When Your Series is Cancelled

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: May 03 2022

I have represented lots of series over my career. Some are planned (trilogies or duologies) and sold as such, while others, especially mysteries, have no end plan. In those cases, the author writes until they can write no more. Sometimes the end comes through a choice they make and other times it’s a choice that’s made for them (lack of sales). Typically, honestly, it’s a choice that’s made for them. And there’s always a concern about what happens now that a series is cancelled.

The cancellation of a series before it’s planned is always tough on the author. They are concerned that readers will be upset and they feel a lack of finality to what they have done. Most wish they could have just one more book to wrap things up. But the truth is, authors typically aren’t given that option. By the time we learn that a series will be cancelled the last contracted book is finished and delivered. The author is already planning their next thing or deep into writing the next book (not in that series). Sometimes we just don’t know until we know.

Options for a Cancelled Series

Twenty years ago there weren’t many options for when a series was cancelled. The author just had to move on to the next thing. Now, with self-publishing, the author always has options. One of which is finishing out the series, or even continuing it on their own. I’ve had plenty of clients do this and do it successfully. Some have even left traditional publishing to go this route.

Other authors accept the fate of the series and use it as an opportunity to explore new things, either by expanding their writing chops or finding something else to excite them. Many of my cozy mystery authors, for example, have five or more series to their name. Some continued long into double digits (10 or more books) while others only made it through the first contract (3 books). This could all be the same author. None of these series were failures. Some just ran their course faster than others. Either way, the authors kept writing. They just moved on.

An Agent’s Advice

If an author wants to continue the series in any way by self-publishing I would always support that, but my real advice when a series ends is to move on to something else. Success in publishing isn’t about finding that one thing and sticking to it. It’s about growth and pivot and exploring your options. It’s about trying new things and even, sometimes, new genres. The most successful authors are those who stay published and to do so they are always ready to kill their darlings. This could be a character, it could be a book you can’t sell, it could be an entire series.

BookEnds wouldn’t be the agency we are today if we weren’t always ready and willing to move on to new and different things. To see when markets are flatlining and push ourselves and our clients to stay ahead of the curve. In some instances, cancelling the series before it gets cancelled.