Many of you out there are series writers like me. Used to be that a series was like a marriage; the ones that were well-loved, realistically planned and carefully considered could be expected to last longer than the Vegas-wedding types. The writer decided when to call it quits and move on, too.
As competition for slots has increased, and bottom line expectations have escalated, writers are finding that having a series is more like being involved in an illicit affair. If the series performs poorly, the writer is shown the door without ceremony. Publishing doesn't need to mess around with a loser when there are so many other pretty series virgins out there. If the series does well, the writer is praised and immediately put on a very short leash. Publishing doesn't need the writer to mess around writing anything else; it might not perform as well.
Either way it's a creative choke-chain, and if we're not careful, it's going to strangle us.
Writers don't have job security -- we know we're only as good as our last sell-through -- but I think series writers have to readjust the way we think about our novels. Certainly structuring them has become a nightmare. It's almost as if every series has to be open-ended, so that we can continue writing it if it does well, but every series book has to also work as the last novel if we get canned.
Trilogies are the worst. Take it from me: if you're planning to write a trilogy, do your best to sell all three books; don't sign for two and assume they'll buy the third with the next contract. Also, consider what you might write if, after the third novel is published, they tell you that they want more of the same.
I really can't complain too much. As a pro I chose to diversify early on for other reasons, but it definitely helped me avoid the leash. Multi-genre writing isn't for everyone, but if you're up to the juggling act you have a shot at never being owned an/or controlled by one publisher. Writing in more than one genre also flexes your talent muscles, broadens your horizons, and ups the wattage on your resume. There is no better employment insurance than showing that you've got range.
There is no series insurance except success, which can become a trap. There are writers who are happy to keep churning out the series novels for as long as they get contracts, and a few who apparently can only write the same book over and over; these people do benefit from being tethered to a series. However much we series writers love our playgrounds, though, most of us don't want to spend our entire career chained there.
If you're only interested in writing in one genre, then I'd go for writing in different sub-genres and avoid signing away your option to any one publisher. A romance writer who can write historicals, contemporary suspense and paranormals can sell them to three different publishers. You may have to assume a few pseudonyms to keep the powers that be happy, but you'll have three times the playgrounds and three times the store real estate that the one-thing-only writer acquires.
That's all the shop talk I have for you this week. Any questions for me?