Series to the left of me, series to the right. Every book seems to be part of a series today. Readers who prefer standalone novels are faced with endless series of books, from trilogies to seemingly never-ending sagas with 20, 30, or more volumes. I’ve contributed to this trend myself, with the nine books of my Crimson Worlds and the fifteen (on the way to eighteen) for my Blood on the Stars series.
Why so many series?
Well, there are a couple reasons. We’ll hit the obvious one first. Series make more sense for a writer from a business perspective. From built-in readership for subsequent installments to the ability to promote multiple books at once, authors find it far easier to build true careers writing series.
That’s a little mercenary, perhaps, but it’s far from the only reason. Series wouldn’t be more lucrative without one unavoidable fact. Most readers love them. There are a lot of advantages to longer stories with narratives that unfold gradually over a larger number of books. The ability to more deeply develop characters and storylines is vastly increased over a longer series. It’s hard to imagine Game of Thrones would have become the cultural phenomenon it did if it had been a single book and one two-hour movie that came and went.
Readers become attached to characters, and they want to see their stories completed.
They want to learn more about settings and fictional universes. It’s a lot easier to dive right into a new story that also has some familiarity, some understanding in place when the eyes settle on page one.
Series are nothing new, of course. From the early days with things like the Lensman series through the years to Poul Anderson’s Technic series (and its James Bond in space hero, Dominic Flandry) and beyond to David Weber and the lengthy and beloved Honor Harrington epic, series have always been with us. The move in recent years to faster publication and reduced wait times for new books have enhanced the appeal of these longer tales, eliminating in many cases the wait of a year or more between volumes.
Many stories go on because readers still want more, even years after an author believed a series was finished, and in some cases, even after the original creator has passed away. Classic stories like Isaac Asimov’s Foundation and Frank Herbert’s Dune have continued decades after the original books were written.
The series juggernaut isn’t going away anytime soon, so dig through the books that cross your path, find a story that grabs your attention, and settle in for a long and wild ride.
Let me know what you think about series vs. standalone books in the comments, or join in on the discussion in my Reader Group on Facebook.