The Neverending Story: When Enough Is Enough

Connected books, featuring different protagonists set in the same world, have long been a staple of romance and series books, featuring the same protagonists, are starting to see an increase. As a reader, I am starting to suffer reader fatigue from the connected and the series books. Romance authors, more and more, have seen that connected/series books sell well. Roxanne St. Claire shared in August 2006 that her career really took off with the release of the Bullet Catcher series. She claims that readers do not want stand alone books and are disappointed to find a book that has no connection with others. In the article, St. Claire brings up the point that worries me as a reader the most: when creativity is shoved aside by marketing.

However, I do believe this phenomenon has changed the playing field for genre and commercial fiction writers. It has an impact on the kinds of stories that are told, the speed with which they are published, and the eventual success (or not) for writers who may not be hardwired to think in terms of connected series (or may not be able to produce them fast enough to feed a hungry market). I hope it doesn't impact creativity.

Not every writer is well suited for the connected or series book, just as many authors are not suited to the short story or the anthology length story. Not every author can make third book as compelling as the first within the same construct. The current demand for series books creates a writer’s dilemma of sacrificing soul for sales. If you want to skip the history and go straight to my rantings and ravings, click here.

The Connected Book

Connected books have long been a staple of romance. The Grand Dame of romance, Georgette Heyer wrote three connected books sometimes known as the Alastair trilogy. Barbara, the heroine of An Infamous Army, was the granddaughter of Dominic and Mary, the protagonists of Devil’s Cub. Leonie and Justin, of These Old Shades fame, were the parents of Dominic. The Old Shades was originally published in 1926.

The 1980s saw an explosion of connected books. Johanna Lindsey began her Malory saga in 1985. Catherine Coulter’s Star series began in 1984. Julie Garwood had loosely connected books beginning with The Lion’s Lady published in 1988, followed by Guardian Angel in 1990. This series was ultimately concluded with Castles in 1993. Linda Howard’s Kell Sabin series was published in the mid 1980s. Nora Roberts’ first book, Irish Thoroughbred book 1 of 3 in her Irish Heart trilogy, was released in 1981.

Mary Balogh, Liz Carlyle and Eloisa James take the connected books to new levels by creating their own full societies within the ton with their own families who are related, either by birth, marriage, and friendship. When reading their books, I often need a cribsheet to keep everyone’s connections straight.

The Series Books

In very recent years, the connected book has given way to the series book. JD Robb and Laurell K Hamilton have greatly influenced publishers and authors in this. The series book is an ongoing saga featuring the same protagonists. The series book has been a staple in the mystery and the sci fi genres. Some credit the rise of the trilogy or series book in science fiction to Tolkien. This is a wide misconception. Tolkien intended for the Lord of the Rings to be one book. The publisher, for cost and marketing reasons split it into three books.

David Eddings, famous writer of the Belgariad series intended for his series to be a trilogy. Eddings was told by publisher, Del Rey, that the price of a paperback could not be more than $3.00. To meet that market specification, Eddings’ three book series was split into a five book series. Eddings claims that it would be better as a trilogy as that is how he intended it, but having signed the contract, he was bound to follow his publisher’s dictates. It is said (although I could not find an attributive source) that the Mallorean series was intentionally written over five books to match the the original set.

The Eve Dallas mystery series appeared on the scene in 1995. Eleven years later, this series is still selling strong with the latest installment, Born in Death, released November 2006 and debuted at No. 3 on the NYT Bestseller list. I strongly suspect that the success of the Eve Dallas series sprouted series like Kyra Moray by Deanna Lee, Samantha Jellicoe by Suzanne Enoch, and Marisela Morales by Julie Leto.

The rise of the paranormal (attributable in large part to Laurell K Hamilton and Buffy) begot any number of copycat authors such as Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse; Sunny’s Mona Lisa; more recently Cameron Dean’s Candace Steele books.

To varying degrees, I have enjoyed all the authors named above but each one of them has only a few books out and their ability to carry on the series remains to be seen. The series can quickly become stagnant if the same emotional conflict is replayed again and again. But the series book presents more problems that tedious repetition.

Lack of Closure
I attribute the demise of the Luna line to the fact that so many of those stories were series books where only one tiny part of the overall story was given away in the first book. Of the Luna books I have read, only two authors wrote a connected books rather than series book and those were Mercedes Lackey and PC Cast. Every other author I read had a series: Laura Resnick, Rachel Lee, Maria Snyder, Laura Ann Gilman, CE Murphy, Susan Krinard. That’s too many series in which a reader must be invested. Further because of the Luna restructuring, few of those series will be resolved for me.

I get frustrated at the end of book one when nothing is finalized. We await closure or become so disinterested that we provide our own closure. I found after reading Magic Study by Maria Snyder that I have no desire to buy the final entry in the “study” series in hardcover. I’ll probably wait for the paperback or get it from the library. Too many questions are left unanswered which actually makes me more disinterested than anticipatory.

An Unwilling Financial Investor
Why should the reader become invested in these series when there is no guarantee of a resolution. The onus is on the reader to carry the series forward. For example, reader Avaron Dale was interested in Cora Zane’s new book but was put off from purchasing it when, despite it being marketed as a series, the continuation of the series was dependent on the sales of the first book. Ms. Zane originally intended for the book to be a standalone. Sasha White blogged about this today and expressed my sentiment much better:

But I think it's tacky to do keep reminding your readers that you need them to buy your book during a specific time – to say to readers, “If you like this series, and want to see the next installment, but this one now, or the publisher won't buy my next book.”

Sure, that may be savvy marketing, but no reader wants to feel like she has to shill for the author. I want to shill but I don’t want to be made to shill. I don’t want to become an unwilling financial partner in a book by which I am responsible for the sales of a book in order to see a resolution for the characters.

Dependence on Connection Diminishes Growth for the Author
Returning to St. Claire’s above quoted statement, there is a real problem for authors. Once you are branded as the author of the sexy bodyguard books, what else are readers going to allow you to write? Unless authors, early on in their career, establish a certain voice rather than a certain series, will readers follow them at the conclusion of their series or will the reader feel betrayed? For the author, the decision to invest time in a series must take into the consideration of the length of the series and what change will do to the future of their career.

It’s the Author That Sells
Finally, just because you write a series or connected book doesn’t mean that you are going to sell. The author, the voice, the idea, all have to resonate with the reader. There are as many failed authors of series as there are failed authors of single title books. Jennifer Crusie is a perfect example of an author who writes single title, unconnected books but still has a strong, bestselling career. Very few of her books are connected. I would read Sharon Shinn if she never wrote another series book because her writing is so beautiful. When I finished M.A. Evereux’s book, The Claiming of Moira Shine, I didn’t necessarily want to read another book in that world, I just wanted to read another Evereux book.

Just Tell the Story

Ned has been watching Six Feet Under on Bravo and I have been googling it. I read an interesting comment by the creator Alan Ball:

In November 2004, series creator and executive producer Alan Ball announced that the fifth season would be the show’s last. The producers and writers felt that after 63 episodes they had told their “story”.

From everything I’ve read, it was the right decision. The series didn’t linger too long. It resolved all the dangling plot threads. It provided closure to the characters and the viewers. It left the viewership wanting more, but still satisfied. Can we really say that about many series books these days? Are authors really telling the story until its complete or do they keep writing way past the natural and organic ending to the frustration of readers?


