Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Series, why?

Over the last week I've had two opportunities to browse around bookstores, and I naturally gravitated toward the YA shelves. Something struck me: almost all the books lined up there were series. Sure there were a few stand-alone titles, but for the most part, all the books were parts of series. Even the stand-alone titles, to a large degree, were books I know are the first part of a still-to-be published series.


As a writer, I've never had any desire to write a series or even a sequel. I'm happy to leave my characters alone after they've resolved whatever set of crises I tossed them through. Yet the shelves in the stores tell me readers must want more books about the same characters. Is it familiarity? Is it easier to slide back into a world you already know than to explore a new one? Or is it because it's easier to market series?

I'm even more intrigued because I don't especially like reading series either. I have, of course, but when I buy a book, whether it is part of a 3, 5, 11 book series is not something I take into consideration.

I'm wondering that if I want to make it, I have to think of a story big enough to span several books, or create a world that can be the setting for more than one story. The closest I come to series writing is sneaking little cameos from old characters into new books. I love doing that. You get a fresh perspective on the character, or see them older or younger than they might have been when they initially showed up. In Assignment 9 the love interest is actually a character from another book I wrote, Holding it Together. In Chasing the Taillights, the new friend Lucy makes at school is a character I first came up with for an unfinished book I tentatively called Coming Home. But reusing characters isn't the same thing as writing a series.

What do you think the appeal of series is? Do you write with the aim of creating one? Do you like slipping old characters into new books?


  1. For some reason, all of the books I've written have naturally been part of a series. It's not that I decided it to be that way- just that the story wasn't finished, yet.

  2. It bugs me that so many YA books are series now. I have a sort of completist attitude I have to get over. I read several books that were entertaining last year, but I have no desire to continue on with the series. It irks me that the story is left unresolved, but there are too many other books I want to read that I don't have patience to invest in a series I'm not excited about.

    The other issue is when the first book of a series doesn't have enough resolution. I got burned by this twice in recent months; one book I had no idea was the start of a series. Booo. At least book 1 should resolve the plot and not leave off on a total cliffhanger.

  3. I had a friend tell me once they preferred series, even in category romance, because once they fell in love with a set of characters, they wanted to keep reading them. I can see that, but I feel the same way about the whole thing you do.

    For a publisher, that's got to be a marketing dream. Built-in readers just because the characters stay the same.

    I would suspect an agent or publisher may ask for series potential even if you only offer up a single book, if they see that glimmer of characters that will sell again and again.

    Companion novels are becoming more popular too. Where the story line isn't continued, but you bring over main characters, themes or settings from another story and they become secondary in the new book. That sounds a lot closer to what you enjoy doing. I think it's a neat way to write.

  4. I don't know...I think it depends on the book or the series for me. I write series and standalones, but I prefer to write standalones. I should say: My co-author and I are writing one series. I figured that was WAAAY more than enough for me, so I planned to just write standalones. Good plan, right? Ha. I have a book, Rising Book 1: Resistance, that comes out this month, and it's only book 1 because the darn thing got too long! I was so determined to make it one book, but at about 100,000 words, I wasn't even finished and there was still SO much story left to tell. I went, "Crap, this is going to have to be two books." So...I'm writing the second one right now, but then the story will be tied off and DONE.

    I think that a story should get whatever is called for--if someone needs eight books to tell a story, great. If it's told in a novella and done, brilliant. But I don't care as much for series that stretch things out forever just because the authors don't want them to end. (That drives me nuts with TV shows, too.)

  5. Teens LOVE series. Also - a lot of people who don't read a lot love series. It's an easy way for them to pick out what they'll read next.

    I TOTALLY shy away from them -if there's a number next to the title, I almost ALWAYS move on.

  6. As a reader you get to know a books characters and you care about them. So you want to keep on caring about them. That's why I read series.