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The NeverEnding Series

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I don’t remember the last time I read a stand alone Romance – one not populated with friends, brothers, sisters, cousins, colleagues, and random townspeople just waiting for their own story. In fact, I hadn’t even realized this until I read a recent interview with Julie Anne Long, in which she commented on the ETA of Lyon and Olivia’s book in her Pennyroyal Green series:

So this theme, and Olivia and Lyon’s story winds through the series – and to tell their story would be to essentially end the series, because we’ll need to explore what happens between the Everseas and Redmonds. I’ll keep readers posted as to when they can expect stories for either of them, and readers can expect more developments for both characters in ensuing stories.

My initial reaction to this answer was extreme frustration (to put it politely). Not only am I uncertain why Olivia And Lyon’s book would have to spell the end of the series, but at eight books and counting, I’m wondering how many more stand between me and that proverbial carrot. Elyssa Patrick pointed out that Long said elsewhere that she was going for the English village vibe, and I have to admit that one of my favorite series – Patricia Gaffney’s Wyckerley books – has that same sensibility. Of course, Wyckerley was a mere trilogy. Still, Long’s comment made me realize how conditioned I have become to expecting a series, and her candor made me wonder if the series has become a central genre convention and what that might mean for readers, authors, and the books themselves.

To Series or Not To Series

From an author’s perspective, a series can establish and imprint a brand, engaging reader loyalty and establishing easy recognition.

For the reader, there does seem to be something inherently logical about the series concept in Romance. Although love is an individual experience, its effects are social and its importance communal. So drawing out from one couple to another, through a variety of characters and circumstances, creates a nice sense of community and closure, both inside and outside the story.

And tastes differ. Who hasn’t read that book where the secondary characters seem more compelling than the protagonists? It can be rewarding to know those characters will have their own chance at love, too. Not to mention the pleasure that can come from revisiting those from previous books, whose own lives continue past the confines of their own story. At their best, series can satisfy the dual craving for novelty and comfort.

How Many Books Does A Series Make

So how many series manage to hit that sweet spot between leaving the reader unsatisfied and making them feel taken advantage of? For example, I think three is the perfect number for Molly O’Keefe’s excellent Crooked Creek series, but I have been increasingly disappointed by each new book in the Mackenzie series by Jennifer Ashley, which was initially represented to readers as a four-pack, even though book five will release next month. Yet I’m thrilled that Elizabeth Peters is writing a new Amelia Peabody book, even though I have not loved every one in that very long series.

I realize that those series where I tend to hang on for a long time feature the same main couple or characters (e.g. Sookie Stackhouse, In Death, Amelia Peabody), while those that move through the stories of different couples within the same world tend to wear on me after a while. I’m not precisely sure why this is, but I do know that when a series is pitched toward an ultimate story – Hart Mackenzie’s in the Ashley series, Nix’s in Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark, Lyon and Olivia in Long’s Pennyroyal Green series – I often check out way before the final book. I understand that my expectations are likely artificially inflated over the course of books leading up to that promised book, but it also seems like there’s a weakening in the books leading up to that highly anticipated story. JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood completely crashed for me before I made it to Phury’s book, which I had been looking forward to from the first book in the series. I’ve been more and more frustrated with the editing issues in Long’s books, to the point where their strengths no longer outweigh the problems, and as much as I adore Sookie Stackhouse, the rush to end it has had some funky effects on the most recent books.

Not to mention the series that shift from paperback to hardcover, which is always a bitterly ironic twist for the loyal reader whose paperback purchases helped build the popularity of the series.

And what about those series that don’t get finished, either because an author loses a publishing contract or something else happens? Lisa Valdez, anyone? Self-publishing has made it easier for authors to control their own characters beyond the vagaries of publishing contracts, but the flip-side of series fatigue is the unfinished series and the disappointment of readers who experienced books with an expectation of a larger, unfinished storyline.

One of the things that stood out starkly to me in that Julie Anne Long explanation was the implication that Olivia and Lyon’s book needs to be the last in the series. If, indeed, there is supposed to be a whole world beyond but still connected to these families and that couple, why does that one book have to spell the end of the series? Is the perception that readers will not want to continue beyond that book, because that clearly problematizes the number of books written leading up to that last book (e.g. how much of that becomes a business decision, more than a creative one). But if there’s a strategic path leading up to a book that will definitely end it all, why is there not more clarity around when readers can expect that book?

The Double Bind of Reader Expectations

I think we’ve arrived at the crux of my issue with the ubiquity of the series: it feeds on and feeds reader expectations to the point where they can conflict with the author’s creative intention and autonomy.

Jennifer Ashley’s Mackenzie series is a perfect example of this dilemma. Readers fell in love with Ian Mackenzie in the first book, but we all knew that Hart was the real firecracker in the family, and every book from Ian’s forward whet the reader’s appetite for Hart’s story. By the time that book arrived, readers had been told to expect a guy who had a dark sexual side and secrets that would shock our sensibilities. I’m not sure such enthusiastic anticipation could ever be fully realized, but what was delivered in Hart’s story was very much different than what we had all been conditioned to expect.

So here’s the question: is that our fault or the author’s?

While readers react to a book and to the conditioning of our expectations through the lengthy construction and revision of a fictional world, the author should ultimately and fully retain creative control over her work and her vision. Without this creative control, the book becomes nothing more than a base commercial good produced for profit or a byproduct of reader response.

Ideally, innovation should be driven both by reader desire and authorial creativity: the author produces content and the reader chooses. We already know that innovation is compromised by a somewhat closed system of perceptions about what readers want and arbitrary rules that guide what is directed into the mainstream and used to condition reader expectations. To what degree do series, especially long series, continue to narrow rather than expand creative possibilities? To what extent does riding the tide of reader expectations result in shaping those expectations, as well, such that they ultimately direct the current?

When a series hits a sweet spot for readers, it’s a win-win. I find Jo Goodman’s books often hit this spot for me, because sometimes she will pick up characters from previous books, but it may not be right away. Books may loosely relate without being part of a formal series. This feels more natural to me, and I like not knowing what, exactly, to expect until I get it. I know Goodman’s style and the main issues she likes to visit, but I never feel like every single secondary character is sequel bait, and sometimes I’ll get a surprise by revisiting an earlier book in an indirect way. Judith Ivory did this, too, when she brought Submit casually and very secondarily into The Proposition. It was a nice Easter egg-ish surprise, but not one that compromised the independence of the later book. Also, despite the disappointment some readers felt for Hart Mackenzie’s story, the extension of the series beyond that much-anticipated book might give it new life (and even re-set reader expectations).