0 comments on “The Neverending Story: When Enough Is Enough

  1. Terrific column. Really.

    I don’t know the answers because as a writer I’ve never been pressured by my publilsher either way. As a reader I enjoy both series and stand-alones.

    And as a writer I enjoy being able to switch gears–from stand-alone Romantic Suspense, to the In Death series, to paperback trilogies. I find something in each form that satisfies and challenges me.

    I can say I routinely get letters from readers asking for spin-offs to both trilogies and stand-alones. My response is, routinely again, the story’s told.

  2. I believe that all stories have an ending. I believe that a writer should not continue writing beyond that ending, mostly because I think that it shows in the work.

    The whole series thing makes me invest less in most books. It’s gotten to the point where I say “Hook me with the first book or never mention (author’s name) to my face again.”

  3. Fabulous post.

    One example of an author choosing to end a series on a high note (much to my dismay) is Neil Gaiman and Sandman. I would happily read Sandman until the end of time — but I appreciate the decision to go out with a bang instead of being dragged off with a whimper.

  4. I’m a bit like you. After about 8-10 books I stopped reading certain series when I realized that there wasn’t going to be any resolution and that the story was going to continue forever. I want some closure.

  5. Thanks for mentioning my series…sadly, Marisela Morales is taking a break as Pocket chose not to publish any further books. Many reasons went into this decision–few of which had anything to do with my storytelling. Alas, that is the realism of this industry. I will say that to me, Marisela had a story arc. I knew where the series would start and where it would end and I don’t think I could have made it open-ended. Now, it’ll just take longer to find out as I hope another publisher picks up the series. In the meantime, I’m doing another connected series soon for NAL. Again, it has a beginning and an end and was conceived of that way.

    I’ve been connecting books since my fourth book for Harlequin 25 books ago. I like revisiting old characters. All of those were “stand alones” though and really were spin-offs rather than sequels. You could watch Frasier without ever watching Cheers. You could watch Good Times without ever watching Maude. That’s how I looked at my spin off books.

    The series books are different, but I’m trying to set things up from the start so that they can stand alone–but still have one central story question that connects them. That way, if readers WANT to read the whole series, they can…but they don’t have to. I don’t think I did that so much with Marisela because in those books, the protagonist was the same. It helped to have read the first book before the second because the protagonist was the same and as a reader, the emotional growth and arc of a character is important. When I started the Eve Dallas books (which I adore) I went to number one and read in order and loved the nuance of how Eve’s character developed relationships over all the books.

    I guess what I’m saying is that series are different when the protagonist is static than when the protagonists change. I think the latter means the books can (or should) be able to be read out of order. But I always get letters asking for a book for certain secondary characters–most of which if I didn’t already have a book in mind for them, I could not give their own story because their story was told.

  6. Julie Leto – I was thinking of you when I wrote part of this article because you hinted that the Morales series might be in jeopardy. I am pretty sad that I won’t get to read another Marisela story. It was such a fresh voice in the industry. I don’t remember reading another heroine quite like her. I have to stop typing now because I am getting angry!!!! This makes me so mad as a reader and I know its not the authors fault. I understand that the publisher needs to make money. I am not sure who’s fault it is. Blergh.

  7. Thanks, Jane. THANK YOU. I’m still pretty ticked off myself. I honestly don’t think the series was ever given a real shot. (Please don’t count this as “author behaving badly” because I’m criticizing my former publisher…it’s just the way things worked out.) The first book was released as fiction in trade, the second almost a year and half later in romance as a mass market paperback…I can’t really place blame except to say it wasn’t done right. It happens. Such is the business. Dirty Little Lies, even before it was released, has the odds stacked against it. At least I can say I’m proud of the book. I now fully understand what authors mean when they say “protect the work.” It’s to keep you sane when everything else falls apart. At least I know I wrote the best book I could.

    Hopefully, things will go better the next time around. Keep your fingers crossed that Marisela will find a home…I’m not giving up on her just yet, even as I stretch in different directions.

  8. I attribute the demise of the Luna line to the fact that so many of those stories were series books where only one tiny part of the overall story was given away in the first book.

    Two things, if I may:

    First, the Luna line is a far cry from dead. πŸ™‚ They’ve restructured it, it’s true, and a number of books have been dropped, but there will be eleven titles released in 2007, with plenty of books already planned for 2008 (I can say this pretty safely, as I have release dates planned into late 2008 with Luna).

    Second, what I’m understanding as your frustration here is that the stories don’t end in one book, but go on through a series. This is, I know, not typical for romances, where stories are wrapped up in a single title and if the same characters come back it’s often as secondary characters in another work.

    But Luna isn’t a romance line. It’s a fantasy line. Ongoing series with the same protagonists and long-reaching storyarcs are more the norm than not in fantasy. I understand there’s a lot of frustration and resentment on the part of romance readers who are trying to get into the line and not getting what they expect, but honestly, it’s just a different genre with a different way of telling stories. Luna’s been pitched as having romantic subplots, but it’s always been presented as a fantasy line.

    I’ve read a lot of readers who’ve had much the problem you’re discussing with the Luna line–things like “I’ve picked up the whole first year of Luna books, and they’re all totally different, not a line at all.” And it’s true, they’re not like series romance, which is what many people seem to be expecting from books produced under the same imprint. There’s a great deal of variety from book to book, author to author, story to story, rather than the books fitting with in an expected set of parameters.

    As a fantasy reader myself, it’s honestly bizarre to me to think that people would imagine they’d like every book in a line–to me, it’s sort of like expecting you’d like all movies produced by Paramount Pictures!

    So what I’d like to know is this: how can we, the Luna authors and the Luna publisher, help to re-create the expectation that’s been built by readers, so that we all understand better what the line is and what to expect of it? This is a completely serious question–we all want this line to succeed, and rumours of its demise and peoples’ frustrations with it should be addressed if they can be.

    Whew. Thanks for letting me go on so long. πŸ™‚


  9. Fascinating subject.

    Catie, I do think Harlequin/Silhouette has a problem in general with trying to “bust out” of Romance mode. The house is just so heavily branded romance, readers naturally feel misled when a Harlequin imprint or line tries to be “other” than romance. Thus some really amazing programs just aren’t making it.

    Re series in general. I write mostly for Silhouette Special Edition and within that line, I’ve had two long-running series. One is twenty books long and counting. But as a rule, these books are only connected because characters from one appear in another. I find, for my single titles, I’m resisting writing a series–or as my agent calls it, a franchise. I’ve been told I’m making a big mistake and, as a rule, I’m one of those authors who is only too happy to follow the market. But right now, I do feel that the whole franchise/series bandwagon is a little too overloaded. As a reader, I’m reluctant now to pick up a book from a series. I just don’t want to make that kind of long-running commitment. I want a full-out, all-the-way, beginning-to-end experience between the covers of one book.

  10. Great post, Jane.

    I agree with much of what you said–and, at least for me, when it seems like a series is open-ended, that’s when I become not as interested in reading further.

    The only established series I still read is the Robb In Death series–and even after however many books there are, I’m not bored and I keep going back. I think that’s because the characters do change and grow in real ways. I’ve even stopped reading my beloved Elizabeth Peters Amelia Peabody series, and also the Janet E Plum series….

    I don’t know if it’s because the authors get tired of writing the same characters or if I as a reader am simply tired of the same characters and the same stories.

