The first thing many folks ask after finding out you wrote a book, is, “is it a series? Are there more books?” Now one might think that is a simple question, but it really isn't. Just what is a series?
- Let’s start at the top with the -ology’s – trilogies, etc. These are most often found in Science Fiction and Fantasy and are really a single book, (granted a few thousand pages long in some cases) broken up into smaller chunks. The primary characters are the same, but each book not only has its own arc, but feeds into and develops the overarching arc for the series. All aiming toward that final big finale.
Readers need to read them in order unless they are the type of person who starts a book in the middle and hops around. From a writer’s standpoint, even a pantser needs to know the end game. It’s one thing to madly dash through an entire book making it up as you go, but you’ll never pull off a big series without knowing where you’re ending.
My Lost Ancients series was going to be two trilogies. But I realized the timeline from one to the other didn’t really have a gap, and the dividing of them into two trilogies was forced. Aka- they should be a single larger series. There could have been some fear in there too- three books, then “something else” is less scary than diving into a 6 book series right at the start of my publishing career (but I’m good with it now ;)).
- The other, often very long book series is the shared world. These can live in the SF/F (think Dragonlance, etc). Multiple authors, different characters, same world. But you are far more likely to find a shared world series in Romance, with a single author, but something tying all the characters together. This could be a werewolf clan, vampire family, witches’ coven, siblings of a large family, or location based like a town. Something connects all the protagonists in each book, BUT for it to be Romance with a capital R, there is a HEA at the end of each book, and therefore a new couple in the next book (Urban Fantasy falls into the “ology” category as it usually doesn’t have a HEA at the end and the same couple continues on through all of the series.)
Readers can read these out of order, since each book is not really contingent on the previous one-BUT it often makes for a better experience if read in order.
- Then we have the open ended series. These are very often found in Mystery (the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich is an example) but is also found sometimes in SF/F (The Myth series by Robert Asprin). These have the same primary characters, and while may end up with a big finale ending, they aren’t really aiming that direction. Each book is very inclusive, and again- it’s nice to read them in order, but probably not crucial.
So if you’re writing or reading a series, you should know what type of book you have going J. And, as a reader myself, PLEASE AUTHORS put which number the book is in a series on your cover! I know trad pubbed folks don’t always get a say in that, but if that option is there- take it! Saves a lot of pain for the reader (and the bookseller ;).