But I still wonder if we’ve gone too far, and if the stand-alone book is becoming an endangered species. Series are appealing for many readers, but the single story also has value, not only as an expression of a unique, un-reproduceable vision, but also as a way of managing reader expectations while allowing them the ability to invest in a story without feeling pressure to know whether it’s part of a series and to wonder whether it can be read out of order. Is there a fear that readers will not develop loyalty to an author brand if series are not the norm? And what happens with a reader who picks up a book in the middle of a series and feels completely disoriented because she’s not familiar with the world-building? Is there a meaningful difference between books that take place in the same fictional world and outright series? Genre readers are loyal, and authors often cognizant of creating a recognizable brand, but is this mutual dependence limiting innovation in the genre

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!

50 Comments

  1. Isobel Carr
    Nov 19, 2012 @ 21:16:57

    I think of the experience & advice I’ve heard from my friends who are doing really well in selfpub (people like Bella Andre and Tina Folsom): series build, they don’t come into their own until you have 6-8 books, and that the readership is begging for more. I can tell you, this really has me thinking as I move into selfpub myself.

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  2. Kelly
    Nov 19, 2012 @ 21:25:33

    … it feeds on and feeds reader expectations to the point where they can conflict with the author’s creative intention and autonomy.

    This is exactly what went through my mind as I was reading a new installment in a favorite series a few months ago. The author has a HUGE reader community on Facebook, and I knew by chapter two that the book was crowd-sourced by her fangirls.

    I don’t want to name-and-shame because I still love the author’s other books and I haven’t given up on the series yet, but I felt like a complete outsider while I was reading that book (#6 out of 7 (so far…)). It was disappointing and frustrating, and then I felt really guilty when it came time to write the negative review, because I felt like it negated all those early “OMG, you have to read this series!” recommendations I pushed on my friends.

    The most recent book has been out for weeks and I even pre-ordered it, but my “what if I don’t like it???” book anxiety is completely holding me back from reading it. I’m paying for and invested in the author’s ideas and stories – NOT those of other readers.

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  3. JL
    Nov 19, 2012 @ 21:28:37

    Other than Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld series (and even that was iffy) and Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changling series, I’ve never made it past book 9 in a series. I hate when it’s clear the author has no end game for whatever is stringing the books together. I loved the Sookie Stackhouse books so much at first, but I’ve not been able to read the last few because they were so aimless. I stopped caring about these characters that used to be so beloved, I think because the author seems to stop really caring about them at that point. I really like how Jill Shalvis is continuing the Lucky Harbour series. Each trilogy is self-contained (each book, in fact). The read can revisit the world if they please, but they are not missing anything if they don’t. At the same time, they don’t have to read 5 filler books to just to have the meta-plot arc finally wrap. Trilogies tend to be my favourite.
    Sorry this was more of a vent than a thoughtful contribution to the conversation :)

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  4. coribo25
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 04:56:42

    And let’s not forget the serialised series. That would be nine books each delivered a chapter at a time. It’s coming, mark my words.

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  5. Dana
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 05:12:36

    I love authors like Meljean Brook, Ilona Andrews and Nalini Singh. All of whom have written succesful series. With each of those I feel like the world they have built is fascintaing enough to revist again and again. I do appreciate, though, when I can skip books where the main couple are less interesting to me and still feel like I can follow. It is true, though, that will all the mentioned authors a larger theme has gone through the series which you might not follow where you to join in the middle, but I still think you can enjoy an individual book. This is why I was saddned to hear about Ilona Andrews ending the Edge series. I loved that world (and a beloved author venture into Romance, a genere I love) but I respect her professional decision.

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  6. Merrian
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 05:13:25

    As I needed to get rid of books when I moved house this year, thinking about series books was very much on my mind. I have tended towards completism – if a book is part of a series I must read/have them all; even if my response to some books in the series was meh. Moving forced me to re-evaluate this. I found that I ended up doing two things (1) keeping only my favourite re-reads from a series (2) holding on to books until the last in the series is in my hands to read and then sending the whole group to the op shop. I am finding that there are very few series that I keep in their entirety now.

    I have had to think about the ‘why’ of series – what am I getting out of reading the whole series not just a single title or an individual book in a series. I realised that often it wasn’t the conclusion of a story or wanting to know what happens to the protagonists but the familiarity of the world, the author’s voice and the characters that I was reading for.

    Now I am asking myself is this familiarity enough to justify the commitment that reading a series takes. When we are 8 or 9 books into a series that means I have held the characters and story in my mind for at least 8 if not 12 years. Do I want to make that commitment? What does that commitment actually give to me as a reader? Especially when authors seem to be making it up as they go along – that there is no long story arc.

    Having said that I am waiting anxiously for Martha Well’s third ‘Cloud Roads’ book due on 4th DEC 12 and have read and enjoyed Gin Hale’s ‘Rifter’ serial and am in for the long haul of Heidi Belleau & Rachel Haimowitz ‘Flesh Cartel’ Serial. These are all books that make clever and conscious use of long form story telling over multiple books, over time to give readers an immersion in a world and to tell a complex story.

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  7. Sandy James
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 05:22:57

    My biggest pet peeve as a reader is a series that goes on well beyond its efficacy. Makes me believe the author is just stringing fans along for the profit. I love a closed-end series where you know there’s a completion to the story/world. It always makes that last book so much more satisfying.

    As an author, the temptation is there–especially if a book does well–to go back to that well. On the other hand, I like writing stand alone books, too. There’s a sense of closure for my characters.

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  8. Ros
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 05:31:41

    I don’t really get the appeal of romance series, to be honest. Amelia Peabody I love, but that’s a detective series. I know there are romantic elements in it, but the romance is not central and the books do not have romantic HEA’s. It’s Poirot or Miss Marple, not Heyer.

    I guess if you write paranormal romance, it makes sense to have books set in the same world, but I don’t see why the characters need to have continuity. For contemporaries, historicals etc, I can’t really see the point of it at all. I get so frustrated by the endless sequel baiting – the brothers/sisters/cousins/friends/distant acquaintances who all have to have ‘their’ story.

    I thought Sherry Thomas’s latest series suffered badly from the way she mixed the three stories into each book. She would have done much better to keep those stories separate.