    Like Julie Leto’s Marisela books (both volumes of which I adored), my series has a finite beginning and an end, built around one main protagonist. I have a definite story arc over the five-book series, and I think (I hope) that’s what will keep the series fresh for both me and the readers.

    As far as connected books go, I personally like them…although I don’t like when I feel as if the author is giving a lot of stage (page?) time to setting up the characters for the next book. I’d rather just read one story, and then when it comes time for the “connected” book, re-meet those characters briefly.

    I think Liz Carlyle does a good job of letting past (and future) characters come onstage (onpage?) without it getting clunky or obvious.

    However, regardless of whether it’s a series or a set of interconnected books, it’s a savvy debut author will write a series, because, at the very least, it gives them a longer shelf life…and for a debut author like myself, that can be huge. And if the publisher does a good job of marketing the series, the author name and brand becomes established more easily.

    The buyer for a major chain told me recently that a series can help keep an author’s books on the shelf for up to a year, rather than the 60-90 (or fewer) days a single title might be there otherwise.

    So for marketing and career purposes it makes sense. And, as you mentioned, Jane…readers do like series.

  11. I disagree with the series comment. I love series. Why? Because I can count on the kind of story from that author with characters I enjoy. I do hope that the characters change and grow. Now I read a lot of mysteries and that is the staple for mystery fans.

    I usually buy the Luna series because I like the fantasy/romance angle. I may be getting too old but I really do enjoy more than a straight romance.
    I heard Janet Evanovich say that she switched to mysteries when she got older also.

  12. What a thought-provoking article.

    I love SFF so I was interested in your comments on the Luna line. The “500 Kingdom” books by Mercedes Lackey have too much telling and very little of her usual sparkle. I liked the first Laura Anne Gilman book but the later books needed more development time. I loved “Poison Study” but I’m pretending “Magic Study” doesn’t exist. But, I am glad to hear that there will be another Urban Shaman book by C.E.Murphy – thanks for sharing that.

    The author I love with a series I cannot read is Laurie R. King and the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series. The first book was great but I cannot read a whole series featuring another author’s detective. Everytime a new Mary Russel book comes out, I wear black. I will read anything else King writes.

    On a happier note, I’m off to download “The Claiming of Moira Shine”. If you are still thinking about this book 2 weeks after your review, I need to read it.

  13. She claims that readers do not want stand alone books and are disappointed to find a book that has no connection with others.

    I guess this is what people mean when they say the reader has all the power in Romance marketing. So that makes me conclude that I’m either not the average or targeted Romance reade (shock!) or that marketing decisions create a market as much as reflect it (keep publishing based on a certain assumption, and readers who fit that assumption will self-select your books). Probably it’s both and more.

    I see series/interconnected books this way: some authors and some books work as a series. I love the paperback In Death books — can’t imagine them any other way. I love the Sookie Stackhouse books (sorry, Jane) and am thrilled Harris has allowed Sookie’s growth as a characater to progress slowly. OTOH, when I want to try a new author — Eloisa James, for example, and she’s a million books into a trillion book series, where do I start? What if I hate the first book? At that point, it HAS to be author loyalty, as Jane says, because who would continue to buy books in a series when one or two don’t work? So if it’s REALLY the author that sells, why push for a series? For example: I loved it when Lisa Kleypas wrote some of her Bow Street Runner books, because they didn’t really feel forced. But as much as I loved, loved, loved her first Wallflower book, and as much as I loved the idea of a series of books set around four women friends, somehow I felt she was pushed into that by either the market or her publisher. And — surprise — right afterward she ends up announcing that she’s leaving historicals — and Avon — for a while.

    As for Julie Leto’s books, I bought Dirty Little Lies, but haven’t had a chance to read it yet. I started it, though, and found it very interesting with a compelling voice. I honestly don’t know what to think about Pocket — they drop Leto’s series but have bought two historicals from Karin Tabke. Sigh.

  14. I always get wary when I see series with 5+ installments and several more in the making. Instead of going out with a bang I get the impression that the author is trying to squeeze out as much as possible from a succesful concept. I like reading series very much, but I am also notorious for breaking them up, keeping only those books I really love. I dearly love Mrs. Roberts way of writing trilogies, such a nice number, I get to know the characters but also have a foreseeable conclusion. The only established series with the same h/h pair I still read is Elizabeth Peters’s Amelia Peabody series. It’s also the only series which I have all 18 books of, because they are all great and never “worse” than a B.

    For me (besides not liking author or story) the ultimate death of a series is when more space of the book is used to develop the next sequel instead of telling the story of the current h/h. That’s a big nono!

  15. Great column!
    I also only read a few series books – In Death, Kim Harrison’s ‘Hollows’ series and Sookie Stackhouse. There were a couple of others that I was interested in for awhile but lack of resolution, lack of growth and/or extreme behavioural changes in the characters really ruined it for me *cough* Anita Blake *cough*
    I’m a big fan of inter-connecting books however and if there’s four connected books I will buy them all – I am a publishers dream!
    Julie Leto – I’m sorry to hear about the dirty series, I haven’t read the second one yet (damn Aussie release dates) but I read Dirty Little Secrets after the great review from this site! It was a really fun read and I hope you do find someone else to pick up the rest of the series.

  16. As a reader, I know I get frustrated with connected books because of the lack of guarantee of things getting resolved. There are quite a few series books that I’ve enjoyed that the author left hanging in hopes that the publisher will pick it up only to end up with them not renewing their contract and leaving the reader without a resolution. Sucks.

  17. The more I read, the less I enjoy series. Primarily because many series books feel derivative of the original book in the series. The same story with slightly different characters, usually related by blood or through work or some other relationship. Or, if the series is about a single h/h, I resent waiting multiple books for the HEA for a couple introduced earlier on.

    And also because as my TBR grows, I’m less interested in buying into another series that will add to it.

  18. I guess I’m not your average bear reader because I’m not that thrilled for the most part with long series of books with a few notable exceptions (IN Death and Stephanie Plum). Other than that I seem to have a four book in a series tolerance. Once I’ve read four, I really lose interest. I wish there were more stand-alone books being published these days. I get the feeling we are being manipulated at times with so many in a series.

  19. Balancing a series can be difficult. I think the most important thing is to end it when it’s supposed to end, as Gaiman did with Sandman, and not continue into the ridiculous, as Jordan did. Most shouldn’t run beyond six books, even if they sell phenomenally well (just my opinion). It’s a rare writer that can keep the writing fresh, the stories interesting, and the relationships realistic. I think Kathy Reichs does a very good job of that, in fact.

  20. May – I am totally with you. I can’t afford the time, money and emotional committment after book 1 unless book 1 is good to great.

    Jackie – Ned LOVED that series. Or Loves.

    Angelle Trieste – I do suffer from reader fatigue from the longer series. As much as I love Eve and Roarke, I still haven’t read the latest installment. sorry, Nora, but I did buy it.

    JulieLeto – *crying*

    C.E. Murphy – Oh, the lamented Luna line. I could write a two page treatise on this line. How I loved and hated it. And yes, my romance mind looks at it as a line. Who is the Luna line for? Is it not for the romance reader? Am confused. I mean, I thought it was marketed toward romance readers and fantasy readers. I thought it was supposed to capture the crossover crowd who loved LKH, Anne Bishop, Lois McMaster Bujold and Sharon Shinn. I read those authors so I thought the line was for me. But maybe its for the fantasy reader, but books like Gail Dayton that was more about sexual exploration within the fantasy construct was a turn off for fantasy readers. I guess if you are going to market a line, there has to be a defined audience. If all of the books are going to be series, I don’t think I would pick up a new author unless it was a much hyped author for all the reasons that other readers have stated.

