the Little Red Reviewer

Swimming in series?

Posted on: March 28, 2011

Wow, seems like everything coming out these days is part of a series, or book one in a new epic series. . . . even my two favorite recent reads are parts of series.

Even my most recent to be read book pile photo is stacked tall with anthologies (always a challenge for me) and series books, and “in my mailbox” and other tbr photos other bloggers are posting seem to appear that way too.  The only stand alone in my stack is Tim Powers’ The Anubis Gates.  I’m currently working on my next Catching up with Classics book, and yup you guessed it, it’s the first book in a trilogy.

Of the few reviews I posted in March, 2 were of stand alones, 3 were of short story collections,  and the rest were all series books.  In February, it was about half series books and half stand alones.  I’m sensing a pattern here!

On the main Macmillan/Tor Science Fiction Fantasy new releases page shows 10 new releases and 14 best sellers. Of the 24 titles shown, 19 appear to be part of series.  The PYR forthcoming page shows 11 titles, and only one appears to be a stand alone.

Again, I have NOTHING AGAINST series!  I’m just interested to know why it seems like I am swimming in them!

Are series the latest publishing trend? the publishers get a captive paying audience for multiple books, and authors get publishing deal for multiple novels?

Are authors simply no longer interested in telling a quick-ish 400 page self-contained story? Are we no longer interested in reading quick-ish self contained stories?

or has this always been the case and I’m only just now noticing?

How about you, do you prefer series or stand alones? Do you feel you’re having a hard time finding good stand alones to read? Do you feel inundated with series?  Am I making a mountain out a mole hill?

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18 Responses to "Swimming in series?"

[...] Wow, seems like everything coming out these days is part of a series, or book one in a new epic series. . . . even my two favorite recent reads are parts of series. Even my most recent to be read book pile photo is stacked tall with anthologies (always a challenge for me) and series books, and "in my mailbox" and other tbr photos other bloggers are posting seem to appear that way too.  The only stand alone in my stack is Tim Powers' The Anubis Ga … Read More [...]

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I definitely prefer stand-alones these days, because it can take ages for a) a series to end, or b) for me to read the final installments. With that said, I do feel like I’m flooded with series. I’m feeling a little cranky about it, too.

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I am also swimming in series (though I just finished one with the end of the Malazan ten book series) and I think it comes down to a lot of authors these days want to tell long, arcing plot-threaded stories that require more than one book. I think these days authors sit and think to themselves, “How can I tell this story properly?” and the words trilogy or series pop up. It’s becoming something of the norm in Fantasy and Sci-Fi, so much so that standalones become something of a rarity. I’m comfortable with that though because if I read a book I REALLY like….I inevitably want there to be more.

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Cecelia and Scott, you’ve both it right on the head: on the one hand, if I really like a story and its complex story line then Yes, I do want to read more! but on the other hand I am waiting ages for the series to end and sometimes that just ceases to be fun.

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I have a friend that is working to become an author — or I should say a published author — and his feedback from agents and publishers has been that every submission should be designed so that it could be a series.

Of course, that’s a dollars and cents standpoint.

I enjoy a good series, it’s like spending time with good friends that you end up loving — but I think all truly impactful books I’ve read are stand-alones.

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Yeah, the $$ and cents of it is that your agent wants to package a series – pubs are more likely to invest in your success if your book isn’t a one-off. And, yanno, there’s just more money in them. Easier to sell, and all that. I tend to prefer to read standalones these days. Encouraging us all to write series means there are lots of folks with ideas that aren’t big enough for a series who are stretching them out to fit the trend.

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I have no idea WHY there are so many series. I’m with you, though – drowning in them as of late! I relish the opportunity to read a single volume that is destined to remain that way!

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My theory is that genre authors put so much effort into creating a unique world with all of it’s intricate details and magic systems that its easier to continue writing books in the same world rather than have to come up with a whole new world and magic system for each book. Unless you are Brandon Sanderson, of course. Though he too has succumbed to the series craze.

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I definitely agree with you! I have got so many books on my TBR pile that are part of a series but I find myself putting them off so I can read stand alone novels before I get sucked into yet another series. I do love reading series but they are often time consuming – plus if I don’t read the next one soon after the one I have just finished then I just forget most of the story! It is really nice sometimes to just start reading a book and knowing that that’s all there is to it – no sequel, or prequels or anything of the sort!

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hmmm, put so much effort in world building, details, magic, etc, I wonder if series-itis is more widespread in fantasy than scifi? With scifi, you don’t have to worry so much about magic, tech, whatever, a spaceship is a spaceship, FTL is FTL, gravity is gravity, physics isn’t going to change, much. kinda saves you some time. maybe.

I’m getting the impression I better get used to series.

I haven’t yet picked up my Tim Powers, but another reason I’m excited to read it, it’s a stand alone!

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The commenters above have hit on several accurate points:

1) It’s easier for agents and editors to market a series, and I know authors who’ve written one book, thought they were done, and then ended up writing a sequel or a three-quel after having a talk with their editor.

2) Once you have that world-building in place, it IS very hard to let go of. Not just the world-building, but the characters too. While I’m not published, I’ve worked on stories where my brain just keeps wanting to run ahead and find out what else happens to the characters, and voila, a new story!

Stand-alones are rare, but I have to laugh when I read reviews for them, because people are wanting more books set in the world!

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There seems to be a belief out there that series are what readers want. I read a comment about what was published last year in the genre and the series outweighed the standalones by a significant amount. Try finding a decent standalone, it’s hard to do. Of course it’s probably easier for both publisher and author to find an idea that the public like and to just keep going with it, because you’re more likely to make a profit that way. Same reason Hollywood is addicted to sequels.

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You know this is something I’ve been noticing as well. At least, there’s rarely anymore books that are just simply standalones. Trilogies are just right for me, but I do love my standalones. I almost never finish series unless I’ve got tons of encouragement and nagging, otherwise I usually just get worn out and tired with the world. I think the whole series thing is more to do with the business aspect of the writing industry. If you can squeeze out a few more books to go with your first successful one, why not? Chances are, readers will take it.

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I don’t mind finding out that a book is part of a series…IF the book works as a unit of story. I’ve been really frustrated when I get to the end of a book and it just stops: To Be Continued! To me, that’s serial, not series, and if I didn’t feel satisfied by what was in the first volume, it’s very hard to be motivated enough to pick up the next book a year or two later, having forgotten half of the first book, too.

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I think that, at least in the case of fantasy, series are part and parcel of the genre. I think it mainly has to do with such a large investment on the part of the author to create their world, and the don’t want to leave such a creation for just one novel. Plus, fans usually want to find out about the growth and development of the characters the they’ve spent so much time reading about. I’m a fan of series’, but I hate starting half way through. I’ve copies of different Wheel of Time books, but I refuse to start them until I’ve read the first books :P

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Only in the last few years have I gotten into fantasy, so I guess I’m really noticing it. Although the trend seems to be hitting straight up SF more and more as well.

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One positive aspect of a series: More of the stuff you love. I recently decided to remedy a terrible oversight and read Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars series. I’m almost halfway through “A Princess of Mars,” and I totally love it — and I’m glad that there’s more where that came from!

When it comes to series, if it’s something I like, then too much is never enough! Even with the 32nd season of DOCTOR WHO kicking off later this month, I still want more…

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I’m in total agreement. When it’s something I enjoy, of course I want more. it’s just a bit of a surprise at the bookstore, seems like everyone on the SF&F is a series that requires thousands of pages of committment, and i’m so impatient!

and speaking of impatient, don’t even get me started on my Doctor Who obsession! ;)

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