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  9. Sami Lee
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 05:51:41

    I hope the standalone book is not endangered. I think I’m in the minority, but I prefer books that give me everything in one hit–the whole kit, caboodle and story arc tied up in a neat, one-book-only-required bow.

    Having said that I do enjoy the Sue Grafton alphabet mysteries. Might need to mull over that little conflict.

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  10. Jayne
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 06:33:38

    @Sami Lee: I hope the standalone isn’t near extinction either. I often find that if I haven’t “gotten in on the ground floor” of a series or if, for whatever reason, I haven’t kept up with a long series – when I try to come back to it the sheer number of books will sometimes make me throw up my hands in exasperation and walk away. Especially if there still isn’t an end in sight.

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  11. cecilia
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 06:55:13

    My reaction to a series depends on the type it is. I’ll read mystery series that go on for 30 books without getting tired, but I think that’s often because they’re very much about the story of the crime, less so about the repeat characters. The repeat characters get the ongoing story that is developed slowly, but their personal life stories don’t occupy the bulk of the book.

    The type of series like Julie Anne Long’s and others (which I have at times loved), does get old, though, much faster. I think 3 up to 6 can work really well. More than 8 or 10 and I’m rolling my eyes and not looking forward to the books anymore. At that point, the notion that there would be so many ridiculously happy, passionate couples in one small community (whether it’s small-town America or the ton) is beyond believing. A series like that often then turns into syrupy revisiting of all the old couples.

    At that point, I’m usually overwhelmed by the suspicion that the author is simply trying to avoid the effort of creating a new “world,” a new premise, or whatever. I don’t blame them for capitalizing on the popularity of something they’ve got going, but I wish they’d trust their creativity to start something new.

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  12. Ellen
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 07:01:05

    I will confess to a certain self-loathing when I continue supporting a series when it becomes obvious to my cynical side that the series is continuing in large part to keep the cash cow alive and producing. I came to the Stephanie Plum series very late. Nine had already been produced. I succumbed to the “ya gotta read these” which was supplemented by finding the first nine for $5. Instant glom. I loved them. I loved the next couple. Then it became a type of Mad Lib, fill in the blank with a grandma moment, fill in the blank with a Lulu moment, insert (no pun intended) studly male 1 or 2, have mom go for the hidden booze, blow up one of Ranger’s cars.
    Since I am not a drinker, I made it a chocolate game, figure out the next plot device, get a bite of a Toblerone. I do not like the direction the series appears to be taking. At one time Steph had a certain loyalty, dare I say purity. She didn’t engage in broom closet sex with one of the guys just because, well, they were there and he is hot. Yeah, I am able to pinpoint where the shark was jumped for me.
    Will I read the next one, yeah, probably. Will I spend money on it, definitely not. Will I have a mountain of chocolate stockpiled, for sure.

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  13. Sandra
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 07:09:31

    I don’t mind an extended series involving a single couple (Kate Daniels comes immediately to mind). Or someone like Jo Bourne, who sets her stories in the same world, but at different times, and with little crossover between stories. What really annoys me, and Stephanie Laurens is an extreme example, is the endless series that seems to involve half the population of the known universe, and the constant cameos by previous happy couples. That, and the sequential nature of the series. Couple A meets, gets an HEA, couple B is introduced, wash, rinse, repeat. In the real world, family members/friends don’t remain in stasis, waiting one by one for their chance at an HEA.

    I think Jo Goodman’s Compass Club is about the only series I’ve come across where the stories all occurred in the same time frame. I’d love to see more series in that vein, but that requires some major planning by the author, and a closed end series from the beginning.

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  14. CC
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 07:30:14

    Great post!

    I’m a reader on her early 20s. I only started reading romance novels about 2 or 3 years ago.

    Honestly, no matter what genre I read, I despise book series (with very few exceptions). If your book is not a stand-alone novel then I’ll probably only read it if it’s merely a trilogy. Longer than that is pushing it for me. I like to get a beginning, middle and end of a story… if it just keeps going then I feel very unsatisfied.

    Of course, there have been cases where I started a long series, mistaking the first book for a stand-alone… but then I would rarely be interested enough to continue. For example, I checked the first books of the Breeds series by LL but the only couple/characters I was interested in didn’t get their own book, but apparently the author is saving the best for last. Sorry, but I won’t read 30 books when I only care about the last one.

    There were instances where I adored the first book in a series and as I kept reading the next books my love for it disappeared and in the end I ended up disliking it altogether. Watering down a good story and filling pages with endless pointless drama is a terrible idea.

    Bottom line: I will always prefer stand-alone novels and even if a stand-alone is AMAZING, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to make a sequel.

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  15. CC
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 07:42:20

    Oh! One more thing: a few years ago I started a romantic series for teens by a new local author. It was very fresh and unique compared to other series from local authors (it’s a tiny country). At the time there were only 2 or 3 books released and the author was unknown. The plot moved quickly and I was excited to see what happened in the end (which I was guessing would be in another 3 books).

    Well… the last time I checked there were 12 books written and the story wasn’t even close to an ending. After the 3rd book the author didn’t know what else to write, so she made the heroine (a princess) go to high school… and suddenly the story went from political intrigue with forbidden romance to… bitchy remarks and catfights in high school. Even the “hero” didn’t show up for like… 4 books.

    To say I was angry is an understatement. From the first couple of books I was ready to call it my favorite series ever… but now I despise everything about it. Specially all the money I spent on it (books over here are EXPENSIVE).

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  16. Brie
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 08:07:42

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who worries about the future of the stand-alone novel.

    I agree that, at least in Contemporary Romance, three is the magic number. I understand falling in love with secondary characters and places and not wanting to let go, but it’s getting ridiculous. Someone mentioned how easy it is to read the Lucky Harbor books because each book stands alone well, and it doesn’t surprise me they feel that way because each book is basically the same. I love that series, but I wonder when is the right time to say enough.

    One of the problems I have with long series is that when the author has a very distinct voice, they reach a point where every book and character sounds the same. Series make more sense in PNR and UF because they help expand the worldbuilding. But there should be a limit to everything.

    But series have become increasingly popular. I remember years ago when we used to get one new installment each year, and now authors are writing three and four books a year. This is particularly true with contemporary series, and I wonder who is responsible for putting so much pressure: insatiable readers, publishers, the authors? Ilona Andrews announced the end of The Edge books, claiming that they didn’t sell well and that they weren’t feeling the love for the series anymore. I wonder what would have happened had the books being a great success. Would they feel the pressure to continue them even if they didn’t feel like it?