    Christine Rimmer – As a reader, I’m reluctant now to pick up a book from a series. I just don’t want to make that kind of long-running commitment. I want a full-out, all-the-way, beginning-to-end experience between the covers of one book. Yes, that is what I am looking for too because I just don’t know if I want to make that committment with a new author. I want to date a bit first. LOL

    colleen gleason – I think books are better plotted when it is closed ended. When you look at the mess the LKH series is in . . .

    However, regardless of whether it’s a series or a set of interconnected books, it’s a savvy debut author will write a series, because, at the very least, it gives them a longer shelf life, and for a debut author like myself, that can be huge.

    Yes, I know that it’s great for the author, but I am suffering from series malaise. Doesn’t it also have the potential for backfiring? I.e., if the reader can’t get into book 1, how many times are they going to come back and read book 2 set in the same world?

    readerdiane – I am glad that you came to disagree. That’s what makes the blog a community. I like it when the characters change and grow, but not too much, lol.

    LinM – LOL. I am hopeful that someone will tell me that the last Snyder book rocked the house and I will regain my love for the series.

    Robin – Tis okay you still love Sookie. I think most people do given her sales. Interconnected books can, at times, be just as daunting as the series because so many past relationships are referenced.

    I honestly don’t know what to think about Pocket Ò€” they drop Leto’s series but have bought two historicals from Karin Tabke. At the risk of starting something, let me just say I heartily agree.

    Katharina – I am a big fan of trilogies too. Three books I can see myself reading. 5 seems an insurmountable task at times.

    For me (besides not liking author or story) the ultimate death of a series is when more space of the book is used to develop the next sequel instead of telling the story of the current h/h. I resent this as well.

    Josie – Hopefully Leto’s great voice will shine through in her new NAL paranormals.

    Keishon – I just read your blog post. Gah. How could I forget about Joan Wolf’s medieval books. what a great series that was totally dropped.

    jmc – And also because as my TBR grows, I’m less interested in buying into another series that will add to it. It’s about the committment and my inability make one!

    Kristie(J) – I, too, wish for more stand-alone books. Series books, at times, seem very gimmicky. Ned said, if you can’t tell your story within 3 books, maybe you need to edit better.

    Ana / Annie Dean – I think the most important thing is to end it when it’s supposed to end. exactly.

  21. I understood the Luna Imprint (and I like “imprint” instead of line–since I think an Imprint doesn’t have as much similarities as a line might require) to be Epic Fantasy For Women. So, mostly aimed at women fantasy readers. I think it is now being restructured to target more romance readers crossing over to fantasy.

    As an author of a series (Luna — 6 books with a beginning and ending FANTASY ARC and different h/h in each book), and connected books (the “Heart” series), I read the column and comments with interest. The Heart books are more “spin-offs” previous and later characters do not get page time unless they have a distinct purpose with the individual book’s plot. That said, there is some set up for the next book (I sell 2 at a time and so far will be looking at 7), and tie up from a previous book or books minor subplots, but I hope all stand alone.

    I like writing books that end. I like HEA romances. So those are wrapped up in each book.

    My Luna series is for 6. Three have been sold and will come out. If the other 3 are not purchased, I’d imagine I’d give a brief sketch of What Happens on my website, if I couldn’t find another buyer for them. But let’s face it, one of the tenets of fantasy is that the dark evil loses. I would imagine that my readers KNOW the dark evil will not win, know none of my primary h/h in the 6 books will die. Some won’t be able to have children, some will. Other losses will happen. So the reader can already figure out the ending in general and may or may not be invested in the series, I hope they enjoy the individual books for the characters and plots.

    As a writer, I love discovering and deepening my fantasy worlds book after book. If Berkley buys nothing after these last 2 Heart books (and I tried to sell 3), I will be sad and shrug my shoulders, and, again, might put up ideas as to what happened to secondary characters on my website (especially a younger generation). But I will move on.

    I haven’t done a continuing h/h series. I have in mind a trilogy. As a reader and writer, I want a character and plot arc. The characters must change and grow and so far the muse hasn’t graced me with any character/plot arc that would last more than the above trilogy (and plotting buddies helped with that).

    All that said, when a secondary character walks onto the stage, I like to either kill them off or match them up. I get invested in them, too, so for me, the connected books are organic.

    Excellent discussion

  22. Ned said, if you can’t tell your story within 3 books, maybe you need to edit better.

    Oh, god, ain’t it the truth. *g* I started with three in my head, and now I think it’ll be eight. But I do have an end in mind! It’s just taking longer to get there than I thought.

    I love connected books, but I do find that I’m less likely to pick up a random book if I find that it’s part of a series (or even only loosely connected) and not the first one.

    I prefer that a series also has a point to it — that even if it doesn’t end, that there’s a place it’s heading and more discoveries to be made. The worldbuilding (and characters, if it follows one or a couple) have to evolve. And if the characters change every book, their romance has to be different than all the books it preceded. I will stop reading a series if it just spins its wheels.

    And if a series is established and LONG, I do sometimes feel a little too overwhelmed to start it — because although I know I don’t have to read them all, there’s the little voice in the back of my head that says: now you have to read them all.

    Which makes no sense, because it’s not true and if they’re bad I can just not buy the rest — and if they’re good, I should be happy that I have so much to look forward to. But still, looking ahead at a list of twelve – twenty books sometimes freaks me out. (I’m such a wimp.)

  23. Great post! This has actually been on my mind lately because I just finished reading Poison Study, looked up the sequel, and was in two minds about buying the rest of the series. My main problem is that every book must stand alone AND be part of the whole. As a reader, I can think of only two ways this can (usually) work for me:
    1. Romance is a secondary plot, because if you make it the MAIN plot, you’re going to lose the indivduality of each book in the series.
    2. You have an ensemble cast, and devote one book to each romance (e.g. Eloisa James, Julia Quinn, Sherrilyn Kenyon?), which is pretty much the premise of a connected series.
    You can try a combination of 1 and 2 but your writing, your characters your world (preferably all 3) must be kick-ass to get over the hurdles your readers will face (e.g. JR Ward). OR you had to have sold enough books in the series so that your readers are so invested, they just have to buy the next one even if the entire thing is falling apart (I confess, some EJ novels have been like that for me).

    I think the reason the In Death series works so well is that each book has a well-defined main plot that centres around the mystery to be solved. But we can read these as romance readers, too, because there is a very strong romantic theme with all the required elements. So yes, the characters are there from one book to the next, but each book can be assessed and read on its own merit, not unlike other mystery or fantasy series (e.g. Jeffery Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme series, the first two Raymond Feist trilogies). And to use Buffy as an example, each show (usually) stands alone, and each season has a well-defined arc, but the show in its entirety also comes together.

    This problem of connection/series isn’t restricted to romance. I’ve felt it when reading David Eddings and Raymond Feist (although I loved his first two trilogies, precisely because each book could stand on its own merit). I gave up on Robert Jordan after 2 books because the pay-off at the end of each book was just not enough to justify trawling through all those pages to get there. I was bitterly disappointed with Rachel Lee’s sequel, and even more so with Deborah Hale’s (both Luna). I thought the premise for the second books were too weak and actually decreased my enjoyment of their first books.

