Hallo loves. I’m still a bit under the weather, but we’ve got a calendar to follow! As you see we’ve got author Cathy Pegau visiting with us, and she’s new to ALBTALBS! (Sorry, I wish I were more together to make this more exciting.) And hey – you’ll want to join in and answer her questions. There might be a good reason for it. 😉
Series, Sequels and Stand Alone Books: A Reader’s Frustration, An Author’s Bugaboo
My husband travels quite a bit and is an avid reader. Whenever he gets the chance, he’ll stop at a bookstore in whatever city or airport he’s traveling to or through and buy books. When asked, he’ll give me a “Yeah, it’s good” or “Meh” response to my inquery about them. Not much a reviewer, my spouse.
I picked up one of his “Meh” purchases (we both enjoy science fiction and fantasy but not necessarily the same ones), started reading and was lost. I had no idea what was going on. Less than halfway through the story I found myself flipping back to see if I’d missed something. Nope, not one mention of Bob the Goblin’s brother, so why is he popping up now and no one in the story seems surprised? Why isn’t the author giving me a bit more about Bob and his relationship with Biff? I kept reading, understanding my husband’s “Meh” rating. The story was lacking some serious information.
Then it hit me. I turned back to the title page and cover. No mention of this one being Book Two of the Goblin Chronicles, no “the exciting sequel to ‘Bob’s Brother Gets Lost’,” no indication that this story is connected to any other the author wrote. The list of “also by” books can be a hint that you’re reading number seven in a series of twelve, but it’s not foolproof and in this case unhelpful.
Only after some sleuthing and Amazon searching for publication dates did it come to light that this particular book was number THREE in the series. No wonder my husband had a less than enthusiastic reaction. By starting the story in the middle, he missed some important growth the characters had achieved and had only a vague idea of the overall arc for the series.
As a reader, jumping into the middle of a series can be confusing and frustrating. An author has to balance “catch up” information with moving the current story forward. You don’t want each book to retell previous novels, just a few hints. Too little background and a new reader might not pick up previous books or continue buying the series. Too much of a recap will bore those who have been following all along. “We know this! Why is the author wasting time???”
Theoretically, each book should be able to stand on it’s own.
My husband is the reason I decided to write connected sequels rather than a true series. Rulebreaker, Caught in Amber, and Deep Deception (not out yet) are all set on the same mining colony and share characters. Though they’re connected by these things, I wanted to tell each story as a somewhat separate entity. I hope I’ve been successful in the execution, allowing each to stand alone yet hopefully entice readers to try them all.
During the writing, I had to be careful not to reveal major plot points of other books while including information necessary for the current story. Caught in Amber and Deep Deception are more closely related to each other than to Rulebreaker because of the characters, not the plots. I’ve asked beta readers and others who have read Deep Deception, and only that book, if they felt lost or if they think Caught in Amber was “spoiled” for them. So far, no one has said as much. Whew!
So here’s my question. If you pick up a book and discover it’s the second or third in a series, are you likely to get the other book(s)? What would turn you off? What would encourage you to buy?
Author Bio: Cathy Pegau prefers to write speculative fiction because she can make stuff up and not become overwhelmed by extensive research for historical accuracy or other bothersome issues.
And yay! I told you! Cathy is offering an ebook copy of each of her books to two lucky commenters!