Seriously? Why Do Authors Write So Many Series?
I was engaged in a conversation with a reviewer the other day and she asked, “Why is it so many authors are doing series nowadays?”As the author of three successful series, to which I, for some reason, keep returning, I thought this was an interesting question and deserved some exploration.
Series vs. Serial
First of all, I would like to distinguish between a book series and a serial. A series is made up of standalone books connected by something. To be truly satisfying to a reader, each book should have a complete story arc for the major characters and should, if a romance, end in a Happy Every After (HEA) or a Happy For Now (HFN). In erotic romance, an HFN is more acceptable than in a mainstream romance.
In contrast, in a serial, you will read part of a story in each installment. Both types of books have their audience, but it is important for authors or publishers to note that a book is a serial in the marketing blurb so blood isn’t spilled when a reader, expecting a happy ending, gets a cliffhanger instead.
That can be awkward.
Let’s explore some of the reasons series are so abundant…
It takes a lot of work and emotional investment to create a character. Some flow from the pen fully formed, but most emerge like the peeling of a very obstinate onion (with lots of tears). Getting personal information from others is like pulling teeth. Oftentimes, in the writing of a book, a secondary character snags our attention and we cannot help but be inspired to tell their story too. It’s easy and fun to do, because these characters already know who they are.
When I was writing Folly, my first outing in erotic Regency, this happened to me. I fell in love with James and Helena, the couple hosting our beleaguered heroine Eleanor when she needed a place to hide out. I knew I needed to write their story and toyed with giving them a break up so they could reunite in the second book.
While Helena railed at this idea (she does have a tendency to rail), James, in that dominating way he has simply crossed his arms and said, in a low authoritative tone, “I think not, Sabrina.” Needless to say, their story, Dark Fancy, ended up being a prequel to Folly. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to flout a direct order from James.
While I was writing Dark Fancy, of course, Edward (Dark Duke) and Violet (Brigand) started talking to me— Violet jabbering away about her romance with Ewan and Edward whispering into my ear about Kaitlin.
One book quickly became a series of four. Through no fault of my own.
A Familiar Place
Part of writing a great book is world building. Creating a universe readers want to visit again and again. A series provides just such a venue. I can’t tell you how many readers have told me they want to vacation on Tryst Island, the setting for my contemporary series, featuring the romances of a group of friends who share a vacation house. It’s not just because all the guys on the island seem to have cut abs and buckets of money. They want to walk on the beach, hang out at Darby’s Bar and Grill. They want to eat bacon with Holt. (Some of them—those with wilder tastes— want more from Holt.)
Readers love this “coming home” feeling, love “hanging out with old friends,” and a well written series provides that experience. The most addictive series also have, in addition to individual story arcs, an overarching series arc, with each book moving the grander story along. It’s fun to plant clues for loyal readers about what’s coming. It’s even more fun when they spot them and send me hushed emails about what they think is going to happen.
A caveat here. It is important for authors to remember, while they have loyal readers who have gobbled up every book—in order—there will be a reader who discovers the series mid-stream. References to incidents and people from previous books is exciting for the Read-In-Order crowd, it can be annoying or confusing to a first time reader. Those references belong in the book but must be carefully threaded through the story with an invisible seam.
I don’t know about you, but if a reader discovers my book, I want her to LOVE it. I want to keep her!
And I am not talking about the erotic type of passion here—I am talking about the emotional attachment to something you care about. If an author is in love with her series world and her characters, she can’t help but evoke that passion through her words. Readers will connect with that emotion and want to revisit these people and places again and again because of that attachment.
My very first series, Wired, takes place in the offices of a tech company with one rule for management—no fraternization with the staff. Imagine the difficulties that occur when our heroes, to a man, meet the woman of their dreams (each in a different book), but she’s working for the company and, therefore, off limits. I never intended to write a third book in this series, but one reader was so passionate about one of the secondary characters (and I mean, she hated him), she demanded I write his story and, by the way, he needed a spanking.
Making Over Maris—a sweet, humorous Fem Domme—was born. It wasn’t easy turning someone I’d written to be the comic relief in one book into the hero of another. But through passion, and compassion, I was able to do it. Once I knew Jack, really knew him, I had to tell his story. The reader, also a reviewer, gave the book a stellar thumbs up.
The Bottom Line
The final reason authors love series relates to all of the above. It is, in fact, the bottom line. My series have far outsold my standalones by a factor of five. It is easy to understand why. If an author is passionate enough about her world to revisit it again and again, the reader is going to want to do so as well. Beyond that, that reader is going to tell her friends about the book and insist they tell their friends.
A series can create momentum for an author, for a line and for a publisher. In fact, Decadent’s One Night Stand series has hundreds of standalone stories by as many authors.
You will continue to see series abound on the bookshelves, my friend, because they satisfy on all levels.
And isn’t that what good writing is all about?
About Sabrina York
Her Royal Hotness, Sabrina York, writes naked erotic fiction for fans who like it hot, hard and balls-to-the-wall, and erotic romance and fantasy for readers who prefer a slow burn to passion.