    What it all boils down to is this: a book must have a meaningful plot and conflicts that are resolved by the last page. If you can’t write your story to fit into the pages between the covers, don’t split it into two books – write a longer book. If you can’t write a longer book, pare down the plot to the bare essentials. You can always introduce new characters, subplots and whatnots into your sequel.

    And no, I don’t like sequel baiting. With the exception of JR Ward. πŸ™‚

  24. I read a great deal, mostly in the SF, fantasy, and romance genres. I love a long book, and even more than I like a series, because a 300 page book can and will take me two hours or less. As for the reader, at least for my selfish self, the constant underlying thought being … please dear god, don’t do anything to my new favorite author, please dear god, don’t let the publisher cancel this series because that is worse than the author dying!! You need to understand, there are authors who have series into books 9+..aargh, at last count I am on 12 separate series (very loose count, we won’t mention the manga or the authors who show up twice)

    The thing we all realize is that when they suck you into a series it is an investment in time, emotion, and cold hard cash. For example, I just read the latest in Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series, I offered up the 20+ for a hardcover because I knew there was no way that I was going to wait, after the hints, the preview chapters, torment from people who got ARCs, my own speculation and all of that for another year for a paperback. I believe the quote from a friend was suicide by combustion, seriously. That is how I feel when I am invested in a series, I don’t think of the money or the fact that I am being distracted from completely legitimate work, it is all about the book as written by whichever author. Now think, even in paperback, at an average of 7.99 a piece, by the time we hit book 3, that’s 24 dollars (not to mention tax, gas, electricity or light, that drink you bought at the cafe, etc)

    However, there comes a point when all readers no matter what will stand and say no more. I know plenty of people who have stepped back from a series at 13 books with another 7 to come because they get to the point where they realized all the fun is gone. Part of a series is revisiting your old fiends and seeing plot lines go on and change and little hints and truths revealed. It is exciting but we need to advance and we need to finish some things. Each book honestly needs to have it own particular dominating plot point with issues that get SOLVED in that book, you can have underlying subplots that are little pieces in the overarching plot (our dominant subplot is a super big chunk). If you can’t do that, it meanders, it irritates, and we drop the book or get bitter. In some series *cough cough* we are not summing up anything, we sit in the trench and don’t go anywhere, and the plot advances a day a book or less. You can come up with a few yourselves, I won’t name names.

    However, it is my admittedly biased opinion that problem does not so often afflict romance. It is rare for an author to go with a series and the same set of characters for as long as dear god 5 books. The only one in my experience is the In Death series. Some authors do vaguely interlocking series (and I mean vaguely) but what I have noticed is not the series but once again the CONNECTED book. A series is a whole different ballgame and most romance authors, to be quite honest haven’t been able to manage it to my satisfaction. Often we end up rehashing the same plot with slight variations at which point I walk away and vow never to read again.

    So, in response to the issue with the LUNA imprint being dead vs restructured… not to beat a carcass, but I am on the side of mostly dead. MY understanding of the LUNA line was to have stories that were primarily fantasy with underlying romance or if you had a primarily romantic story giving it enough of a plot and backbone that it would stand up to whatever TSTL idiocy that the hero or heroine might engage in without irritating the hardcore fantasy fans. In my opinion, an attempt to expand the reader base which was a sound financial decision.

    LUNA for me was very hit or miss on that. I don’t think we all expected to like each book, to be honest I thought they were going to be crap because, well, it was Harlequin and that never equated with high-quality writing. I was very pleasantly surprised and the anticipatory salivation began at which point my wallet might have let out a whimper or three and then budget cursed. It still perplexes me as to why some authors were kept and others not. For me (so needing to get over my disappointment), the Compass Rose series was enough to keep me salivating at the end of each book and wonder where were we going. Yes, they explored a very different sexual lifestyle in her books, an interesting hook that had a reason. Sure we can read all about a ménage, but the reasons can be flimsy or the couples never stay together. The characters were complex and well-developed and each of them, each action, each subplot had a purpose, or at least in my mind. (please don’t make me have to go reference the five seasons of Babylon 5)

    I was somewhat insulted by Robin Owen’s comment that she feels that if her series were to be canceled by LUNA (I so pay not) everyone would know, oh yeah, the big bad was defeated, worry not. I know they were not meant in that fashion but I think that is similar to the excuse people use to denigrate romance and I did not expect it here. Yes, we all know, the evil can and will be defeated, I don’t care if the characters have children, that is irrelevant and to be quite honest almost annoying (that would be a thesis long discussion and will be tabled now).

    Let’s talk about the here and now when you need to get these six women to this country, find them partners (who hopefully have a use and not just as a romantic foil I hope) and then they and the others who have sacrificed to bring them to this new world take it to the bad guys. Sacrifices will be made, people will die, not everyone has a happy ending, I want to know about it. I want to know how we got there, what twist you put for them to get there and learn more about these people who were living in your head. If I didn’t want to know that, I bloody well wouldn’t read.

    A question I have for anyone who does read series, how much more likely are you to purchase or start a series form a new author if you know the books are all going to come out within anywhere from 3 months or all within that year? I know I had sworn off of series for a time because anticipation is torture, but the Temeraire series came out basically one book every two months or so, and I know the romance publishers are putting out authors with similar timing. Are you more willing to pick up a book if you know that there will be some level of completion? I understand some people feel there needs to be dinner and a movie before we promise anything else, but what if there is dinner, a movie, great sex, and a ring? Would you take the option? Purely meant in book terms to be interpreted as desired.

    I just wrote this super long post, with tons of grammatical and spelling errors, and likely insulted multiple people, sorry, and forgive the typos. My passion overtook me and we are stifling it now. (Way too many commas) Thanks for the topic.

  25. …they had told their “story”.

    That basically says it all for me. Tell your story, if it takes one or 20 books. I may not stay with you through the entire journey, my attention span isn’t that great so I’ll go 5 books or so and move on to other things, though I think I made 10 in the Plum series and probably 9 or 10 in the In Death series. Quite a feat for me.

    Whether it’s a connected stories or a long running series, I prefer book that can stand alone, that if you read them out of order you’re not left scratching your head.

    I HATE future book baiting. Suzanne Brockmann lost me as a reader when it took so damn long to get to Sam and Alyssa’s story. Don’t tease me with hints of a story and then make me wait through half a dozen other books.

  26. I HATE future book baiting. Suzanne Brockmann lost me as a reader when it took so damn long to get to Sam and Alyssa’s story. Don’t tease me with hints of a story and then make me wait through half a dozen other books.

    I hate that too, Tara Marie. I think she’s the one who thought that trend would be cool and it isn’t especially if the pay-off isn’t all that great. I’m one of those readers who didn’t care for her multiple storylines either. Also, the series that she is writing NOW is a spin-off of sorts from her previous series. I am sick to death of SEALs.

  27. well, it was Harlequin and that never equated with high-quality writing.

    Well, that sure as hell insulted me. Funny how Harlequin doesn’t equate with high quality writing (in your opinion) but the publisher has still launched the careers of such authors as Nora Roberts, Jennifer Crusie, Linda Howard, Tess Geritsen and countless others who have become industry leaders and trailblazers for romance novelists everywhere.

    I’m not saying that every Harlequin is everyone’s cup of tea, but I despise when the entire publisher is painted with one broad stroke based on one book that someone might have read when they were twelve or the perception that all the books are crap because they might have a cowboy, bride or baby on the cover. MOST Harlequin authors do amazing things with those hooks (not to mention the fact that they sell like hotcakes)…writing some of the best books I’ve ever read in a shorter amount of pages than most. Talk about emotional punch.