    Regardless of how well a book sells, not everything is meant to be a series, especially when it means sacrificing quality for quantity.

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  17. Lynn
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 08:36:27

    I don’t mind series as long as I feel that the author has an overall “plan” for the world and each book moves that plan along in a tangible way (such as in Brooks’ Guardians, Nalini Singh’s worlds or Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels). I really get frustrated when I feel that an author is stringing me along needlessly, such as in the case of Julie Ann Long who IMO just keeps dropping little crumbs in the background plot and doesn’t move it along. Some fantasy authors are just as guilty of doing this – I gave up on Robert Jordan and I won’t read anymore in Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire until it’s done (I know he’s not my bitch, but I’m not convinced that he’s going to ever complete the darn thing).

    Books set in the same world without any over-arching plot are not a “series” to me (i.e. Brooks’ Iron Seas or James’ USA/FBI). The worlds are connected and we see some oveerlapping of characters, but there is no real overarching plot driving the books to some grand conclusion. I actually like these kinds of books a lot because I get to explore the world in some real way without the imperative that I have to read every book to get to some resolution that may never come.

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  18. Tamara Hogan
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 08:49:42

    I love paranormal series, but only if the world has enough breadth and complexity to support multiple characters and story lines, and only if the quality of the writing stays high. Unfortunately, I have bailed on a number of long-running series because I felt like the quality level dropped as the author became more popular and released books more frequently.

    It’s the old quality vs. quantity thing. The list of authors who can deliver multiple, high-quality books per year is, in my opinion, really quite short. As a reader, I’d prefer a longer wait between books if that’s what it takes for an author to produce a compelling, memorable story. As an author, I know for a fact that releasing less frequently means you have NO chance of making a living writing books in today’s marketplace.

    It’s a conundrum.

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  19. Carrie G
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 09:03:32

    I doubt I’ve ever made it past book 6 or 7 of a romance series before getting really bored with the writing and the characters. Even if I love the writer, the writing inevitably starts getting stale with the same setting and people. With few exception, I prefer stand-alone books to series. In fact, I’ve passed up books that are adored by many readers simply because I don’t like feeling “obligated” to keep reading. The perfect “series” length, if there has to be a series, is 3 books. Any longer and I’m almost sure to lose interest. Like Cecelia, I can read longer series if the main gist is mystery or suspense, and then I like the books to follow the same character(s). Still, I doubt I’ll ever make it through all the In Death books, even though I enjoy them.

    I think part of my problem with series is knowing there are so many good things out there to read. I don’t want to get bogged down with the same people and place when I can go read about fresh new places and interesting new faces. Since I jump all over the map when it comes to sub-genres, I always have way too many books to read. Historicals are not my favorite genre, so I am less likely to get started on a historical series. I’m more likely to start a science fiction romance series (I miss Linnea Sinclair!!), or a good paranormal– one that involves a fair amount of world building, like Meljean Brooks’ Iron Seas, or Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series.

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  20. Laura Florand
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 09:12:45

    @Merrian: The Cloud Roads book is out. It got released a month early. I had it on pre-order so got it about a week ago. I just finished it, it was wonderful!! I love her work. Moon was a particularly compelling character, even for her, and that’s saying a lot.

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  21. Christine
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 09:33:24

    I guess I am the opposite in that I cannot keep reading a series (unless it is mystery based) with the same protagonists. It always deteriorates and the author is compelled to break up the main couple, cause them to have major problems or find goofy ways to keep them apart. (See the Stephanie Plum books, Sookie etc etc.) Often the author ends up ruining the romance for me as I get turned off of the characters for doing jerky things. I do far better with books that are related but have different main characters. As a reader above mentioned- Joanna Bourne and Meljean Brook do a great job of keeping their books in the same related world but providing fresh stories and characters, and skillfully reusing others as supporting players (but not in a goofy “look at how happy we and our big brood of children are” way).

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  22. MrsJoseph
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 10:25:24

    I am getting on the “hate series” bandwagon. I can deal with trilogies but the neverending series kills me. I used to LOVE Stephanie laurens…now I can’t even see her name without cringing a little. Her Cynster series is about to hit 23 books and I gave up after book 5. I haven’t kept up with the Bastion Club at all…I stopped that one at book3 (I think).

    I’m so sick of the series with no end…almost as much as I’m sick of the serial (which I refuse to read). Gah!

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  23. Divya S
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 10:34:53

    @Brie:

    I agree with everything you said, but I thought the Edge books sold well (but not as spectacularly well as the Kate Daniels). Weren’t they in the NYT Bestseller List? So in that scenario, I’m not sure if the series ended because of the lack of sales (or insatiable readers! :D), but more because the author wanted to end the series at the fourth book.

    My favorite examples of historical romances are the Julia Quinn books. I love how she can end a series (ie Bridgerton), but still continues the same world with other characters that have nothing to do with the previous series. It’s especially fun when I can spot a protagonist of another series (like the Smythe-Smith family and Lady Danbury) in a Lady Whistledown column.

    As for the Cynster series, I loved the first four, but I confess that I stopped reading after the 10th book. I could never keep up with all the cousins, even with the family tree!

    Still, while I miss some standalone romances, some of my favorite books belong in a series (Kate Daniels, Mercy Thompson, and Bridgerton).

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  24. Kris Bock
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 11:38:43

    I suspect authors know, at least on some level, when they’re making decisions in an attempt to manipulate the reader. Sometimes this pressure may come from publishers who don’t want to lose a good moneymaker. The urge is understandable, but series should continue because the author loves the characters and has more story to tell.

    I generally enjoy trilogies where the heroines or heroes are friends or siblings. Even three books can be problematic, though, if they are *too* closely connected. The second book can feel like act two of a play, spending too much time looking back at the first couple and setting up the third couple, instead of focusing on the current pair.

    I think longer series work best if they are either loosely connected, like the Pink Carnation series, where there are some recurring characters but you could read out of order and still be satisfied, or mysteries where you have the same main character but don’t expect as much character arc and romantic resolution in a single book. The latter can drag as well, though, if there’s not enough change. I loved the first few Amelia Peabody books, then lost interest until the next generation grew up and took center stage.

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  25. Sunny
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 11:45:01

    For me, I think it really depends on what’s going on within the series. I absolutely love Nalini Singh’s books, but the fact that there is an over-arching story that is furthered with each book makes a huge difference to me. I’m only a few books into the Pennyroyal Green series and am loving them, so I have to wait and see if they wear thin or continue to work for me. I also think that knowing that you’re getting into a “this will be about every character and their subsequent hooking up” series makes a difference, too.

