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The Future of Series in Publishing

I love when readers inspire blog posts. Truthfully, I need as much inspiration as I can get. This one came out of a comment on the post I wrote about Series and Trilogies back in September.

Oh, oh, oh, great post! It got me started on a subject I’ve been frowning on for a while now. Truth is, I’m no fan of series, trilogies, septalogies or any kind of neverending stories that only profit from the first book’s success, and generate money at the expense of authentic reader enjoyment. The only series I ever did was of two (short!) books. Sure, there are authors whose stories are bigger than just one book, but I prefer authors capable of moving on and creating something new, taking things to a new level. My writing mantra is easy – if it doesn’t grip me and keep me interested, it sure won’t anyone else. At a certain point it must get boring for the writer too, and I think that’s why many series/trilogies/septalogies/neverending stories end up flopping at one point. What do you guys think? You think series still have a future?

Originally I wasn’t going to post the entire comment, but I loved the energy of it so I did.

This is something I don’t know that I’ve confessed to on the blog, but I’m not a huge series reader either. Which is odd, because I represent quite a number of series. My reasonings are multi-fold. First, as a publishing professional I feel like there are so many authors I should be reading, and instead of reading the same author twice (or three or five times) I often move around so I can sample as many different styles of writing as possible. That being said, I’ve read quite a few books written by Sara Addison Allen, David Bell, and Elizabeth Hoyt. I also read the entire Hunger Games trilogy.

Secondly, I too find that I like to discover new characters and new worlds. For me, reading is an adventure and I want to explore something new as often as I can. For other readers though, reading can be a comfortable retreat. Somewhere to go to visit old friends and settle into that favorite place–a place that feels like a second home.

I think your writing mantra is very smart. All authors, like readers, need to find what works for them and if series don’t work for you, you aren’t a series writer. That being said, I don’t think series are going anywhere. Ever. Readers still love them, and publishers and agents really love them. There’s nothing better than an author with a successful series that I know I’ll be able to get consistent sales from.

Authors love them too. Some authors love writing a series. Like readers, they also love returning to those characters and that place and, for many, the cancellation of a series can be a difficult mourning period. Like saying goodbye to old friends.

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9 comments

  1. Dear Jessica, I’m honored that my comment inspired you! It motivates me to keep being very honest about my views on writing and reading with you guys on this blog – of course, always in a respectful manner to all kinds of writing and writers out there. Great post! Big hug to y’all 🙂

  2. Love this post, even though I’m exactly the opposite–I love reading a series. The very first one I truly got hooked on was Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern. I still occasionally pull those books out and reread them, but I fall into the category of readers who love being swept up in an author’s world–including my own. I freely admit that series are comfort reads for me, but it’s also a chance to further explore an author’s vision of an alternate world, whether it’s a paranormal or fantasy setting, or merely a small town and it’s many inhabitants. I want to know what happens to favorite characters throughout the timeframe of a series–Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series is an excellent example. She even refers to those characters in her spin-off series, though it’s not necessary to have read any of the prior books to appreciate them.

    If I’m a fan of an author’s voice, I’ll read everything they write, ergo, my “keeper shelves” are lined with books in multiple series by the same authors. I write them for the same reason–I really need to know what is going on with the characters I’ve met while writing a book. Sort of my own personal therapy, and a reason to hang out in a world I’ve created. Sometimes it really does beat the real one.

  3. Kate, I was a big fan of the Dragonriders, too! And Andre Norton’s Witch World. And lots of others.

    I write series, too, so I can’t say I agree with the original post. (Sorry Ana.) Series can be handled in all sorts of ways, but at least to me each book is a new story because the focus is on the new h/h. There are definitely traps to doing them–traps I fall into frequently and have to pull myself out of either on the first draft or edits: too much back story, getting distracted by the old h/h and so losing the focus on the new h/h–I’ve read series where the current book is just a reunion show of all the previous characters. Not saying that doesn’t work for some readers, but it’s not what I strive for in writing. Keeping the books consistent when they’ve been written over years.

    The biggest thing about series that has changed from the time my first book came out in 2005 is the e-book revolution. Now books don’t go “out of print.” So someone discovering a series can go back and get all the books. And that’s another challenge of series. You write them in one order, but the reader might read them in another order! You want the books to be satisfying when read in any order–though the sort of satisfaction may be different depending or reading order.

    Okay, off to work on a new series proposal. I have to come up with three interesting stories–there compelling h/h–but also some fun and interesting thing that links them in some way.

  4. I absolutely love reading series. I think the key factor is if the protag is a character I enjoy reading about. When an author does finish a series I don’t necessarily get hooked by their next, even though I’m sure the author is writing just as well. And Ana will probably cringe at this, but for some series I won’t read the next book until I’ve been back and read all the preceding ones.

    Having said that, I do enjoy non-series books as well (as my book shelf of every Dick Francis novel will attest).

    Perhaps it’s the genre the series are written in? Crime/mystery and fantasy are the two genres I read series in. I never read series in any other genre (I have tried but they couldn’t hold my interest).

    1. Now you guys make me want to read series, because your comments give me the feeling I’m missing out LOL. It’s funny, but it’s true. AJ, I can totally feel you. I found myself loving this or that mystery series too. But the romance series I somehow couldn’t digest. Fifty Shades bored me out of my mind after the second book, which I tried hard to finish. I loved Twilight though, I like Meyer’s style. And, yes, I’ve devoured Harry Potter. You have a point, AJ, series do make sense in certain genres … I’d love to read a sequel to Phantom of the Opera for example, or Dorian Gray.
      Having said that, I admit I’m one for instant gratification, so reading 7 books before coming to the closure of a story just isn’t my thing. I’d be tapping my foot on the ground thinking of all the mail that needs processing and all the translations that need filing in, and I’ve just wasted my time sprinting through a book that led nowhere. As I’ve said in a previous comment in another post, I love those series where the story does come to closure in the same book (like crime and mystery). Oh, the discussion is so long, I better stop. Anaway, great posts and great topics, I love being here 🙂

      1. One thing to note on romance series is that in most cases (you listed exceptions) each book features a theme, but not a continuing couple. Just as Sally MacKenzie said about her books earlier.

  5. I love series books, I do read single books, but I always have unanswered questions and no way of getting the answers. Of course, there are questions at the end of series books as well but you at least have the hope of answers and if not you’re distracted by another story and meeting up with old friends (and new) again.

    What Ana said about the success of the first book, I think is very important, if that first introduction to a world and its characters doesn’t capture people, then it will be so much harder to bring them in later.

  6. My favorite genre is fantasy, so I’m stuck with reading series whether I like them or not! Still, I prefer novels that have a definitive ending, even if the overall series continues. Jim Butcher (for example) does this very well. Often, I won’t start reading a series by an author new to me until all, or most of, the books are in print. I hate to be left hanging.

    That said, if you write like Patrick Rothfuss, I’ll wait years for your next installment.

    1. Great example! I tried reading Rothfuss and somehow I couldn’t get past the first five pages. Now you made me want to give him another try 🙂 One of his books has been on my shelf for two years.

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