    The line I write for (Blaze) doesn’t have those hooks, but I can say with all honesty that many of the Blaze books have been judged a certain way simply because they have Harlequin on the cover. I’ve read some amazing books in that line–and in all the lines.

    Hey, anyone can have whatever opinion they want, but I have the right to speak out and say don’t judge a book by its publisher unless you’ve read every book that publisher ever published. No publisher publishes one kind of book at one kind of quality level…particularly since the quality of writing is often a very subjective thing. I’ve read some books that have won major awards and they were, in my opinion, crap. I’ve read others that were brilliant. But hey, different strokes.

    The bottom line is this–anyone who judges a book simply by their publisher really doesn’t understand how publishing works. Luna books were an imprint of Harlequin–not a line. There was no editorial directive the way there is with Blaze or Presents or Desire. The books have a theme, a focus…but other than that, the authors are (from what I understand) writing what they want just like any single title line.

    That said, many long time Harlequin/Silhouette authors thought it was a bad idea to put Harlequin anywhere in the books because we’re well aware that prejudices against the publisher exist. But I believe the books should be judged on their own merit and not prejudged by who chose to publish their book.

  28. A question I have for anyone who does read series, how much more likely are you to purchase or start a series form a new author if you know the books are all going to come out within anywhere from 3 months or all within that year? I know I had sworn off of series for a time because anticipation is torture…


    There’s a saying in business: you can get it fast, you can get it good, you can get it cheap. Pick two of the three.

    There are plenty of authors who are able to write quality work in a short time frame, and God bless them. I got lucky with my debut novel and wrote it in less than three months. My next book took longer: about eight months. (I also have a full-time day job, as well as a family with two young children, so my writing time is limited.) I did manage to write three books over the course of one year, but I don’t know if this will be the rule for me or the exception. So sure, it’s very possible to write multiple books for publication within a single year.

    But keep in mind that once a book is written, it first has to be edited — which may include some heavy rewriting by the author — then copy edited, then proofread. Then printed and bound. Then distributed. (Let’s not even get into the marketing/promotion aspects.) This all takes time.

    And the publisher is taking a huge risk by publishing multiple books in a series within a short amount of time. What if, for example, the first book does only moderately well…and the second book (which, let’s say, comes out two months later), does even worse? Where does that leave the third book, which comes out two months later?

    I don’t think that publishing multiple books super fast is the answer. As a writer, I think this is asking too much. As a reader, if I don’t like the first book in a series, I am not going to bother with the rest of the books.

  29. It’s easy for authors to say – oh Luna is an imprint not a line and that make’s all the difference. Readers don’t know the difference. Harlequin has spent decades building its reputation as the publisher of romance. Even non Harlequin books are considered romance. (I linked to a University student article the other day in which the author picked up her first romance, Santa Baby a St. Martin book, and termed it a Harlequin).

    HQN cannot expect within one line/imprint to change the brand that is cemented in our minds. It may take decades. (I.e, this is not your father’s oldsmobile – has that really worked?). It’s hard for me as a reader to separate the idea that HQN is putting out books without romance. I think I foolishly thought, oh, these Luna books will feature a strong romance wrapped up in the fantasy package which is why I bought them. I would never have bought them if they were straight fantasy.

    And let’s face it, some of these authors would not have gotten sold to straight fantasy publishers. Gail Dayton with her polyamorous focus is not resonating well with straight fantasy fans. Luna is looking to tap into the romance market. That’s where the money is. But to get that market, you have to write and sell what the market is expecting or do something that so totally changes the market expectations but still satisfies the reader that you are targeting.

    Luna was created to tap a specific market segment but maybe not even Luna understands who it is trying to sell to. If it is straight fantasy readers, then market to straight fantasy readers and if it is really good, like an Anne Bishop book or a Naomi Novik, I will probably buy it. If it is a romance/fantasy hybrid designed to appeal to the romance reader who would like fantasy, then it has to have romance in it. Or if you are an author who doesn’t want to write romance, wouldn’t you be better off under a well known sci fi publisher such as Tor and Ace?

  30. Or if you are an author who doesn’t want to write romance, wouldn’t you be better off under a well known sci fi publisher such as Tor and Ace?

    FYI, Tor has its own paranormal romance imprint: Tor Romance, which publishes authors such as C.T. Adams and Cathy Clamp.

  31. Don’t think I said how much I appreciate all the support I’ve gotten here at DearAuthor from day one with my books, as well as in so many comments. Means the world, to say the least.

    Jane, you have an excellent point about Harlequin spending so much time and money building themselves as a romance brand and then not understanding when they can’t seem to effectively publish books that are not romances under that banner. I always assumed that Luna did not have any references to Harlequin on the books themselves, but since readers are much more plugged in, they knew and brought with them their expectations to have romance in their fantasy with these books. The one Luna book I read I really enjoyed…but then, I’m by no means a hard core fantasy reader and I’m not one to care about the level of romance in a book unless it’s a straight category.

    My response was only to the comment that said Harlequin=bad writing. That, to me, simply isn’t true. That’s like saying romance=bad writing. Ahem. πŸ˜‰

  32. >I want to date a bit first. LOL

    Jane, exactly!

    >HQN cannot expect within one line/imprint to change the brand that is cemented in our minds. It may take decades.

    So true. And interestingly, when Harlequin launched MIRA way back when, they were careful to have nothing on the MIRA books that would indicate they were published by Harlequin, so readers wouldn’t drag along their Harlequin expectations. I think this worked well for MIRA and kind of wish they’d done the same with HQN. I mean, I know that HQN is “My big, fat Romance!” but readers tend to categorize it as Harlequin, complete with all the “series line” associations. I think bookstores and distrubutors do, as well. When, really, the aim of the HQN imprint is that it’s every bit as mainstream as MIRA, only it’s Romance Mainstream.

    And does this sound like I’m dissing series?? I am so not. I’ve been reading and writing series and loving it for longer than you need to know. πŸ˜‰ It’s just, well, back to the whole branding issue. There are great bennies to effective branding–for an author and a publisher. And then, there are also drawbacks…

  33. I definitely do not do connected books (series such as Sookie Stackhouse or Rachel Morgan, and mystery series–I’ll do if I like the world-building and the characters), but all those Regency spy groups and ten-million siblings and cousins and friends? Hell to the no! So many of them are entirely too obvious with their sequel baiting that it makes me nauseous. The only authors that haven written connected books with skill, IMO, are Marjorie M. Liu’s Dirk & Steele books, Liz Caryle and Eloisa James Duchess Quartet(her Essex sisters quartet stretched out “who will Mayne marry?” way too long for me to be interested).

    But romance fans have been conditioned to expect a book for every Tom, Dick and Harry who pops in to say “Hello,” so we get mid-list authors writing books for characters who may not have a story either just yet or at all(if it wasn’t already calculated as sequel-bait) because readers email them “are you going to write Xs story?” and because as someone said, it boosts sales: but how much when it seems that a number of authors are being told that the sales of their first book will determine if they recieve a further contract? How is a new author with a brand new set of connected books or a series (that isn’t published by “Avon Romance”) going to guarantee that readers will even find the first book? What if readers don’t discover you until Book Three and are disgruntled to find that there are two other books that may be OOP or out of stock? Doesn’t the concept of the series or connected books hurt the new author rather than help them(if they are one of the large number of new authors who don’t hit anywhere near the ballpark the publisher shrugged their shoulders and hoped for the best for?)

