Series was one of the buzzwords at this year’s RWA National. There were workshops with titles like Writing a Series That Sells Forever, Building the Successful Single-Title (or Category) Series and Payoffs and Pitfalls of Writing Connected Books; a quick look at Amazon.com’s romance bookstore is enough to explain why. Here’s a selection of their top twelve editors’ picks for this year so far, in best-selling order:
Written In My Own Heart’s Blood, Diana Gabaldon
Eighth book in the legendary Outlander time slip romance series.
Night Broken, Patricia Briggs
Eighth book in the Mercy Thompson shape-shifter/werewolf/urban fantasy series.
Blossom Street Brides, Debbie Macomber
Latest book in a long-running series set in the tight-knit community around A Good Yarn, a store in a Seattle neighborhood.
Shield of Winter, Nalini Singh
Book thirteen in the Psy/Changeling paranormal series.
How to Seduce a Vampire (Without Really Trying), Kerrelyn Sparks
Book Fifteen of the Love At Stake Vampire paranormal romance series.
Once in a Lifetime, Jill Shalvis
Book Ten of a series of contemporary romances set in the small town of Lucky Harbor.
You’ll notice that the above selection includes historical, urban fantasy, contemporary and paranormal romance. Some of the books are stand-alone stories linked by a place (Lucky Harbor, A Good Yarn) or by a world (Psy/Changelings, Love at Stake), while others are the latest instalment in the continuing story of a protagonist or couple (Outlander, Mercy Thompson). The most impressive thing is the authors’ ability to continue to grow and develop a series of connected stories over eight, ten or fifteen books and still leave their readers wanting more. Take a minute to read the reviews. Wow.
Like those four and five-star reviewers, I’m a sucker for series. I don’t care about sub-genre. I love community, and if an author has done a great job in building a credible world with engaging characters, I want to know more about them, with the following caveats:
First, I’m all about the love story, and I want a satisfying resolution when I get to the end of a book; I don’t like it when the hero and heroine’s relationship is left on a cliff-hanger and I know the next book won’t be out for six months or a year or whatever, and I hate it even more if the series (and their relationship arc) is open-ended. I’m not prepared to wait indefinitely for my HEA. I may be in a minority here, but over the years I’ve wandered away from fascinating characters like Stephanie Plum, Sookie Stackhouse, and recently Darynda Jones’ Charley Davidson, because I’m not willing to sustain an unfulfilled emotional investment. It’s too frustrating. Instead, I’m currently re-reading Julie Anne Long’s Pennyroyal Green books because each one is an excellent standalone love story that’s also part of a developing community. The world moves on, there are continuing storylines and unanswered questions, but each book has a satisfying payoff.
I was talking last week with Elizabeth about TV series (my husband’s a big fan of NCIS), and she suggested that younger viewers might have a higher tolerance for unresolved storylines (hope I got that right, Elizabeth).
Second, I’m a greedy reader. I can devour a book in a few hours, and if I’ve had a great time, I want more. Now. I haven’t tried the Kerrelyn Sparks vampire series, but it sounds fun, and the idea of fifteen books in the same series gets me very excited. If I can’t have that, at least I want to know whether there’s a sequel, what it is, whether there’s a sample I can read now, how long I have to wait, and whether I can pre-order it. If I can’t find any of that information, I’ll probably wander off, read another author and forget about the series unless I’m crazy about the story or I get reminded about it later.
Given the evidence, it’s not surprising that an editor I spoke to recently and the agent I pitched last week both asked me if my book is part of a series. Of course, it is. I want to write at least three more stories about Ian and Rose’s friends and family – and as the agent asked for blurbs on the second and third books, I have to find better titles for them than Cam’s Story and Rob’s Story, condense my rambling notes into something punchy, and make sure I’m ready to write them.
I think most of the other 8 Ladies are also writing linked books. Justine has stories for Nate’s boss and Susannah’s sister, Elizabeth has the whole of Michael’s regiment to choose from, Michille’s book is the third(?) in a family series, I’m sure Kat said she had plans for Cheyenne’s newly discovered half-brother, and Kay got a fantastic idea from her editor pitch meeting last week.
So … do you like series? What’s your favorite? What are your likes and dislikes? We need to know 🙂