Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Series or Stand Alone?

As a writer, I'm always looking for a better grasp of reader expectations and preferences. What's your favorite? Do you like stand alone titles or do you like to revisit the same characters?

Mystery or thriller authors are blessed in that they can create a main character who will go the distance in multiple titles. Romance readers expect some sort of closure for the relationship by the end of the story so it's difficult to string the same characters into multiple books with the same level of tension. However some authors have done it, most notably Diana Gabaldon, JD Robb and Stephanie Meyer.

Other authors write long open-ended series to create 'related' titles. They devise elaborate family trees and reach out to use cousins and distant relations once the large clan of siblings is suitable wed. You don't have to have read the others to enjoy one, but it helps.

Then there are books that create a discreet world within their pages and once finished, you never see them elsewhere. Hopefully because the ending is so intensely satisfying, going any further would diminish the experience, not add to it.

As a reader, what do you prefer?


Kit Donner said...

Hi Emily,
I used to enjoy reading series awhile ago, but now I prefer standalones. I don't have time to keep up with the prequels and the sequels, etc. I was recently disappointed by a well known author who wrote a romance but at the end, it apparently was going to continue into the next book. What??? I have 2 books coming out with similar titles and some secondary characters popping in, but they are definite standalones.

Colleen Thompson said...

While I love a number of series (J.D. Robb's, Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Lisa Scottoline's Phila. lawyers), I generally prefer stand-alones, where writer's put everything they have into each particular book rather than "saving" and stringing out a lot of the good stuff. While I've written some connected books and enjoy them, I still write each as if it's a stand-alone because I so have picking up a book and feeling lost after learning it's part of a series.

Heather D said...

Hi Emily,
I don't particularly have a preference. I love stand alones and series. If I really enjoy a book and the secondary characters are memorable, I think that they deserve a book of their own. In these books you can get a glimpse into the HEA of the previous h/h. In these cases its a great idea to be able to write the book so that it is connected to the first but is definitely able to stand alone. In series and trilogies, my only hangup is that a lot of publisher don't make a point of telling us readers that the book is part of a series. Or more to the point where it falls in that series and if it can be read alone. I have put books back on shelves for that exact reason (esp. if it is a new-to-me author).
A series that pops to mind is The Black Dagger Brotherhood by JR Ward. There were several time that I came close to purchasing these books but put them back on the shelf because I had no idea which book was first. As it turns out, the store didn't even have the first book. These books can be read out of order, but I wouldn't recommend it and in my opinion if you read one you are most definitely going to read the rest.

Stand alones are great because you definitely get the closure that comes with an HEA. They work for other reasons as well. I normally read HR, but I often get into a rut and don't want to read. I can swap out genres with the stand alones quite easily, which definitely helps cure that reading rut.

So my preference is both!!!

Jerrica Knight-Catania said...

My first preference are related books with elaborate family trees, where the books can stand alone and each has an ending - but that's because my first love is Regency, and well, it just wouldn't have been enough to only have one Bridgerton book or Cynster novel!
Not to say that I don't love series books - Harry Potter, Twilight and the Gardella Vampire Chronicles are among my favorites.
Stand alones I tend to reserve for contemporary/chick lit.
So, I guess I like it all! LOL! Just depends on my mood, I suppose :)

mrsshukra said...

Aloha Emily!
I like stand alones but I also get excited with series historical romances but mostly those with 3 to 4 stories max ( 6 - 8 in a series is too much for me). For example, I thoroughly enjoyed Elizabeth Hoyt's To Taste/Seduce/To Beguile series and her Raven/Leopard/ Serpent series. The quality of the writing is most important to me. I also value reader reviews and even though I've read the early books in a series, if the next book unanimously get bad feedback, I skip it and it's OK. It's nice when a book in a series can stand alone because I sometimes don't read books in order!

DelRae said...

Well, I am one who prefers stand alone romances. But, I have been hooked into some pretty good series romances too. When looking for a book, I usually look for a stand alone that sounds interesting and if I finish the book and like it, and there happens to be more following involving some of the other characters I will read them. For instance, I love Karen Marie Moning's Highlander series. But I bought the first book not knowing it was a series. If I had known it was part of a series, I probably would not have bought it. The same thing happened recently when I read "Duchess by Night" by Eloisa James. After I finished I had to go and buy "When the Duke Returns." So, I guess I don't mind getting hooked on a series, but I definately am attracted to the type of series where the books can be read in any order and they still act as a stand alone. Maybe I'm just flakey...lol

Penny Watson said...

I love to read series, but inevitably it seems that the very long-winded series start to lose their luster at some point. I thought writing a series would be fun, so now I'm working on book #2 of the Klaus Brothers Series, and I'm wondering what made me decide that Santa had 5 sons! What was I thinking?!

Teddyree said...

Sorry to be of very little help, I love both stand alones and series.

I think authors like Nalini Singh (Psy-Changeling series), Christine Feehan (Dark Series) & JR Ward do it really well, tying up the ending of the first novel so you aren't left hanging but leaving you wanting more about other characters featured. Subsequent novels feature a new hero/heroine but there are re-visits by previous main characters. You almost get the best of both worlds.

