You cannot be series …

Poetry covers compilation
Yes, the fourth word in my title is the proper spelling. It is not meant to be the statment made famous by tennis star John McEnroe, although I admit, I was tempted.
If you’re too young to remember, on more than one occasion the talented and quick-tempered Mr. McEnroe would challenge an umpire’s decision with a wild stare, whilst screaming,                   “You cannot be serious!”
As this post develops I’m sure that most of you guys will see that I could have gotten away with the tennis player’s outburst as my alternative title.

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I’ve noticed that there is a tendency these days for writers, and especially novices, to produce sequels, or even a series of books. Authors have various reasons for doing such a thing, and those reasons cover a wide spectrum. I’ll list a few reasons to help get my point across.
1. The writer wants to explore how far they can push a character whether it be in development or experiences and adventures.
2. The lazy or greedy writer, who simply wants to exploit the market, by producing several titles of very short works; calling them a ‘series’.

Why do I say greedy?
I’ve recently discovered an author who is publishing nothing more than long chapters and giving them the title of ‘book’. In this way he creates a ‘series’. Yeah, whatever.

How do I know that it’s greed?
If somebody has the audacity to consider such an underhand tactic, the least they could do is ensure that the ‘books’ are properly edited and formatted. In the case I’m highlighting, they are not.

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Some books lend themselves to the idea of a sequel, or series, simply by the nature of the original story, whilst others do not.
There is a train of thought that such a thing is easy to do, but in my opinion, in any subsequent books the necessary information must be drip-fed to the reader as the story progresses. It should not consist of massive chunks of force-fed back-story; which I’ve seen in some attempts at a sequel.

My opinion on what works and what doesn’t for sequels and series.

What works?
A series, whether it is 2 books, or 22 books, should have a constant aspect, whether it is in theme or character.
For example:
1. Each book has a different character, but the theme is the same.
2. A fresh case or plot with the same central character since the first book.
For example:
Private Eye, police, medical, adventure, espionage, western, military, thriller, seafaring, Sci-Fi, fantasy, paranormal … and on the list might go.

What might not appeal to readers after a couple of stories?
The certain knowledge that the protagonist is virtually indestructible – and it’s not Superman.

What doesn’t work?
In the right hands just about any genre is good for a series, but the decision to tackle this particular idea is not something that should be taken lightly.
Romance for instance could lend itself to a series if the basis of the stories was to take a fresh story from the point of view of various characters from one central theme.
For examples:
1. Stories detailing the love-life of the members of an office or other business.
2. Stories detailing the love-life of the members of a community. Now this could be a nice little earner if you were prepared to devote half your life to it. Instead of the community being a small village, how about telling of the romances onboard the cruise ship Laid Back Lady, which has 500 crew and 4,000 passengers?

Now there would be a money-spinner.

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To reiterate my point, we must all be aware of giving our customers value for money, so we must be conscious of providing a good product and not creating a ‘series’ out of nothing. In particular we should keep an eye open for those in our business who are prepared to undercut the readership, which includes us.

Integrity is a key factor when considering if a writer is writing a sequel, or series for the right reasons.
As always, I thank you for coming by and reading my thoughts. Please leave a comment if you feel so inclined.

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4 comments on “You cannot be series …

  1. Tom, another reason for the “book as chapter” model is that some authors are trying to increase their revenue for work they place in subscription services like Amazons. That way they get ten royalty payments instead of one. I expect that where you see this happen it’s likely to be in this setting. No more justifiable, but the motivation becomes more obvious, especially since readers aren’t likely to buy the book at all in ten pieces. The ploy also has a negative effect on authors that don’t divide their books in a similar fashion, wince Amazon puts a set amount of money into the monthly pot and then divides it up among all of the borrow. The money the dividing author puts in his pocket thus came directly out of those of his fellow authors.

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  2. Thank you for checking out this post and in particular for such a valuable piece of input for all who come this way. As you’ve demonstrated with your comment, it is a topic that is far-reaching and has many aspects to investigate. The best weapon we as fellow authors have against the disreputable ‘authors’ is to boycott their titles. Almost all that I’ve seen in this category are badly presented too, so it’s easy to spot them.:)

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