    What about authors coming on the tail-end of a trend(like paranormal romances or erotic romances, or back when historical romances fizzled)? Isn’t that destining new/mid-list authors to fail? This disturbs me because it seems as though publishers(esp romance imprints) are willing to toss things out to see if it sticks instead of acquiring books, series and connected books because they believe in them–and then if it does stick, the author is land-locked into it.

  34. [quote comment=”11835″]

    Or if you are an author who doesn’t want to write romance, wouldn’t you be better off under a well known sci fi publisher such as Tor and Ace?

    FYI, Tor has its own paranormal romance imprint: Tor Romance, which publishes authors such as C.T. Adams and Cathy Clamp.[/quote]

    I’ve read a few of them, and can say that not every one of them will be considered a romance by a reader who’s first and foremost a romance reader.

  35. A question I have for anyone who does read series, how much more likely are you to purchase or start a series form a new author if you know the books are all going to come out within anywhere from 3 months or all within that year? I know I had sworn off of series for a time because anticipation is torture, but the Temeraire series came out basically one book every two months or so, and I know the romance publishers are putting out authors with similar timing. Are you more willing to pick up a book if you know that there will be some level of completion? I understand some people feel there needs to be dinner and a movie before we promise anything else, but what if there is dinner, a movie, great sex, and a ring? Would you take the option? Purely meant in book terms to be interpreted as desired.

    Love the metaphor, but I don’t think it matters much to me. I enjoy both connected and non-connected books, but as a reader, I rarely want to read a book in the same series by the same author within a few months of the previous book. Connected books that follow some of the same characters (even if they each have different protagonists) feel very similar to each other to me, and it often gets montonous for me to read them close together. With only a few exceptions, I prefer to wait a year or so before reading the next book in the series.

  36. Jackie – thank you for responding about the publication. I agree putting out multiple books in a short time is a financial risk for the publisher because you cannot assume that they will sell well and you now have responsibility for whether it sinks of floats. I know that there are plenty of authors who I might never have continued reading if I only had one book to go on for 1 or 2 years. It all comes down to how much it affects me on the second or third read. How long do I have to think about plot-holes and how big do they get while I think about them. With some people what was a minor irritation becomes a hole I can drive a truck through and then I don’t pick up the next book. Sometimes it best not to give me time to think about it.

    Julie Leto- you called me on the carpet, and that is fair. I would like to refer you to the rest of that paragraph. I was pleasantly surprised and happy to be so. If I really judged HQN to only be on par with bad writing I would not be complaining that they canceled several books I was anticipating. So please, before you paint me with a broad stroke as well, read my entire commentary.

    Please note, my judgment on HQN books did not come after reading just one book but hundreds. The words voracious reader are often used towards me. I have read across multiple lines in HQN over the years. Things that I liked years ago I cannot stand now. And yes, the secret baby, virgin, sheik, cowboy, billionaire, greek whatever is what most frequently comes to mind. I know many great authors who I read started out there. I have even read the reprints of their earliest works and even there within that structure you see the potential.

    To me, many HQN authors are given a formula, and some people break out of it better than others. While I generally do not read the HQN series novels, I do look over them when I go to the bookstore. I am always looking for something to suck me in. Favorite authors break out and they start this pesky habit (returning to Jackie’s point) of publishing once a year. Like a drug of abuse, I am always looking for my next hit. I have read plenty of excellent stories and plenty of crappy ones. I am currently obsessed with a HQN author whose book I picked up earlier this year. I had read the three of the preceeding books several years ago and thought they had an interesting point but I didn’t feel there was enough follow through. But this book, by a completely different author, but in this sames series caught me and held me and even now I am waiting on her getting a deal with any publisher because I want to read a story she came up with if this is what she did within the formulaic limits.

    So, no, I don’t judge a publisher with one broad stroke. I could say things about my recent disappointment with releases from Avon and other publishers as well. My standards are different and vary with mood, time and the color of my hair. Defend them to your heart’s content, but over the years I made my investment, which is why I still give them a chance. Now that you have come to my notice, I get to go find out why DearAuthor mentioned your Marisela series. Once again, always looking for an author.

  37. Taekduu, maybe I posted to hastily…but them’s fightin’ words, as they say in the wild west. πŸ™‚ I probably shouldn’t be so sensitive, but while I understand your point and in no way am I saying that all Harlequin books are works of fine art, but just that the attitude that Harlequin is synonymous with bad writing is, well, annoying at the very least. I do understand your overall point and I appreciate it.

    I do think that voracious readers have it VERY tough because you’ve read it all. There’s a certain “jaded”-ness (is that a word?) that comes with reading so widely. In other words, you’re a tough crowd. πŸ™‚

  38. I wonder if there is a connection between what “types” of books one enjoys and the like/dislike of series. I am a strong mystery/fantasy reader probably equal to the romances I read. I love well done series. I agree if your story is told trying to milk more books can be obvious. But if the author is a good writer with more stories to tell-go for it. (Am totally addicted to the In Death books-eagerly anticipating Innocent in Death). I enjoy getting to know the characters-kind of like revisting old friends. I really enjoy Mercedes Lackey’s 500 Kingdom stories and hope Luna keeps going. Katie MacAlister has her Aisling Gray series which is excellent and her vamp series which is interconnected with recurring characters but each vamp book has its own H/H. I hope she keeps them coming too. To me with series, authors can do better world building and spend more time fleshing out backstory. (For fantasy lovers who like romance I highly recommend Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner series-starts with Luck in the Shadows but warning has M/M romance).

  39. I have been following the discussion. I think that there are several kinds of readers here. I too am a voracious reader and am not content with reading just one kind of book. I agree with Michelle that the type of books one enjoys, may influence whether you enjoy a series. I do think people who enjoy mysteries may get into the series expectation so they can adapt to the series in romance or fantasy.

    Some series do go on way too long but, sometimes I do feel that I am left hanging and I want to know what happens next. If I am invested in the characters, what are the problems that they are facing. I am not content with the “and they lived happily ever after.”

  40. It’s easy for authors to say – oh Luna is an imprint not a line and that make’s all the difference. Readers don’t know the difference.

    Well, yes and no. I’m both a reader and writer (20+ years’s worth of book review columns in the SF/F genre). I can mostly tell the difference between imprints and lines, but not always; I had initially pegged the Tor paranormals as “category romance”, but discovered (after publishing a review of one of the first Tor paranormals) that many romance readers and writers consider that term to apply strictly to numbered-series lines (which the Tor paranormals are not).

    OTOH, I think readers are generally pretty intelligent, and can tell that the books in numbered-series lines are, for the most part, qualitatively different from single-title romances (Mira, etc.]. The Luna imprint (and I agree that it’s an “imprint”, not a “line”) is an odd duck in that it’s a cross-genre imprint — so it isn’t necessarily surprising that different readers come to Luna titles with different expectations. That’s unavoidable, especially given readers from different genre-cultures — as the overall run of comments demonstrates. But I don’t think it’s a product of failed marketing by the Luna marketing team.

    Now, Bombshell — that’s an example of disastrously bad market/positioning strategy all the way around. But I digress.

    Harlequin has spent decades building its reputation as the publisher of romance. Even non Harlequin books are considered romance.


