I created the detectives from my imagination, I based various parts of the first two books on real experiences.

Back in the day when people dubbed self-publishing as vanity press, I hired iUniverse to publish the original Greek Ghosts. It annoyed me when one of the company’s reviewers, probably a female college student because they would work for minimal wages, said that Greece’s currency was Euros, not Drachmas. Obviously, the person had not noted the years in which the story took place. She questioned my descriptions of places in Greece. She did not realize that I had been to the country five times and had studied Greek Mythology.

The second reader, who seemed to be a man, complimented me on my knowledge of Greece, saying it made him homesick. iUniverse awarded the novel “Editor’s Choice.” As I held the rights to the story, I published the book again years later with a different cover to connect it to the second in the series, a marketing technique.

To lend credulity, I used my own experiences, including visiting the island of Leros and Athens, Greece, and living in Wendelstein, Germany. I feel that by using actual places—even those that no longer exist—the reader envisions descriptions as more real. One of my editors confirmed this by telling me she felt that she was having a conversation with me when she read my books.

The second in the series utilized my experiences traveling several times to Montgomery, Wetumpka, and other areas of Alabama, and San Diego, California, I based the story in part on my son’s death. An elder Greek friend believed that my daughter-in-law had somehow contributed to his demise. While I was not convinced of that, I found that writing the fictional story helped me deal with my grief.

The murder of my daughter-in-law’s first husband years before her marriage to my son provided the basis for another segment of the story. I researched the event as I created the villain’s personality in keeping with the theme of a black widow. I did not use this in the title because it has been overworked. The artwork on the cover, however, features a black widow spider to express the idea visually.

While currently I am writing a non-fiction book, I have been investigating ideas about how to take my sleuths to England in the third in the series where they wind up solving another murder. Although I lived outside London for two years in the 1960s, I have to research London early in this century. Without disclosing the entire plot, I want Jennifer and her lover Jason, who reentered her life in the last book, to open a store around the corner from the famed Harrods Department Store where I loved to shop. British friends told me about a unique shop in another part of England that will serve as inspiration for their retail endeavor.

Each book stands on its own because enough of a core story about the personal lives of the sleuths provides a backstory. It is similar to a TV program like NCIS. The characters solve cases in each segment so a casual viewer may watch each independently, but over the series, the devoted viewer learns about their personal lives and that make the characters more real.

Initially, the first step in promoting the third book will be to design a cover that ties into the covers of the first two books. As usual, after the book is published in paperback and Kindle, I will write blogs to announce to the readers that their presumably favorite sleuths are back.

I will add the book to my email signature block and create a flyer to send to prospective readers that I will tuck inside the hardcopy books I personally sell. I will contact people who have enjoyed the first two books and include a blurb in my annual newsletter that goes to my mailing list. Of course, my marketing will include the tag “If you enjoy this saga, you may enjoy reading the first two books in the series.” This and teasers about the other books will be included at the end of the third book. In addition, I will contact associates who have promoted my other books and ask them to review this one. Eventually, I may update the first two books with a blurb about the third.

For all of my books, I use whatever venue I can to promote my writing. Just because a person constructs a new football stadium does not mean people will come. A writer cannot be shy no matter what naysayers may criticize about self-promotion. Just because an author writes a book, an article, or poem ▬ I have written other books, articles, and columns, both fiction and non-fiction, and edited newsletters ▬ does not mean readers will buy them. It is necessary to inform them about the availability and let them determine if the genre is one they enjoy reading. In addition, whenever I call a company, for example about a credit card, at the end of the conversation I say to the rep, “If you are a reader, I’m a writer.” When the person responds positively, I direct them to Amazon for more information.

Have you heard, as I have, that once a writer has three books in one genre, sales will increase? That is why I am eager to make the third book the best in the mystery series. Perhaps I can eventually box the three books together, setting the stage for additional promotion. In the end, I will learn first-hand if the rumor about having three books in the series makes a difference.


During Helen’s business career, she wore many hats including professional writer, editor, marketing/public relations specialist, Real Estate Director for franchisees, sales, and commercial real estate broker (licensed in Texas and specializing in restaurants and retail).

In Costa Rica, where she has spent most of her time since 2005, she wrote a nonfiction anecdotal book based on extensive research and her adventure with input from other expats. The goal of the book is to help Baby Boomers jump-start their due diligence in order to find their paradise for retirement or possibly for a vacation home or investment in Costa Rica. Her books, the third edition (2017) of Retiring in Costa Rica or Doctors, Dogs and Pura Vida,” “Secrets Behind the Big Pencil, Inspired by an Actual Scandal,” (2014) Greek Ghosts, (2003, listed on Amazon 2011 and given a new cover 2016) and Wetumpka Widow (2016) are available in paperback and on Kindle at Amazon. A booklet called Retirement 101 (2017) is available on Kindle only.


2 thoughts on “What Makes A Book Series Unique? by Helen Dunn Frame

  1. Thanks for sharing this author journey and valuable insight. I’m inspired to write that third book and promote the series without being afraid of ‘self promotion.’

  2. Carolyn Howard-Johnson says:

    I love this, but I doubt i’ll Ever write a series. Daunting !

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