    I love Ilona Andrews, but I stalled out once Kate and Curran got together, and haven’t started Magic Strikes… because I got my wish fulfilment, even though I love the books and the world. I’ll eventually read it, but it became less a driving need for me. I wonder if the same thing would be true for Olivia and Lyon.

    I enjoy non-romance series as well, and was shocked to see the backlash from fans when an author put out the third book in her current series… and it wasn’t the end of a trilogy. Until then most of her works had been trilogies, and people completely lost their minds when this story wasn’t wrapped up in three books. This year the fourth book came out… and it’s still not the end. Again, flurries of 1-star ratings just because it wasn’t the ending. It’s wild, because I’m actually really enjoying this series with a single main character and how it can’t possibly be told in three books (or four, or maybe even five, I’ll find out next year), but it’s also amazing that peoples’ expectations that something be wrapped up neatly in a trilogy and the story moved on to another character create such anger towards the author when they didn’t conform to that. Especially when they never, ever made any promises that hey, this is a trilogy. She’s made paired books before, and stand-alones, and a trilogy of trilogies with 3 sets of characters but an over-arching plot, but this is the first 5+ book run she’s done.

    I loved Babylon 5 for the single, cohesive plot over 5 years and the smaller seasonal stories, be they episodic or for the entire year. The fact that it stayed true to the 5-year plan was revolutionary for me and I’ve never found another television series (besides Battlestar Galactica) that managed the same thing, and I think it’s interesting that I find it more in romance than non-romance that the authors are able to keep to the same idea. One day Robin Hobb’s stories will be finished, and I am loving them as they go, but phew… like I told a friend, sometimes getting through 8 books to get a really emotionally satisfying pay-off in the 9th is rough.

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  26. MrsJoseph
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 11:58:58

    @Sunny:

    I enjoy non-romance series as well, and was shocked to see the backlash from fans when an author put out the third book in her current series… and it wasn’t the end of a trilogy. Until then most of her works had been trilogies, and people completely lost their minds when this story wasn’t wrapped up in three books. This year the fourth book came out… and it’s still not the end. Again, flurries of 1-star ratings just because it wasn’t the ending. It’s wild, because I’m actually really enjoying this series with a single main character and how it can’t possibly be told in three books (or four, or maybe even five, I’ll find out next year), but it’s also amazing that peoples’ expectations that something be wrapped up neatly in a trilogy and the story moved on to another character create such anger towards the author when they didn’t conform to that. Especially when they never, ever made any promises that hey, this is a trilogy. She’s made paired books before, and stand-alones, and a trilogy of trilogies with 3 sets of characters but an over-arching plot, but this is the first 5+ book run she’s done.

    Hmmm…I kinda feel two ways about this. This comment made me think of Mercedes Lackey and her current Valdemar entry. Lackey tends to write in trilogies but she’s written stand alones as well as series with more than 3 books. What I noticed is that (to me) Lackey tends to ignore her previous work in the world as each new entry goes on. So an avid reader (like myself) notices her continuity and contradictory issues with each new book… and it makes me sad. So on one hand I hate the fact that her current entry has broken her normal trilogy standard – which also changed the way she plotted the series as well as throwing in some additional continuity and contradictory concerns – but I also bow to the fact that she is the creator of the series.

    It didn’t stop me from putting her auto-buy status under review, however.

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  27. Sandy James
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 12:07:48

    So as an author, may I ask… Would it help market a series if I let readers know it’s a “closed” series? Four book and no more–would that make a difference?

    I’ve heard both yes and no to this, and I honestly think the fact my Alliance of the Amazons series was limited to four books hurt my ability to sell it. Funny thing was Angela James and my editor Mallory Braus praised it for that same reason, so I’m glad my ladies found a good home with Carina.

    Just curious as to whether a limited number of books made a series more palatable…

    I love stand alone romances, too. I hope they never disappear in favor of series. The romance world needs both!!

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  28. Elyssa Patrick
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 13:12:00

    I said this on Twitter, and then I realized I should just reply to the thread. I thought this was a great article, Robin. But it also made me realize how much I miss the standalone novel.

    Don’t get me wrong. I love reading long-running series, like Amelia Peabody, Kate Daniels, and the Pennyroyal Green ones. But I also just love the standalone novel. I know some series have books where each book can be read on its own and you won’t be lost. The example I used on Twitter was Laura Florand, who has a Paris-set series with chocolatiers. Previous characters will make cameos in the other books, but each book stands on its own. Doing that obviously depends on what type of series the author writes.

    But I do miss the standalone novel, where the story is wrapped up on the final page.

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  29. Brie
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 13:29:30

    @Divya S: You’re right, I think the wanting to end the series weights more than how well it sells. But I do wonder what would have happened if it had been as successful as the Kate Daniels books. This is a series that really makes me sad to see it go.

    @Elyssa Patrick: I haven’t read Florand’s books, but that’s the type of series that’s common in contemporary romance; books that focus on individual couples and stand alone well. Yet, those series can become stale and repetitive fast regardless of how well each book stands alone. I read a lot of contemporaries, and the few series that actually manage to remain fresh, are usually short.

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  30. Jane Lovering
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 13:31:06

    I think the series books must be a US phenomenon, if you want to read more stand-alones then try some British books! We have far less of a culture of series (with obvious exceptions, Harry Potter I am looking at you…) and even then our series tend be to shorter and with definite endings. I notice that all of you tend to reference only US books, maybe now is the time to try reading across the Atlantic!

    (Saying that, I’m just writing the second book of my vampire trilogy. Ahem.)

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  31. Estelle
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 13:38:30

    I’ve been worried about that series trend for years now and I do think that standalone books are unfortunately an endangered species.

    I can think of only one romance author I used to follow who hasn’t jumped on the series bandwagon and that’s Laura Kinsale (and I don’t know if she’s still writing).

    I have nothing against series except for the fact that they’ve cannibalized the standalones and that many of them seem to go on and on and on etc… A series with 10 books +? No, thanks.

    So I’ve given up many authors whose books I used to enjoy because of this. I don’t want my money to support a trend that’s much too prevalent on the romance scene.

