There’s no denying that book series make more money for an author. If someone reads one and like it, they may buy all of them. It also works the other way. W.E.B. Griffin was one of my dad’s favorite writers, but I knew if I started reading a series, I’d have to read them all and he wrote 160 books. When I retire. Really.
Still, I’m weird that way, so financially, writing series does make sense.
But I’m weird in another way. Once I’ve written a book about a set of characters, I’m done with them. It would be easy to turn Do Angels Still Fall into a series; and Me and the Maniac has several internal series with characters I really love… but I’m ready to move on to new characters. Yet I love series. Spencer for Hire, Jesse Stone, and as a kid, Homer Price, Encyclopedia Brown, and a dozen others.
I think it’s a special kind of writer who can write a series, and I don’t mean financially motivated. They are more interested in the story of their characters than just story. They ask, “What are they doing now?” They aren’t finished with their characters. They BEGIN with characters. I begin with a story idea. I like to think they are all in a shared universe, that Bungy may run into Hud, but their stories are separate.
Neither approach is wrong. If you’re inclined to write a series, make sure:
- The story is your character’s story; you’re not shoehorning your character into someone else’s story.
- It isn’t just a retread of the last story. Same genre, yes, but not same storyline or story arc.
- The role of your characters is either the same or logical. For example, if in one book Character A is the lead role, and in the next book, a side character is the lead role and A is a side character, you must ask why she lost the lead?
- Your characters are interesting enough to carry a series.
- Your characters can change, but not so much that there’s no new arc to explore.
- Your motive isn’t purely financial. You really have to love your characters. I love my characters, but not in a way that I want to document their continuing lives (though one never knows the future).
- You don’t fall into the same ending time after time. In a military lawyer series I read, three times in a row the author made the bad guy the lawyer’s new girlfriend. Great books that let you down in the end….
- Include humor. I could be wrong, but most series I read have a healthy dose of humor, even the serious ones.
My advice, write a series if you have to, if you’re compelled to. If you must know what your characters are doing now, maybe your readers do too.
Never write a series for the sake of writing a series. Good stuff never happens that way.
What are your thoughts on series? What do you see as the pros and cons?