Series or Standalone Novel?

 

Over on my Facebook page, we had a great debate going about the popularity of a series over a standalone book.

The consensus was in favour of the series. Although, there were quite a few who, like me, enjoy reading a standalone novel after completing an epic sequence of books – a bit like having sorbet between the starter and main course.

The series tends to be hugely popular in the young adult genre.  It was as I hit my thirties that I started to actively read young adult fantasy – brought on by my Buffy the Vampire Slayer obsession. I enjoyed getting involved in a series of books and spiralling along with the ever-evolving characters.

Some of my favourites include:

  • Josephine Angelini’s – Starcrossed, Dreamless and Goddess.
  • Maggie Stiefvater – Shiver, Linger and Forever.
  • Cassandra Clare’s incredible Mortal Instrument Series.
  • R J Anderson – Knife, Rebel and Arrow.
  • Jana Oliver – The Demon Trappers: Forsaken, Forbidden, Forgiven and Foretold.
  • Veronica Roth – Divergent, Insurgent and Allegiant.
  • L J Smith – Vampire Diaries

Of course, one of the downsides of reading a series is when the story ends on a cliff-hanger and you have to wait a year until the next book.

My favourite author, Sarah J Maas, who writes the Throne of Glass Series, has done this very thing to me.

tog series

Book two, Crown of Midnight, was incredible, and I made sure to pre-order book three when it was launched. Heir of Fire was another winner, and I had many a late night as I rushed to devour the latest adventure. However, instead of being satisfied in the end, it is left wide open for the grand finale, and I now have to wait until 2016 to find out what happens!

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Fortunately, Sarah is a truly lovely person and has launched a second series to tide me over. A Court of Thorns and Roses is the start of a new adventure that includes all my favourites – faeries, wolves and magic. The beauty of this particular release is how the ending is nice and tidy but does leave the door open for more. No nail-biting conclusion or wail of despair when I’m left hanging.

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When I wrote the first draft of Guardians of the Dead, I didn’t expect to write a trilogy. I had this one tale to tell and knew roughly how I wanted it to go. It was only as I began writing that the additional plots and characters began to weave into my head. I have already outlined a future book that was going to be a standalone novel, but the more I think about it, the more I want to evolve the characters in this story too.

Maybe it’s my passion for television series such as Buffy, Game of Thrones and the Vampire Diaries that makes the reading (and writing) of a series all the more enjoyable.

I’m interested in what you think. Do you enjoy getting involved in a series of books rather than a standalone?

 

5 thoughts on “Series or Standalone Novel?

  1. I like a series if you can find one with several books already published so you can start the next one when you are ready, but a series can be a big gamble especially if you are self published and are doing all your own marketing, it will be hard to sell book one and even harder to sell book two unless you get a REALLY lucky break. A good idea might be to publish stand alone books until you have a good audience base and then go for a series, which needs to come out pretty quickly one after the other, else your audience slips away. Sometimes book one is strong, but later books let readers down and again you may find it harder to sell.
    I’ve enjoyed the Morganville Vampire YA series by Rachel Caine.

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    1. That’s a valid point to make Rosie, and one I hadn’t thought of before. When I started writing it was the art of putting words on paper that filled my thoughts – marketing was something other people did. Of course, the reality is quite different and marketing my books has become a large part of my life. I’d better start working on the standalone novel ideas I have 🙂

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  2. Terry Tyler

    I agree totally with what Rosie says, from a writer’s point of view. With even one sequel, your potential sales are limited to those who have read and enjoyed the first one, whereas a standalone could be picked up by anyone. Once you get down to series, your potential audience gets smaller and smaller as time goes on – unless the first one in a series is really successful. If you look on Amazon at the reviews for series, you see, say, 64 for the first, 48 for the second, 32 for the 3rd, and so it goes down. I’ve read 4 of one series that I’ve really enjoyed, but simply haven’t got round to the 5th yet. To read myself, I agree with Rosie again – unless a series is STUNNING, I probably wouldn’t bother if I had to wait a year between books, as I’d have forgotten what had happened in the first!!! Yes, the trick is to already have 2 more written before you publish the first, I’d say. Then put them out with 2 monthly breaks, by which time you’ll have written the 4th!

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  3. Thanks, Terry. Having read so many series within the YA genre I opted to write the same. When I canvassed my YA Facebook page they all agreed that a series worked for them. I think this was the deciding factor behind writing my trilogy. Once I’ve published the next two books (which I need to get out in rapid succession!) I am going to look at more standalone novels though. Your reference to the number of reviews for each book was very interesting.

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  4. I LOVE a series where I can be whisked away into the world the author created and be immersed in the series. I never want it to end. That said, I’m always on the lookout for a few stand-alone novels to break things up. (These are difficult to find in YA.)

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