Am I crazy but does it feel like every romance novel published today is a part of a series? Almost every new book I pick up has a number after its title.

Is the standalone, single novel becoming extinct? I wonder if a book without a series will one day be a relic of the past similar to what happened to the landline telephone.

The death of the non-series novel might not feel like a big deal to everyone, but the series is starting to wreak havoc with my reading enjoyment. Am I whining? Probably. But I also think I have some valid grievances to address with authors and their publishers.

You (author and publisher) didn’t warn me there is a cliffhanger!

I did my due diligence. I read the book description and even downloaded a sample before buying it. There was no obvious hint that the story would not be resolved by page 289. Instead of an epilogue, I am given a teaser to the story to be continued in the book #X to be released in 18 months.
image2

Please warn me what I getting into, so I can make the informed decision if I want to commit myself to this story. (Because, of course, I have to read the next book. I can’t handle a cliffhanger Can anyone?) I might choose to add this book to my wish list and wait until all the books in the series are published before starting to read. Give me the choice.

Side note: Are these “to be continued” books even technically a series? Shouldn’t they be labeled as serial novels, which means it is essentially a single work printed into sequential instalments?

You are sometimes forcing me to read all the books in the series and read them in order.

Sometimes I haven’t read the previous books but am ready to start book #5 when I realize I’ll never be happy without reading #1, #2, #3, and #4 beforehand. Ugh. Now I have to stop and go find, buy and read four books in order to thoroughly enjoy this one.

Full disclosure: I am a little OCD and hate to do things out of order, but I still blame the series for triggering my personal issues that I am sure are shared by other readers.

I am performing scholar-worthy research.

Even if I read the previous books in the series, I probably can’t even remember what happened in those books that I read months ago. You’ve continued an unsolved mystery and included all the same characters in every book, but I cannot recall who is who, how they are connected or where we left that mystery. Luckily, I read almost everything in an electronic format and can use the search feature, but it still takes time.

See why I am speaking out? World problems be damned. I am experiencing a reading crisis.

I understand why this is a trend and do not blame you. Why do most product trends begin and grow? Money and ego. More books might be sold when a series is created. The author also has the potential to create a book dynasty and that probably feels pretty awesome. I appreciate the lure of creating a successful series, and I accept the trend will probably not end. It appears to be our new normal. But I wonder if there are ways to make the series better for the readers without a loss of the number of books sold.

If your story will continue in the next book, let me know loud and clear in the book description, especially if you are going with a cliffhanger. Including the word ‘continues’ in the description is not enough. Give me a short sentence (bold and all caps are not discouraged) telling me.

Example: THIS STORY WILL NOT BE RESOLVED AT THE END OF THIS BOOK. YOU WILL NEED TO WAIT UNTIL THE NEXT BOOK IS PUBLISHED IN X MONTHS.

If you are promoting your series as standalone books, ask yourself if this is really true.

If you’ve introduced characters and significant portions of their backgrounds previously and/or are continuing the same plot device every book, I probably need to read those other books. This is fine if you warn me. Advise me to read those previous books or else I won’t enjoy the current as much as possible or even really understand it.

image1

Give me everything I need in this book to remember what happened and who is who from the previous books.

Include a list of characters, book synopsis, family tree, footnotes, flow chart, anything that will allow me to easily catch up and reacquaint myself with what happened previously. Don’t make me work and spend precious reading time researching past books. I promise that including these will only make your current book better.

If you’re committed to a series, consider making them true standalone books.

You don’t have to intertwine the books so much to make a good series. Remember Mary Balogh’s Bedwyn Saga series where the central theme is a family? I think each book can be read without having to read the others. If I like a book, I’ll probably go read the others in the series. I will WANT to read them rather than feel like I HAVE to read them.

Be crazy and write a single standalone novel.

Pour your heart into one epic story. Take the time to fully develop your characters. Make me feel like I’m falling in love with your hero and I totally understand your heroine. Give me absolutely everything between the front cover and the back cover. This type of novel is more likely to end up on my Desert Isle Keeper list and I might even add you to my author auto-buy list.

Am I being unreasonable with these requests? What do you think, fellow readers? Let’s start a movement!

Next time let’s discuss the ridiculous invention of the novella. “I love spending $3.99 on a short story” – said no one. Ever.

~ Janet Boatman