When you write a series, you hope your readers will start the journey as you did — with the first book. That may not always be the case. Readers may pick up a book midway through the series or find one out of sequence that grabs their attention. As a writer, it’s your challenge to ensure that any book in a series is a satisfying, engaging experience.
This may seem contradictory to the concept of a series, but each book must stand on its own, two feet. Sure, readers in mid-series will miss a lot of what happened before, but you can’t bring all of that forward (Hopefully they’ll be inspired to go back and start at the beginning!) However, they’ll need to have enough backstory to get firm footing in that one, individual book. If it’s not there, they’ll get confused, frustrated, and set your book aside.
Bits of Subtlety
Informational lists are handy but not entertaining. Weave backstory in as part of a conversation, a physical description, or a particular place, date, or time. “Her mind alerted her to the trauma she’d endured the last time she was in the glade.” Now you have the perfect opening to provide some details the reader needs without knocking them over the head with them. “He had the telltale, mis-matched eyes of his biological father, not the one who raised him.” What about the eyes? Who is the real father? What happened to him? Now you’ve piqued the interest of your reader. The subtle bits you weave not only help your reader with the current book they’re reading, it can also inspire them to go back and learn more about your characters and their relationships in the earlier books.