I’d like to thank everyone for reacting to the poll and giving me their opinions and preferences. What do you like best? Writing series or stand-alone books? One writer commented that the phrasing of my poll was slightly wrong because any book – whether part of a series or in stand-alone version – has to be able ‘to stand on its own’. I understand and underwrite that. Perhaps I should have explained more clearly that I meant with what vision the writer starts his/her project. To write a series or a stand-alone book. But then again some commented that a change from stand-alone to series can take place during the writing process. The choice is obviously not set in stone.
I’m sorry I haven’t been able to promote the poll more and thus get more results but illness in the family has claimed most of my attention in recent weeks. Please feel free to leave your contributions to this discussion in the comment section. It might tip up the current outcome.
Overall preference of this modest-size poll seems to be for writing and reading series. After all, writers tend to write what they like reading themselves but the commercial aspect also seems to play a part. Write what the audience asks for. Makes sense, no?
Although some ground is covered with the answers below, I think we haven’t touched the bottom of this topic. There must be many more pros and cons. My curiosity is not completely satisfied. So, let us hear from you!
The Poll answers:
Kate Jay-r: I prefer to write standalone books because a) I prefer to read them and b) I am ready to move on to another story and a whole lot of new characters by the time I’ve written a book. It takes much longer to conceive and write a book than to read it so I am often fed up with the characters by the time I am ready to inflict them on the public! That said, I have on occasion, come back to write a second book involving same characters but not as part of a series.
Sheri Wilkinson: I am not an Author, I am a reader. I am split on this, as I have read and liked both, stand alone and series.
George Polley: I like them both, have read both all my life, and have written both. To me, it all depends on the character and the story (or the story and the character, to reverse the order).
Greta van der Rol: I write series because people want to know more about the characters. They already know the universe and want to learn more about it. And because of that, there’s an audience for the books.
Robb Grindstaff: I’ve never been a reader of series, and I’ve never had the desire to write a series. Characters show up in my head with a particular conflict, and I write their story to its natural (or unnatural) conclusion. Then I’m done with that story, and I’m done with that character — or rather, the character is done with me. She’s told me her story. I have a line of other characters waiting to tell their stories. I want to write a new story with a new character rather than trying to come up with a pale imitation of an earlier book I’ve written, rehashing the same character. I’m not big on movie sequels either for the same reason. Often they are pale imitations of the original in an effort to cash in and make a quick buck. Of course, in movies and books, there are lots of exceptions, but writing or reading a sequel or series just doesn’t appeal to me personally. I know a lot of people love series, I’m just not one of them.
Bill Kirton: Readers seem to want series books so, from a purely commercial standpoint, it makes sense to satisfy them. On the other hand, it’s too easy to become formulaic. I find characters develop from book to book and there’s a certain comfort in revisiting old friends in a new context. I also find that, if the characters are interesting enough in one book, they arouse my curiosity to the extent that I want to write a sequel to explore them further. All of which suggests that a stand alone isn’t enough – unless you achieve perfection, closure and all those other unreachable goals.
Will Hahn: I have no concept of a completely stand-alone book. All my tales are set in the same fantasy world and just like here in the Alleged Real World, everything that happens is connected.
Mandy Ward: I write a book. If a sequel / prequel suggests itself, I write it. TTATE is a series because I had an idea for an overarching plot that needed a different set of characters to be there for the end… I’ve tried to write a series only to have the first book be the last. You can’t really tell if it will be or not until you’ve finished the first book.
Suzanna Burke: Difficult to decide, I have done a 2 part book (Non-Fiction) and a stand alone Fiction novel. My current work Fiction can stand alone comfortably…however I have allowed for a follow on if readers (If I have any) seem to want more. I doubt that I would be comfortable with more than two or at a stretch three books. I think the story lines could become jaded and if they cease to be a challenge to write I would stop. I do love writing about new and different characters and situations.
Elaine Chase: stand alone but I have a mystery series BUT each book stands alone.
Laurie Will: I prefer to write series because that’s what I read. When I really like a book and fall in love with the characters, I don’t want to stop at one book. They become like my best friends. I suppose the same is true for writing. If I’ve spent that much time creating and loving characters, why would I want to leave them after one book?
John Booth: Series are great fun and it allows me to develop characters further than a single book would permit. However, single books have their place because how else do you start a series?
Sessha Batto: I write both – depends on the characters. Some have too much story for one book – others have a straight forward single book tale to tell.
Philip van Wulven: People seem to like Sherlock Holmes in shortish doses, and so buy my novellas in that mini-genre. The characters, setting, style, and subject matter are fairly rigidly constrained, and where possible, fall within the bounds of what is known as ‘the Canon’. This emulates the original stories written by Doyle for publication as a series in a periodical. My own preference is less relevant than those of readers in deciding.
John Holt: I have just published my fifth novel to feature my private detective Tom Kendall. Although all five novels are linked (this last one is however a prequel) all 5 books are also stand-alone books, and you could easily just read one of them, and not continue with the rest; or you could read them completely out of the order in which they were written.
M.A. McRae: You have the question slightly wrong. It is not series vs stand-alone. If a book that becomes a part of a series cannot stand on its own merits as well, then the author has failed.
I like a series – more meat in the meal. But I get very annoyed if a book ends on a cliff-hanger, and will not buy any more from that author.
Juliet Madison: I’ll NEVER get bored writing about DI Frank Lyle and his team.
Tom Winton: Hannah, from everything I’ve heard, series are the cat’s meow.
Sheila Mary Belshaw: If people want more of the same, they go for a series. If they want variation then it’s ‘stand alone’ for them. More exciting for an author to do something different every time.
Alex Butcher: I guess it depends what you want from a book, some work well enough alone, others don’t
Hannah Warren: I’ve never written a series but I’m tempted to try. I love watching television series. However, I see the danger of fading characters and keeping the story lines going just for the sake of income and reader-satisfaction. That would be detrimental to creativity.