    Um, would that include the Gold Eagle (mens’ action/adventure) imprint, and the cozy mysteries they publish under the Worldwide Library imprint — which are exactly as recognizable as Luna titles as emanating from the same corporate empire?

    What it comes down to is that “series” is a word that means different things in different genres/market categories.

    In mystery, the majority of series consist of standalone books with continuing characters. For a very long time, mystery series protagonists were pretty static from book to book — Christie’s Miss Marple, Emma Lathen’s John Putnam Thatcher, Ellery Queen’s Ellery Queen. That evolved over time, particularly as more mysteries began featuring paired leads, and now it’s normal for mystery protagonists to grow a romance over several books — mostly independent of the free-standing mystery plots.

    Fantasy series, for the most part, tend to be plot-driven — which is a major reason that fantasy series tend to collapse if they get too long, because you can only stretch the classic fantasy plots out so far. There are exceptions, notably Pratchett’s “Discworld” novels — most of those are freestanding, or groupable into several distinct but parallel sub-series.

    Romance, by contrast, is a strongly character-driven genre, and there’s a strong convention in genre romance for resolving the primary character arcs within a single volume. Thus what one typically gets in genre romances are “continuity series” — each individual book has its own individual romance, and multi-book stories consist of three or five or six romances involving interlocking characters (siblings, co-workers, etc.) addressing an external plot conflict.

    All of these are series books — but they are different kinds of series books, and that’s where satisfying reader expectations can become fuzzy.

  41. Late and pedantic here- what an awful combination. Heyer had a fourth interconnected book in that set: Regency Buck. The hero, heroine and the heroine’s younger brother all appeared in Infamous Army. Of course Heyer had the good sense not to keep them all alive until 1815.

  42. When I wrote Wicked Temptation, it was meant to be a stand alone book. I thought that perhaps later (I had not decided when exactly) I might go back and write Eleni’s (the protagonist’s sister) story. However, because the book was not my usual subject – it is about vampires – I admit I wasn’t altogether convinced it would be received well and originally had it in mind to keep the book as a single title.

    At the time the book was accepted, I discussed all this with my publisher and was asked to go ahead and brand it as a series. I did so. However, I never at any point asked my readers to buy my book within a specific amount of time to insure the publication of future books, as some have falsely suggested. I do not even have that kind of power as an author. All by books are contracted on a book by book basis.

    Also, just to clarify things, Avaron Dale did buy my book – she did not pass it over due to series branding, or any other reason. In fact, she appeared at the release day chat at Cobblestone Press to tell me she’d read the book in one sitting and loved it. She also made no bones about why she was there – she’d arrived there to pointedly ask me about the series, and if it would continue.

    It was there I responded to her questions and told her I was not sure what I intended to do with the future of the Immortal Lovers series – I explained I had two other outlines penned – Eleni’s and Rubio’s, but no future plans for working on them at the moment. After all, I’d just released the first book, and I have another book I must finish before starting a new project. I told her I would see how well the book did, and I would go from there. The chat was open, pleasant, and very straight forward. There were no forcible book buying conspiracies going on.

    I personally love both types of books – series, and stand alone. I write both; however, typically I get mail asking for continuation books. I try to appease as many of these requests as possible, while not locking myself in creatively. I like to write what I like to write. I have many plans for the future – series wise, and non, including my vampires. The Immortal Lover’s series will continue, starting with Eleni’s book, once I fullfill other writing obligations. I have already made mention of this elsewhere.

    While I agree it is getting harder and harder to find single titles, I feel it is simply a natural process of storytelling. Readers and authors become attached to certain characters and want to read/write more about them. I do put higher priorities on some series stories rather than others, because it’s those stories that come more readily to me.

    As for writers shutting out some series due to sagging sales, I’m sure it happens more often than we all realize. However those alleged “threats” do not always stand on terms of sales, and “sales” do not always equate to dollar values – it can (and does in my case) refer to number of books sold. When I sell only a handful of copies in a few months time, I’m highly unlikely to set the publishing world ablaze should I never get around to carrying out a particular series. However, when I get a reader email asking me if I plan to continue a series, or receive a nice review for a series book, I do tend to put that book higher up on my priority list – and there is certainly no shame in that. No “shilling” is involved. I’m sorry certain authors feel that way. Honestly, I think that whole affect has been grossly over-exaggerated.

    I’m sure in some cases sales do actually drive this kind of writing hook, but in my own defense, as a novice e-author, financial aspects are hardly an issue – I don’t earn enough for money to dictate what I write.

    Time, however, is an issue. I only attempt to make a sound judgment call: Do I continue writing a series that isn’t going anywhere, or I do I go on writing in a different series where I have some small measure of reader interest. There’s nothing saying I can’t go back and work on the other later. And that’s all it’s really about. Unless you’re an established author standing to make a considerable amount of money, or sell an impressive number of books by dangling this sort of thing in front of your reader’s eyes, it means very little. And I’m not saying a handful of readers do not count. Quite the contrary. I respect my readers enough to tell them the truth of what’s going on in my own little writing bubble, and at this point in my career there are still a lot of uncertainties – a lot of ups and downs.

    As I’ve already said: grossly over-exaggerated. I’ve been in this industry less than a year. Using a newbie who’s just getting her fins wet as an example for the entire industry makes very little sense to me, particuarly when I’ve made it crystal clear in interviews and on my personal blog that I’m still feeling my way around as an author, and that I’m still not sure what direction I plan to go in with my writing. If my readers don’t have a problem with that, I don’t see why my personal experimentation should cause such an upset among other authors in the writing community. Finding my name mentioned here has been quite bewildering.

    On the otherhand, I sincerely apologize to anyone offended by the blog post regarding email received about Wicked Temption. I simply made an attempt to answer a question as honestly and timely as possible, without giving readers a false impression of my intentions for the future, and without painting myself into a box.

  43. I absolutely would NOT buy the Luna line – not because of the stories, but because of the price. Either give me a hardback or a paperback, but stuff these trade paperbacks. I don’t like the size, the fit on my bookshelves, but especially the price. Didn’t buy a single Luna – despite being a huge fan of Robin D. Owens.

  44. Gotta chime in here. I like all of them, series, connected, and stand alones. I like them for different reasons and they have to be well written but that’s true for all of the stuff I enjoy.

    Something about series, the individual books of the series should be able to be read as a stand alone or it soon loses it’s appeal. The continuing characters have to show growth and change. Lois McMaster Bujold, J. A. Jance, Nora Roberts, P. N. Elrod, just to name a few of the writers I can think of offhand to illustrate who do it well.

    Connected books to me are things like the Hometown Reunion books, my mother and I both enjoy those and have since we first were introduced to them. Again it only works if the writting is up to par, but recognizing a character from another book gives a sense of familiarty and that can be nice … if you liked the other book especially.

    Stand Alones, now there you get the whole story at once and a feeling of completion at the end. Happily ever after of a sort.

    As a reader I need different things at different times so it depends on what I’m in need of as to whether I choose to read a series or a stand alone at any particular time, they all have their place.

    Again, this is one of the reasons why I like e-books. It’s possible to have available the entire backlist of an author when I run across someone I like and haven’t read before. I firmly believe this will eventually be of great assistance to midlist authors in particular. So often the word of mouth buzz that alerts me to a good writer or the finding of an old PB will be too late to find them again. They will have been dropped or their series cancelled due to lack of immediate sales.

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