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  32. Elli
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 14:08:59

    I can go either way depending on how well-written the series is, but I admit to loving it when I’m reading what appears to be a single-title and you get one or two sentences that hits one of the authors previous books’ characters / couples. Susanna Kearsley is great at sneaking these in. Julia James also did this in her “earlier” books, though now the connections are a bit more obvious.
    Just since no one else has pointed it out, with the exception of the In Death series, Nora only writes series these days that have a max of 3 or 4 books it seems…

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  33. Janine
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 14:30:44

    Elyssa Patrick pointed out that Long said elsewhere that she was going for the English village vibe,

    I think one of the problems with Long’s Pennyroyal Green series is that this wasn’t clear from the start. The first book, The Perils of Pleasure, was set mostly in London, and the first few books focused strictly on the Evergreens and Redmonds, two feuding families. At that point, it made sense to me that Olivia and Lyon’s book would be the last one, because the series focused on a family feud and to for Olivia and Lyon to marry, that feud would likely have to come to an end.

    Now that the series has expanded to couples with tenuous connections to the family and heroes with titles (the early heroes weren’t of the nobility), as well as changing direction to go more for an English village vibe, that expectation that Lyon and Olivia’s book has to be the last one no longer feels natural. Instead, the wait for their story feels artificially stretched out.

    Regarding series in general, I had a lot of thoughts when I read this op-ed, but other posters have expressed most of them. I’ll put them out anyway.

    I too miss standalone books. I recently read Loretta Chase’s 1990 trad regency, Knaves’ Wager and it was a refreshing stand alone book. Sometimes I delve far back into authors’ backlists to get away from some of today’s genre trends like lustful thoughts or sequel baiting.

    Mary Balogh’s Simply Love sent me to her backlist partly because of the prequel and sequel baiting. I remember when Jayne and I reviewed it, we both grumbled about the number of fecund and happy Bedwyns and others. I recall that I counted sixteen characters in that book who were either blissfully paired off or soon to be so. The same small world can’t support that much happiness and bliss; it loses all verisimilitude.

    I realize that those series where I tend to hang on for a long time feature the same main couple or characters

    I have a very different response to those. Most of the time, I feel about them like you feel about the Lyon and Olivia relationship. Typically in same couple series backstory details and changes in the relationship are dribbled out slooooowly and I end up feeling frustrated with the way they are stretched out.

    I like that old fashioned idea that a book should contain the most significant events of a character’s life, the things that character will never forget. That’s a lot of what I read for, to get a sense of the important events of the character’s life and also, of who they are and what makes them tick. There are characters I’m interested in enough to stick with for more than one book, but they have to fascinate me in their multifaceted personality and/or relationship dynamic, or else to be exceptionally witty and lovable.

    I have stuck with Megan Whalen Turner’s Attolia series, Patricia Briggs’ Alpha and Omega series, and Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series because I simply adore those characters. It also helps if the books are short. I thought Kvothe from Patrick Rothfuss’ fantasy series would be one of those characters I’d be able to stick with, but he lost me in the middle of his thousand-page long second book.

    On the whole, I’d much rather read a different-couple-for-each book series, if the world is big enough to support that, or if that series doesn’t go on forever. As irritating as too many happy people in the same book can be (and sometimes they really are too much), the new protagonists and their romances help me stay engaged.

    Like someone else above, there are a lot of series I don’t read because I’m too far behind to go back to the beginning, and I like reading books in order. It’s important to me to follow the progression of a character’s growth or relationships in chronological order, but I also prefer to read new books that are currently the topic of conversation. Series can therefore pose a dilemma, and often I simply don’t read a series that has gotten popular because the number of backlist books I’d have to catch up on is daunting.

    So while I do enjoy some series very much, I would welcome greater balance between series books and stand alone novels.

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  34. Jennifer Lohmann
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 14:37:04

    I can’t keep up with long series, especially with books sharing a main character. Past book 4 or so I feel like I have to go back and reread all the previous books. Then I think about how many books are on my TBR list and I decide it’s probably not worth it. And so I max out at 4. The grand exception to this is Miles Vorkosigan.

    With romances where each book is a different couple, it depends completely on the author for me. I read ALL the Troubleshooter books, but there are other authors where I feel like the hero and heroine discuss how well previous heroes and heroines are doing and that just frustrates me. I prefer a series to stop at 3 or 4 here as well. Past 3 or 4 and I think you risk the series changing SO much that the thirteenth book doesn’t feel like the first book. I can understand authors and the series growing, but I might not have grown as a reader in the same way.

    Like Elli, I love books that seem single-title and then you get a glimpse at a previous couple.

    Series books drive me crazy when picking books for my romance book club to read. If the book is in the middle of a series, can that book be read without reading any of the other books? If not and I still pick it, how many previous books will the members have to read to fully get the book? If I have to start with the first book, does the library still own the first book or was it so many years ago that all of our copies will have been weeded and I have to consider the library budget before picking that book? I really miss stand-alones when picking books for book club.

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  35. Sandy James
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 15:22:19

    @Jennifer Lohmann: “I can’t keep up with long series, especially with books sharing a main character. Past book 4 or so I feel like I have to go back and reread all the previous books.”

    The storylines also become somewhat predictable. New hero. New heroine. Same plot. I loved the beginning of Sherilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series. But in addition to losing track of the relationship between different characters, the stories started to read as deja vu to me. Like you, I also kept thinking that I needed to go back and check the last couple of books to figure things out. Gave up after book 5.

    On the other hand, I love Hannah Howell’s Scottish Murray series. I’m probably the first one to buy any new release, no matter how many books there are. So go figure… ;)

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  36. Elie Daniels
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 15:28:14

    @JL:

    As a budding author, I have read many series and begun writing more than one. I do have to say that I agree with your comments about series that get too long or try to force you to read the entire series to understand anything. Now, I am not saying I don’t like series novels, as a matter of fact, one of my favorite non-romance authors is Mercedes Lackey. I like her books for several reasons, although I am not enamored of everything she writes. In particular, her Valdemar books come in singles, duologies, and trilogies. Yes, the plots interwove a bit, but you can pick up any particular set and understand everything that is happening in that story. Her Elemental Masters series is done differently, but each of the titles can be read as a stand-alone. When it comes to Romance, Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick/Jayne Castle has done what I consider to be a great job with her Arcane Society, Harmony and the spinoff novels from there. Keeping them loosely connected or set up as trilogies (which is excellent for her current pseudonyms and their time periods) makes it much easier to just dive in.

