How I Number Series…and Why.

Black and white numbers background. 3d rendered illustrationI’ve received a couple of emails lately from readers who are tripping over the numbering system in my series.  I admit that if you’ve never seen that sort of series numbering before — I call it digital numbering — it can look a little strange, but there are very good reasons for numbering the series the way I do, and once you know how it works, you’ll find that the numbers make sense and they also tell you a lot about the series themselves and the books in them.

So let me show you how a series number system develops.  For this example, I’m using the Blood Stone series, because it has everything in it; novellas, boxed sets, anthologies….all of which must be accounted for and at the same time, not confuse readers who are new to the series.

At the moment the series looks like this on all the book pages and the series page.

The Blood Stone series:
Blood Stone 1:0 Blood Knot (#1 Amazon Best Seller, Fantasy Romance)
Blood Drops 1.1: Southampton Swindle*
Blood Drops 1.2: Broken Promise*
Blood Drops 1.3: Vale*
Blood Drops 1.5: Amor Meus (Anthology)
Blood Stone 2.0: Blood Stone
Blood Stone 3.0: Blood Unleashed
Blood Stone 3.5: Blood Drive (Blood Stone Boxed Set 1)
Blood Stone 4.0: Blood Revealed
Blood Stone 5.0: Blood Ascendant (Final in series, to be released late 2016)

Now, if I were to number the series the way Amazon wants me to, you’d get:

The Blood Stone series:
Blood Stone 1 Blood Knot (#1 Amazon Best Seller, Fantasy Romance)
Blood Stone 2: Southampton Swindle*
Blood Stone 3: Broken Promise*
Blood Stone 4: Vale*
Blood Stone 5: Amor Meus (Anthology)
Blood Stone 6: Blood Stone
Blood Stone 7: Blood Unleashed
Blood Stone 8: Blood Drive (Blood Stone Boxed Set 1)
Blood Stone 9: Blood Revealed
Blood Stone 10: Blood Ascendant (Final in series, to be released late 2016)

This is really deceptive!  Especially because booksellers usually don’t let me add the little descriptors (boxed set, anthology, etc) that tip you off about the title.

If you read from one book to the other in the order shown above, you wouldn’t miss out on anything and you wouldn’t get any spoilers in one story about a story you haven’t yet read.  But you’d probably feel that the three little stories that are books 2,3 and 4 were a bit of a rip off, and as for book 5, which is a repeat of 2,3,and 4, well — total rip off!!

So I put the descriptors everywhere I can, and I number the books digitally.

Consider the order that the series was actually written in:

1.0  Blood Knot

2.0 Blood Stone

3.0 Blood Unleashed

4.0 Blood Revealed

5.0 Blood Ascendant

These books are the major novels, the ones with the primary characters in them.  These are the books that really move the series story arc along.  If you were to skip any of these, you’d be lost if you pick up a later book.

However, between books 2 and 3 lots of readers arm-twisted* me into writing Nial and Sebastian’s story — about how they met and how they broke up, which was talked about in the major books, but never shown.

(*Actually, they didn’t have to twist my arm very hard at all!)

So I wrote a novella and two short stories dealing with exactly that: Nial and Sebastian’s meeting and eventual break-up.  In story time, they actually come anywhere between 300 and 60 years before the start of Book 1, Blood Knot.  However, if I were to place them in the series order according to the time they take place in the series, that would make them the first three stories.  If you came to the series cold and read them before you read anything else, you would so get the wrong idea about the series!  And there would be massive spoilers laid down for Book 1, where the real romance takes place and is resolved.

So I placed them between book 1 and 2.  In numbering terms, that’s 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3.

Why between those two and not between, say 2 and 3?  Because once you had read book 1, you knew everything you needed to know to be able to read the in-betweeners and you wouldn’t read any spoilers, either.  You could actually read them anywhere in the series, really, as long as you’ve read all the previous major books in the series first.

Here’s another example, the Beloved Bloody Time series:

Book 1.0:  Bannockburn Binding
Book 1.1:  Wait*
Book 2.0:  Byzantine Heartbreak
Book 2.1:  Viennese Agreement *
Book 3.0:  Romani Armada
Book 4.0:  Spartan Resistance

As you can see, there are two in-betweeners in this series.  Wait comes after the first book, because that’s all you need to have read to follow and appreciate Lee and Tally’s relationship as told in Wait.  However, Viennese Agreement must be read after you’ve read book 2, Byzantine Heartbreak, because you’d get more spoilers and get totally lost, actually, even trying to read Viennese Agreement.

Back to the Blood Stone series.

There is an anthology in there, Amor Meus, which is book 1.5.  I provided this for readers who wanted all three stories in one hit, and also for readers who collect print editions of their favourite books.  By putting them into an anthology I could create a print edition, as all three of them were too short for their own print version.

I always number an anthology or boxed set as x.5 of whatever series they contain, coming after the last story in the anthology or boxed set.  As Vale is the last story in the Amor Meus anthology, that makes the anthology 1.5 in the series.

For the same reason, Blood Drive, the boxed set, contains books 1, 2 and 3 in the series.  So that becomes book 3.5 in the series.

If you want a shortcut through any series of mine, read all the major books (the x.0 numbered books).  Then you can come back later and read the x.x in-betweeners, if you want.  If I’ve done my job well enough, you should really want to, because the in-betweeners are where all the back story, old romances, break-ups, tragic pasts and more come home to roost.   You’ll read stories narrated by the characters themselves, too.  Both Nial from the Blood Stone series and Damian from the Stonebrood Saga have related their own stories in these in-betweeners, and a secondary character, Andy, told his own story in Time Kissed Moments I in the Kiss Across Time series, because readers wanted to know what happened to him.

For all these series that have digital numbering, the order you read the series in is important.

I have other “series” that are collections of like-minded stories.  The Thriller collection is an example.  These books I don’t number at all.  If I must number them for some reason, I make them all zero:  0.0 Dead Again, etc.  Also, they don’t have their own series page.  They’re just linked to each other via their book pages.  You could read them in any order you want, skip books, etc., and not trip over any spoilers or lose track of story-lines.

And that’s how I number series!

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