I know when I read Jennifer Ashley's new book The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie I loved it, thinking it was a stand alone and nearly squealed with excitement when I found there were 3 more novels coming, about Ian's 3 brothers - Awesome

In saying that I'm a huge fan of Diana Gabaldon and Sarah Donati. I love what they've done with their series. I've read all the novels in both those series and have never been bored and as a reader I anxiously await the next installment of Jamie and Clare and Nathaniel and Elizabeth & their offspring with bated breath.

But I love stand alone romances too eg Julie Garwood, Anna Campbell, without a stand alone novel I would be in a hideous state of anticipation all the time, waiting for the next book in a sequel to come out. *sigh*

I'm sitting on the fence for this one because I truly couldn't do without either.

Michelle Pressma said...

They both have their place. Most of the urban fantasies are series and, like everything else, if they're done well, they're fantastic and I'm willing to hang on. However, I must say there's some wisdom to ending your continuing series (the ones featuring the same POV characters) with five or so books. Only a talented few can go on long. Charlaine Harris is doing it pretty well. I think this trend depends on the genre.

Maureen said...

It so much depends on the writer! I won't pick up a series unless I can read the first one first... I look for publication dates to figure out the title order, or go on websites and write them down.

And I'm writing a series that will really need to be read in correct order to make sense...

With mysteries? Must be continuous...same characters, new adventure. Tho I do get tired of dumping first loves for second loves. Geez! Some loyalty here! Write a good hero the first time and stick with him!

Alaine said...

I too like both, however, my absolute favourites that I have reread and still remember in detail the storylines are the romance novels about family members, in particular the Velvet series by Jude Deveraux, the books cover 4 brothers. Now yes at the end of each book, there is a fantastic conclusion, but I love the snippets of information you get in subsequent books i.e. the had a baby.

Whilst I do love the Outlander series I confess that I did at times find it boring and am concerned about the next one and whether or not it will hold my interest.

Having read many historical romances I have to say the family series are my favourites and most memorable i.e. , Jude Deveraux, Johanna Lindsey, Julie Garwood etc.

That's my 2 cents!

Nynke said...

I think to me, standalones are more essential than series. I don't like two-partes with the same h/h pair in romance; there definitely needs to be a happily-ever-after in each book. The one time I came across a sequel predicated on the fact that after a seeming HEA in book one, the h/h had become separated and needed to find each other back, I felt cheated and never finished the book.

Having said that, I do really like the family-style series that find good stories for secondary characters from earlier books. I read a lot of them and they're usually a lot of fun.

Still, I think there's a risk involved. Sometimes, you can sense that an author had committed to doing three books in a series but by the second or third book, they either didn't have a strong plot idea or inspiration had run out in another way, leading to a lesser book. I think that's a terrible shame, so as an author, I wouldn't want to commit to a series like that unless I was absolutely sure that I wanted to write those books one after the other! Of course, I'm not actually an author of fiction, but I still feel I've witnessed the magic slipping away sometimes as a reader, where the author possibly could have hung on to it if she could've written something else in between.

Keira Gillett said...

I would love a romance series, but not in the way it's currently done with sequels involving the romance of side characters. I want the courtship of the hero and heroine to be extended. This is why I like fantasy/paranormal series because there are bad guys, good guys, and leads that eventually get together.

Amie Stuart said...

I don't really have a preference either wya, though I won't pick up a series if it's, say, five, or six books in. It's intimidating trying to catch up.

Genella deGrey said...

Hi Em!
My first experiences reading romance novels were with 'related' books. Jude Deveraux's Velvet series (four books about four smokin' hot brothers) are still among my fave reads. But then again, I love stand alones, too.


Carol L. said...

Hi Emily,
It's hard to choose. I usually go on the Author's web site to se where series books start and infollow the order before I pick a book up. Stand alones are great but then The Outlander series by Gabaldon has me so pulled in I really don't want say goodbye to Jamie and Clare and I know it's coming. :( Stephanie Laurens Cynster books and The Bastion club books are excellent as well as J.D. Robb. I love Rourke. :)And I love Babe and Lucian,I like reading about connected characters after reading their individual stories. So I guess it really depends on how the character grabs me. I love all books. If I have favorite Authors, I stay with them, no matter if they write stand alone or series books.
Have a great day.
Carol L.

Adele Dubois said...

I'm a Libra, so my answer is--I love both. I tend to like trilogies best, or a short series of no more than six books. If I discover an author whose work I love, I'll buy her backlist.

I prefer series whose books stand-alone, which is how I structured my Desert series.


EmilyBryan said...

Thanks, everybody. Don't think I'm any closer to knowing which format readers prefer. Sounds like there are lots of us who "swing both ways" on this issue.

Wonder if I should further muddy the waters and ask what you think about Dorchester's new plan to syndicate novels and send them out in installments on people's phones?

Heather D said...

I can't say that I would get them. I use my phone for the purpose of talking when I need to. I use my computer, Kindle, or a book when I am reading. Oh I can't forget I will use my Zune if I can temporarily upload the audio to it, other wise audio is out of the question.