    There is no way I am going to read a series that is over 6 books long just to get one particular couple’s story. The only series I am currently reading that are really long are novellas that take place in the same town/compound, but aren’t so connected as to be completely confusing when you pick up any one title. And even then, there comes a time when I just decide not to get the next title.

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  37. Crista
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 15:43:48

    As a reader, I have mixed feelings about series. For example, I loved, loved, LOVED Maria V. Snyder’s Study series, and I hated saying goodbye to Valek and Yelena at the end of the 3rd book. Thank goodness for the serial novellas in her newsletters that continued to feed my obsession (and even better to know she’s writing more books about them, too).

    On the other hand, I hate picking a book up in the middle of a series and being so completely lost that I’m forced to read the prior books to figure what’s going on. I’ve actually passed on these “middle of the series” books that have been either been given to me or recommended to me because they required to much of an investment, both in time and money.

    As a writer, I can’t tell you how hard it is to sell a “stand-alone” book these days. Almost every offer I’ve gotten for a book that I intended to be stand-alone included a request to see where I was “taking the series”. Publishers want their authors to write series to create and build that rabid fan base, and sometimes, in order sell a book, we authors are required to turn a stand-alone book into a series.

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  38. Darlynne
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 17:25:10

    @Jane Lovering: As a lifelong mystery reader, I have to say you’re forgetting all the long-running and hugely successful UK (meaning, all the corners of that empire) detective and crime fiction series. Reginald Hill, Peter Robinson, John Brady, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Barry Maitland, Stephen Booth, Ann Cleeves–I’ll stop before I bore us both.

    The series tradition is rich and deep, one that shows no sign of stopping (thank the writing gods). I think, as others have pointed out, that the focus on crime solving–as well as the development of very long character arcs–is what continues to draw readers. It works in crime fiction and the British Isles are still the best.

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  39. Lynne Connolly
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 17:30:25

    I like my series to end. That goes for TV series as well as book series. I don’t just mean peter off from a lack of interest, but really have an end, and it should be satisfactory, by the terms of the series.
    I do like series set within “worlds” best, where characters might interact but they don’t have to be read in order, and where sequel bait isn’t so obvious.

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  40. Gwen Hayes
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 17:37:15

    Put me in the standalone group as well. I actually find myself rolling my eyes at most character cameos in “related” books and get tired of following the same character through more than three in a series. Even characters I love.

    But I don’t understand why the couple who got their HEA in book one makes my skin crawl in books 2 and 3…but oh boy. I would rather they just go on long honeymoon trip and stay away if they are going to be twee and perfect and so unlike the multi-faceted characters I enjoyed in the previous book. I think Nora Roberts is one of the only trilogy writers I count on—her Born in Shame and Sign of Seven series come to mind. I still felt like the original couple stayed in character in books 2 and 3.

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  41. pamelia
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 19:00:40

    I love a romance series if the author does the following: Maintains the integrity of those interesting side-characters when their starring-role books come out. For example: Wulfric Bedwyn in Mary Balogh’s “Slightly” series and Lothaire in Kressley Cole’s IAD books. I can’t stand reading a character built one way in a secondary role who simply turns into the author’s generic type like Hart in Jennifer Ashley’s MacKenzies books or even to some extent like Sebastian in “The Devil in Winter” who both lost a lot of their edges when they graduated to starring roles.
    I also appreciate when series have a defined ending point. A connecting overarching plot doesn’t hurt and I (for one) really don’t mind when the most interesting character is teased for several books before being wrapping up the series with a bang (see Wulfric Bedwyn), but when he/she doesn’t live up to the hype (I’m looking at you, Jonas Wyatt) it not only kills my interest in the rest of the series, but makes me reluctant to re-experience the prior books re-reading them.
    I can’t imagine reading all the “In Death” books even if they are by and large good. I can’t stomach the Anita Blake or Sookie Stackhouse series any longer and I’m taking a break from the BDB books as well. OTOH I adore the Harry Dresden books and Cole’s IAD books and have not given up hope on Nalini Singh’s Psy/Changeling series.
    As I’m writing this I’m trying to think of a series of romances other than Kressley Cole (with Nix) wherein a secondary female character is the long drawn-out promise. Can’t come up with one. Hmmm….

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  42. Beth
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 19:16:18

    SEP’s Call Me Irresistible is an example of a series gone too far for me. Almost every single one of her characters going back to Glitter Baby were in that book. The book was less about Ted finally getting his own story & more about epilogue-ing her entire back list. Sometimes readers are wrong. Not every character should get their own book.

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  43. LJD
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 20:17:03

    In romance, I like trilogies and books that are in the same world, but that stand on their own. If a series has more than 3 books, I’m not necessarily going to read every single book up until the one that sounds most appealing to me; I’ll just start where I want.
    I’m reading I Kissed an Earl right now. What I Did for a Duke was the first Pennyroyal Green (and the only other one) I read. Olivia/Lyon are of minimal interest to me, and I don’t intend to read the entire series, though I do have the first, The Perils of Pleasure, on my e-reader. But not all are of interest to me.

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  44. Kaetrin
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 20:22:51

    I like stand alone novels and I like some series’ too. I love Kate Daniels and Mercy Thompson but they aren’t excessively long so far and Kate has an wider stroy arc involving confronting her father which (I assume) will be the end of the series – I think 7 books are planned in total for the series? There may be spin offs I guess, like Gunmetal Magic too.

    I still love the In Death series, as I said on Twitter. Because each book involves the solving of a particular crime, the series could end at the end of any of the books so I’m not left hanging. I enjoyed the Fever series but it was so full of cliffhangers, I waited until Shadowfever was released before reading any of them.

    I have a number of BDB and Immortals After Dark and quite a few Kenyon’s on my TBR but who knows when I will get around to reading them, as I got series fatigue in those. I’m still happy to read Guild Hunters and Psy/Changeling however.

    The problem I have with the contemporary trilogy is that often there are three girls and three guys introduced at the beginning of the series and you know they are all going to end up with each other. While I enjoy the journey, there isn’t a lot of surprise in the pairing – and no-one ever seems to end up alone. It’s something I find hard to express but I’d really like to see a series where guy 3 ends up with surprise girl and girl 3 ends up with someone else too, just to shake things up.

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  45. Kathleen
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 21:02:39

    Hi, great post!