An award winning author of hot, humorous stories for smart and sexy readers, her titles range from sweet & sexy erotic romance to BDSM to erotic horror. Connect with her on twitter @sabrina_york, on Facebook or on Pintrest. Check out Sabrina’s books and read an excerpt on Amazon or wherever e-books are sold. Visit her webpage at www.sabrinayork.com to check out her books, excerpts and contests. Don’t forget to enter to win the royal tiara! Download my Free Teaser Book filled with excerpts and reviews: http://sabrinayork.com/home-2/sabrina-yorks-teaser-book/
Series by Sabrina York
Adam’s Obsession (Erotic Contemporary, Ellora’s Cave)
Tristan’s Temptation (Erotic Contemporary, Ellora’s Cave)
Making Over Maris (Erotic Contemporary, Ellora’s Cave) —Coming November 6th
Folly (Erotic Regency, Ellora’s Cave)
Dark Fancy (Erotic Regency, Ellora’s Cave)
Dark Duke (Erotic Regency, Ellora’s Cave) —Coming February 13
Brigand (Erotic Regency, Ellora’s Cave) —Coming soon
View the series trailer here: http://youtu.be/uJ1rhyeLkAM
Rebound: A Tryst Island Erotic Romance (Erotic Contemporary, Available on Amazon)
Dragonfly Kisses: A Tryst Island Erotic Romance (Erotic Contemporary)
Smoking Holt: A Tryst Island Erotic Romance (Erotic Contemporary)
Heart of Ash: A Tryst Island Erotic Romance (Erotic Contemporary)
Devlin’s Dare: A Tryst island Erotic Romance (Erotic Contemporary)—Coming soon
ONE NIGHT STAND
Fierce (One Night Stand, Decadent Publishing)
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If you like a set of characters or a setting/situation, why wouldn’t a reader want to read more in a series? I read about 95% series now because, in general, I know I’ll enjoy what I’ll read if I liked the first book I read in the series (but not always…sometimes there can be a miss).
I also favor series which feature the same lead or lead couple book after book because I like getting to know them better and in more depth, seeing them evolve. I also like the “new couple” per book series as well, but my top three series feature the same main characters.
Thank you for talking about this, Sabrina. I thought the difference between a series and a serial was a different one. I thought it had to do with the monetary aspect – in a series you pay for each individual book. In a serial, the author/publisher sets one price which a reader pays and each installment automatically downloads to your e-reader upon release at no additional cost. Your definition actually makes a lot of sense, and as a blogger, I will try and make that distinction when reviewing. i am one of those people who get extremely frustrated when the “cliffhanger” ending isn’t mentioned. I’m not a fan of that bait and hook method to get me to buy more books. I have noticed that I unintentionally seem to pick up books that belong to a series. I prefer each book to be complete and feature a different couple each time but with cameos of past characters. I get turned off by series that seem to run on and on and have books in the double digits. As long as the author’s story-telling doesn’t get stale over time, I suppose some people love that.
Thank you Anne! That is good to know. (I am sure my author friends will jump on that idea!) In my series I do follow a new couple in each book, but feature cameos from the others so we can get updates. 😉 But I tend to do only 2 POVs in a book, his and hers, unless secondary plot lines call for others…
A good series will have a series arc (or story line) that weaves through all the books and ties up any loose ends at the finale. In my Tryst Island series I have a villain who will get his comeuppance in the final story. I am ramping up his evilness with each appearance. (I chuckle when readers tell me they hate him. I’m like, don’t worry. Karma is a bitch…)
Michelle, how wonderful to see you here! I love your site, by the way. (Total fangirl!)
Regarding serials, I don’t write them, but from what I see, they can be formatted several ways. Some authors to offer them in subscription and others simply sell each episode as stand alone. The mistake they make oftentimes is NOT WARNING READERS that there isn’t a full closure at the end.
Some authors have had tremendous success with serials, and as Anne mentioned above, many readers enjoy the return of characters they adore, so I am not knocking the mechanism. But as a romance reader, I personally prefer a completed circle in a book.
If I know it’s a serial, I might feel differently.
And I might want to try one at some point… 😆
Great post, and all of the reasons why I read series you touched on. As for series vs serial, not a real fan of the serial. In most cases I feel cheated because it reads like one book split up into pieces.
I agree Laurie…
There i a market for everything nowadays. The key is including the statement that it is a serial in the book description so readers aren’t disappointed.
A reader is a terrible thing to lose!
I am a fan of the series. I like visiting the same world. It feels like coming home, especially if it’s in the Pacific Northwest! And getting updates on what everyone is doing, (I can’t believe Rich actually did that!) in each book. You do that so well!
As for serials, as long as I know, in advance, that is what I am reading, it is okay – sometimes. I am currently reading a serial that is actually almost reading like a series, except, we are no where near any kind find of HEA or even HFN for anyone. But it is a fun read and keeps me interested, so I keep going back. But usually, I just wait until the end of the serial, get them in a package and read all at once.
As for your series Sabrina, haven’t found one I didn’t love yet! Keep writing them. I will keep reading them!
Thank you Pansy! It means a lot to know people enjoy my books…because I sure enjoy writing them!!
Thank you for stopping by! 😀
Great explanation about series versus serials. I like books that are continued, except when it takes two or three years to continue it.
LOL Sandra. I know what you mean. I am NOT patient enough for that!!!
I just enjoyed your interview and can’t wait to read more of your books bibbiesparks @yahoo.com
So agree with almost everything you’ve said here, Sabrina. I kept going yes, yes, yes. I feel that way. Oh yes. Kinda like I was reading one of your books, or Delilah’s!
I too love to write series, and follow other authors in series. Since time is limited for me (I’m a slow reader) I try to make my reading count. I don’t buy something unless I know I can get into a whole bunch of books, like power shopping, I guess.
Thanks for the post. 😛
Thank you Toni!!! Great to see you here. 😉
Sharon, I know exactly what you mean! I have little time to read, so I expect nothing less than perfection. And, I admit, at times I will default to a known quantity. Another benefit of writing series for authors, I expect.
Nice post. It also makes me aware that I will have to rectify my ignorance of your other series, lol. Thanks for sharing your insight!
Only 3 series so far…