Do you read past book 1?
In the last year, I’ve had the privilege of rolling out the start of two different series, Avenue of Dreams and Valley of Choice. Ten months from now, both series will be complete.
Out there. Out of my hands. Up to the readers to judge.
The two series don’t have much in common except I wanted to write them. One has a wealthy, urban 1890s setting, and the other is largely contemporary Amish.
Now I’m working on a couple of new proposals. For series. Lately I find myself wondering what it is about doing a series that appeals to me.
Well, a multi-book contract is an obvious answer. But I can think of a few other attractions.
• Practicality. I can create a setting and a cast of characters and get a lot of mileage out of the research effort.
• Fun. I get attached to my own characters, so it’s fun to keep writing about them.
• Simmering. I know what I’m going to be writing next, so a story can simmer in the back of my mind for months and feel more mature when it’s actually time to click the keys.
But there are drawbacks to doing a series as well.
• Bigger risk. Even if a first book does well with readers, that doesn’t mean the series will. Some will feel satisfied with one story and not feel the urge to dip in the same well again.
• Disappointment. Readers who did not care for the first book won’t pick up book 2 or 3, and I may never get another chance to share one of my stories with them.
• Boxed in. I always have more ideas than time to write about them. Single titles might give me more flexibility in what to write about.
That’s my perspective as a writer. What’s your perspective as a reader?
• Do you like to revisit a setting and characters by following a series, or do you prefer to see what new stories a writer might have?
Personally I do enjoy reading books in a series. It’s nice to grow along with the characters and see them develop. When an author writes a new series, it’s sometimes fun to have a cameo from characters from another series make an appearance but not necessarily be the focus of the story so new readers won’t get confused. What I don’t like is when books are split up into a series purely for marketing purposes and the storyline could have very well been condensed into two books or sometimes even one. I’ve read far too many 3 book series where it’s very obvious that the storyline was stretched out simply to have 3 books being sold. Also sometimes I like it when you HAVE to read the books in order to get the full story (ie. like Harry Potter) and sometimes I like when you can jump in anywhere. It depends on my mood. It’s personal preference on the author if they believe you need to start from the beginning and readers shouldn’t complain then when you jump in halfway and are completely confused.
Thanks, Deborah. I read widely in addition to writing, so I’m often faced with this question from both directions!
Olivia, All of my novels have been freestanding (although I did cheat and bring characters from novel #3 in contact with some from novel #1). For me, it’s worked well. Although I have to come up with new characters each time, I can start fresh with different circumstances. And readers don’t seem to mind.
I recognize the value of a series, though. And my wife loves reading some of the series books that are out there–says she feels like she knows the characters. (Of course, if one has to die, that makes it tough).
I think the answer, in your case as well as mine, is writing a good book. Then readers will come back.
Absolutely, Richard. Try to make every book great. I’ve read a couple of yours and know how well you do it!