    The series that immediately came to mind was Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake novels. I’m in my early 20s and have been reading those for close to 10 (wow) years. Even as a young teen I was deeply entrenched in romance so they were a major departure for me– very, very dark and gory. Her description of blood and viscera or human bodes as being “so much meat” was mind-blowing. I remember mentally rubbing my hands together, because as a romance reader I knew there were going to be sexy-times ahead and I waited… 6? books for that. But I was SO IN IT and the pay off was incredible. Phew.

    But now… How many books in are we? How many boyfriends does she have? How many super villains have been vanquished?

    The new ones still call out to me from my Kindle or the library but I just don’t have the energy to have my heart broken right now.

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  46. Caffey
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 23:51:32

    I don’t know if it’s the bookaholic in me or what but I prefer to read a series in order. Now if I find out about a series and it’s now book 10 or book 43 out, I wouldn’t want to start them! To me it just won’t be worth it. It would make it seem like a chore instead of one that’s a trilogy or quartet etc. Too no one wants my recommendations when I tell them about a series that’s long too. So I think the readers there will be mostly those who had followed from the beginning so the author most likely won’t be bringing in new readers but will lose some who stop reading long series and there’s basically no readers to replace that.

    Too the other night I wanted to read a stand alone and not start a series and it was hard to find one.

    I’m not against series since I love getting caught into them but there should be some sort of planning made and told to the readers how many there will be.

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  47. Nicole
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 01:10:00

    It seems to me that if readers feel obligated to read a complete series in order, then writers will keep churning them out.

    I don’t have a single autobuy romance author anymore. I’m quite happy to cherrypick from a series the books that appeal to me based on their plots or characters. For example, I’ve read only one Pennyroyal Green book, which I loved, yet I feel no desire to read any of the others published so far. When so much in romance is recycled and familiar, (and there’s so much to read and so little time) every book I try has to call to me on its own merits rather than simply being written by an author I’ve enjoyed in the past. And I too have been disappointed when a tantalising secondary character has turned into a boring stock romance hero in his starring role.

    Maybe those of us who worry about the future of standalones and feel cynical about series should resist the pressure or temptation or whatever it is to read every book in a series just because it’s there.

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  48. C
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 03:07:17

    I worry about the standalone book too. I struggle to find books to read sometimes because when I go to check them out they are always part of a trilogy or an indefinite number in a series and I try to avoid something that is unfinished. And sometimes I just want a quick read, not a series to immerse myself in for some time. I also don’t like authors holding out on big chunks of characters backstory and plot points just to drag it out. I have been reading some books from the 80s and these are slim volumes, 200 or less pages and yet they feel more satisfying and contain more than some modern trilogies I have read. I think sometimes authors need to rein themselves in – do they really need three books to tell the story? Sometimes one book split into short sections can be more than enough, if the writing is kept tight and the story is focused.

    At the end of the day when it comes to a series- how do I know that they will answer the questions raised in each book? What if I’mpaying money for more and more books, waiting for something that isn’t going to happen? There have been some series I have loved, only to get tired of them by the 4th+ book. There is a manga I have been reading for 7+ years waiting for it to get somewhere, and the plot is still going in circles. (I’ve thankfully finally managed to let it go) How do I know they will continue to work on the series? and what if something happens? I recently found out one of my favourite trilogies will never be finished as the author had sadly passed away.

    there are some series I enjoy- like the psycop series, as each book is nicely wrapped up in its own way. I really like tana french’s dublin detective series too- as the books are loosely connected, but don’t follow on from each other. I’m not usually a fan of the big cliffhanger lets wait a few months to years to find out what happens. I also liked how tamora pierce had books set in the same world loosely connected, but contained them into manageable series with their own standalone stories.

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  49. Laura Florand
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 08:43:43

    @Brie: Mmm, yes. Stale and repetitive is a risk to avoid. When you feel that happening, as a writer, it’s definitely time to take a break and write something different, but I do think lots of pressures can come into play, publishers/readers. (And a desire to please your readers doesn’t always come from a mercenary spot. There’s a deeper synergy going on sometimes. I went to an absolutely fascinating neuroscience talk on the way the brains of a storyteller and a listener light up in the same way when they sync. In fact, if the listener is really responding well to the story, his/her brain lights up in the same places as the storyteller’s but JUST A SPLIT SECOND BEFORE the storyteller’s does. That is, the listener is responding to the story just a second before it’s actually spoken. Is that not fascinating?)

    @Elyssa Patrick: Thanks, Elyssa. :)

    I actually consider myself terrible at writing series! That’s because, ideally, the main characters of the future books are introduced in the first book, and I usually have no idea who/how they are until I write them. So you might get a name, and that’s almost it. (For example, if you’ve read THE CHOCOLATE THIEF, Dominique Richard is hero of book 3. But how much do you really know about him from book 1?)

    But so far, I LOVE the worlds, so I like to spend more time in them. But this first one is set amid chocolate, so what do you expect? :)

    I do like revisiting characters in future books, though. I love them, for one, so I enjoy spending more time with them, and since they’ve been thoroughly developed in previous books, they are just a natural, well-developed secondary character and the things they would say just “pop out” creatively speaking.

    And partly because I’m happily married to my dream guy, I know perfectly well that romance is a long-term challenge. The fights you had when you were dating are muted/modified/changed with time, but you’ll still be having the same struggles. (So if 2 people are very arrogant, they’ll still be butting heads. If one of them is insecure and jealous, he’ll still have to struggle with waves of that and so will she, even if it improves over time.) So I enjoy taking a peek at them again over time, as a confirmation of the fact that that particular couple is still giving it their all.

    No babies so far, but that’s because so far I’ve been writing about career-oriented people in the 25-30 age range, and insta-baby six months later just doesn’t correspond to that lifestyle. But I would certainly write one if it made sense that that couple would be having one, the next time we saw them.

    Just one author’s perspective on this. :)

    ALL authors that I know of, universally, note that sales for stand-alones are much lower than for series–compare dropping a rock in the water to launching a kite, maybe–so I am quite sure that is a factor in some of these over-extended series people are referencing. How can it not be? While I think it’s inaccurate to assume most choices have a financial basis, it’s unfair also to say that should never play a role.

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  50. Kaetrin
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 18:39:12

    @Laura Florand: I like previous characters turning up in subsequent books as long as they have something to do related to the book I’m reading. Even if they have a secondary storyline that’s okay too. But I’m not a fan of huge love-fests that don’t move the plot forward.

    Also, I like the idea of your “series” – I like to not be able to pick who will be the next hero or heroine – it keeps things interesting. :)

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