Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Dimensional



In the past I've mentioned that I want to get away from writing long series. My readers are wonderfully loyal and patient, but I don't care to leave them hanging for years as I did while struggling to bring back StarDoc. Most series authors also don't attract the followings we did ten years ago, which given all the books being published is entirely understandable.

Many of you who have invested in my new Disenchanted & Co. series (for which I thank you) have been asking when the next book will be released. There is no next book (yet) and before I accept any offers or even write any more books I really have to decide how long I want to make the series. Five books would work best with my original series plan, and I think that's a decent length for a series these days, so that's what I'm inclined to make my goal. Or I could condense my plan, wrap things up with one more book and end the series as a trilogy, which would definitely guarantee closure for the readers and less headaches for me.

I thought I'd get some opinions from you all -- what do you consider an ideal length for a novel series? Let me know what you think in comments.

Image Credit: Smosh

29 comments:

  1. I love series and have heard how authors have to fight not to leave their readers hanging in the lurch. I personally would prefer the 5 book idea but will understand if you have to do the 3.

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    1. I have to say that with digital self-publishing as an option now I could write a longer series, but I would probably be able only to opt for e-books if I put them out myself. I'd rather stick with traditional publishing, though, as one of my favorite series by another author ended with a self-pubbed e-book only release, and because as a reader I prefer print left me feeling a bit disappointed.

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    2. I feel the same way when a series starts in paper and then they switch to hard cover after 4 or 5 books. I understand hard cover is supposed to be the ultimate but I like to keep my series together and this makes it harder. I'm now a Kindle fan so any new series I start on my kindle but it is a preference for each reader I'm sure. As I've said many times - you write, I buy and read so be it 3 or be it 5 I'll be there. Thrilled you were able to finish Star Doc.

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    3. Thanks for the support. :) Te prestige of being published in hard cover can't be denied, but I much prefer paperback to keep things more affordable for the readers (and I also dislike it when an author's series shifts print formats like that, too.)

      I never thought I'd be able to finish StarDoc properly, and will likely never again feel the kind of relief publishing the tenth and final book provided. That felt like reaching the end of one of those iron man marathons, spiritually speaking. :)

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    4. In case I didn't say it previously THANK YOU for finishing the Star Doc series. I know it wasn't easy but it is comforting knowing how you wanted it to end and I totally agreed with the ending.

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  2. There is no particular ideal length, although I'd say when a series gets REaLLY long (like Stephanie Plum or Feehan's Carpathian books) they often get pretty repetitious. I'd like to see 5 for your series, as my vote. Thanks!

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    1. Agreed, and thank you for the input, mk.

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  3. I have always preferred trilogies. They are just long enough. That's just my opinion though. :)

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    1. I think a trilogy is a more realistic option if I want to stick with traditional publishing -- I'd have to sell only one more book, too. Definitely thinking about it.

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  4. Carla Lewis10:00 AM

    Hi Lynn,
    I would have to say five to seven books seems like a good series length. Although a trilogy would also work really well for me. I just really hope you do continue with the series whether it's a trilogy or five books. I have always enjoyed your writing and truly hate it when the series ends.

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    1. I hate it too, Carla. :) Structurally speaking, I liked the original seven-book Darkyn series, which would probably be the max number of books I'll write in any series (and that said I'd have to have some fairly strong commitment from the publisher, which they're not inclined to do these days for anyone except the big names.)

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  5. Fran K11:18 AM

    When a series is this good and I love Disenchanted & Co, I'd be happy with 5 books. That said unless you have enough quality content (unlikely with you being the author) 5 could drag it out and a trilogy would make better sense. I'd hate for Kit, Dredmore & the gang to become something less. I agree with MK that some series are dragged out and you end up losing interest, which for me was Yasmine Galenorn's Witchling/Changling/Darkling series. From my point of view its the quality that drives the series length - leave the reader with that warm satisfied glow.

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    1. When I wrote out the series plan back in 2009 I structured it with five books, Fran, so ideally I'd like to stick with that number. But a trilogy might be safer in terms of being able to finish things. I hate not being able to finish something.

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  6. Somewhere around five books works for me.

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  7. Anonymous12:58 PM

    I get caught up in series, but you can just wallow in a world without saying something new--honestly there isn't a thing that The Lord of the Rings adds to the Hobbit, really. Probably where an editor comes in handy.

    I think if a series gets long it needs to also change at some point, resolve some issues, become about something else. 5 is a good length.--liv

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    1. I agree with you that change is necessary to keep a series fresh, and prevent an author from becoming a cookie-cutter storyteller. I look at some of the longer series out there and they really are just the same story told over and over. Yet while I can't write them myself I understand why some other authors opt for cookie series; some readers actually do want to revisit the same story over and over, and deeply resent any big changes.

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  8. Three seems too short (okay, too short for me to get my Dredmore fix). I like the idea of five, though really, you're the only one who knows how much is left to tell...

