written by Dori Hillestad Butler
How to Grow a Reader? Turn them on to a new series!
As my character King would say, “I LOVE writing series. It’s my favorite thing!”
Because as a writer, I (Dori, not King) have a mission statement. My mission is to turn non-readers into readers. There’s nothing more satisfying to me than to hear from a reader, “I didn’t like to read until I read your [fill in the blank].” Or “Your [fill in the blank] was the first book I read all by myself.” This is why I write. And I believe series can turn non-readers into readers.
Here is what I know:
1. Character Counts.
Readers get hooked on a series because of a character. Maybe that character is a lot like them, so the reader identifies with them. Or maybe the character has qualities the reader wishes they had. Maybe the character is simply funny or interesting or brave. Whatever it is, there’s something about a series character that makes a reader want to spend time with them and follow them on new adventures.
2. Predictability leads to Confidence.
Readers know what they’re getting when they pick up the next book in a series. They know the characters. They know what kind of story they’re in for. And they know what to expect in terms of difficulty of language, concept, or even how scary a book might be. Someone who’s read the first five books in a series can be pretty confident they’ll be able to read the sixth because they’ve already read five. And if they enjoyed those first five, they know they’ll likely enjoy this next one, too. Confidence leads to more reading!
3. Kids are Natural Collectors.
They collect objects (like books) as well as facts (like series trivia). I may not remember what kind of peanut butter treats Kayla was making in book 1 or who the unhappy neighbor was in book 6, but I guarantee many of my readers do! Series books play perfectly into a child’s natural tendency to collect. When a child loves a series, they want to read the whole series and they want to know everything there is to know about the story world. And a non-reader becomes a reader!
Here is what I don’t know:
1. Will readers eventually get tired of my King & Kayla series?
One nice thing about writing series for kids is they tend to age out of the series before they get bored. And there’s always a new group of kids coming. A new group of non-readers to hook.
2. Will I get tired of writing King & Kayla
That’s hard to imagine now. I love my characters. Like my readers, I find comfort in the predictability of their world and I, too, want to know what’s going to happen to them next. I also wonder what color the next book will be. I’m eager to fill my own bookshelf with a colorful collection of King & Kayla books.
3. What will the next King & Kayla book be about?
Well. I do know what the 10th book is about because it’s already off to the printer. Here’s a sneak peek at the cover:
It’ll be out January, 2024.
And I know what the 11th book is about because I’ve just finished my second draft. I don’t have a cover to show you, and I don’t want to tell you the title because it could change before the book comes out in 2025. But I will tell you it features a doggy day care!
I’m not sure what book 12 will be about, though. That’s the “next” book I’m thinking about. It could be about a monkey. It could be about a mastodon. It could be about something I haven’t even thought of yet. We’ll find out in 2026.
Here is my plan:
Continue writing King & Kayla books until my editor tells me to stop. She did tell me once that her plan is to publish a new King & Kayla book every year “until the end of time.” It’s a good plan. And it fits perfectly with my mission.
About Dori Hillestad Butler
Dori Hillestad Butler is the author of more than 60 books for young readers, including the two-time Geisel Honor award-winning King & Kayla series and the Edgar award-winning Buddy Files series. She grew up in southern Minnesota, spent 19 years in Iowa, and now lives in the Seattle area. When she’s not reading or writing, Dori enjoys hiking, board games, teaching her dog new tricks, and playing classical mandolin. She loves visiting schools and libraries all over the country and is eager to share her love of story with readers and writers of all ages. She’s served as a judge on multiple Edgar Award committees, an SCBWI Regional Advisor, a therapy dog partner, and a mentor to many young writers.