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    1. As a series writer you always have to keep things a bit fluid. I admit, five books would give me enough room to tell the story I envision, but three would insure I'd finish it. So you can see my quandry. :)

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  9. I like trilogies. They just seems so stable and well-balanced. This has nothing to do with the content therein.

    Although pentology is a pretty cool word.

    I'm not helping, am I? A series my daughter likes has (in her opinion) a really poor third book because (she tells me) the author was rushed to finish it. Maybe you should just start the third book and see what happens...

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    1. Trilogies are definitely easier to sell, ten -- and every opinion helps. :)

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  10. Three to seven seems like a good series length. Three rounds out a series, but seven gives fans more to look forward to. I guess I'd split the difference and vote for five. :-)

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    1. I think following a seven-book series is expecting a lot from the readers these days, Deb. I know a big name can make it work, but when you don't have their exposure or marketing budget or publisher support, it can be tough to keep a series fresh in the minds of readers.

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  11. Lynn Thank you for asking us. I really do love the series. I love it's uniqueness in the "Steampunk" genre. I love the characters. I love the setting. I love the non cliff hanger endings. 5 of course is what we want, but if 3 is better for you as a writer then do that. I think as long as your loyal readers know what your intentions are we're good with it. Sometimes series drag on for too long. There are some where I've had to wait till they are all published and then go back and start rereading because I can't remember what's happened in the previous books.

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    1. I've often wanted to do that with some of my favorite authors' series, Diana, but I can never make myself wait until they're all published. Too tempting, lol.

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  12. As long as either the overarching story needs to be, or as long as the author has interesting experiences for the main character(s).

    As for me:
    - I tend to prefer series to single books, and I'm almost-obsessive about needing to read them in-order.
    - I'm annoyed by single books that leave interesting characters or plot-threads unexplored, especially if there's zero clue whether or not the author intends to pick them up later, or left the door open, just in case. (Have one of those I'm trying to figure out now.)
    - I treasure having just a year or two (or less!) between books for a favorite author/series, but I'll honestly keep checking back for sequels far beyond what others might consider a reasonable amount of time. Example: I was looking just yesterday to make sure that Joan D Vinge hasn't written any more books about Cat that I might've missed... I remember exactly how stunned I felt to discover Dreamfall at Powells in 1997 when I'd been looking for a third book since '89. Sometimes, hope is rewarded.

    Then again, I may be crazy, but someday, in another life than this, I absolutely believe I'll have the opportunity to read all those unfinished works I've daydreamt about... and they won't have cost the authors near the difficulty that they did in life.

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    1. I know exactly what you mean, Shawna. Two of my all-time favorite series were never finished because the authors couldn't sell any more books. I may end up writing the final novel for one of them myself one day, just so I can have an ending.

      A couple of writers have gone indie specifically so they can write what they want, like Barbara Samuel, who is putting out some amazing work on her own. It's definitely an option for me if I get to the point where I can't sell what I want to write.

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  13. Honestly, if I series is well-written and interesting, I don't mind more books - as long as they aren't released more than 12 months apart. I read a few series that are in the double digits, and they are still strong. But what the authors have done is end one major story arc and start another. With that said, some of my very favorite series have been in the 7-9 book range. I think as long as the author has a clear goal in mind, doesn't "alter the world" to extend the series, and keeps the books fresh with the plot moving forward, the 7-9 books work.

    With your series and two books under your belt, I can tell you right now, I am in for the long-haul. You've created something so exciting and engrossing, that unless you take a complete turn around, I would love to see the longer length in the series. So if 3 or 5 are the only options, I vote for 5 books. But with that said (and echoing the other commenters), I will take what you give us, and I trust that you will wrap it all up in a satisfactory manner. I'm just giddy that you are planning to write more. I'm happy to help spread the word and do what is needed so you can finish up the series!

    Thanks so much for your wonderful books!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Jen, and for all you've done already to help spread the word about the series.

      I'm with you in that I like to see at least one new book published in a series per year; it's hard for any reader to wait longer than that. What most don't realize with publishing traditionally is the time it takes to go from contract to shelf; I sold the rights to the Disenchanted & Co. books in 2012, and it was almost a year after that the e-books were published, and then another five months until the first print release. This is actually pretty fast for traditional publishing; in the past I've had to wait up to three years to see books I've finished and sold released. Point is, often the time lag between books is not because the writer is a slow writer. :)

      Of course the obvious route to avoid the long wait between series books is to go indie, but I like working with a publisher, and I value the editorial process. I may not be able to say when my books are released, or how many I can write, but that's the trade-off for the prestige of working for a big publishing house and having a great editor to help me turn out the best product I can for the readers (and Adam Wilson, my editor for this series, is a particularly talented and all-around wonderful editor to work with.) I may have to change my way of thinking, but for as long as I can work for a publisher I think I'll stick to traditional venues; for me they offer a lot more pros than cons.

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