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.
Her novels Rulebreaker and Caught in Amber are available now. Caught in Amber is also on Audible.com. Her next book, Deep Deception, comes out May 2013.
And yay! I told you! Cathy is offering an ebook copy of each of her books to two lucky commenters!
Hi, Cathy! Your writing is new to me, and I’m looking forward to giving it a try! I do love scifi/speculative fiction!
As for your question, it depends 🙂 In general, if I’ve found the book interesting enough on its own, I will go back and catch up on the series. I try to avoid jumping into the middle of a series, but have definitely stumbled into a series sideways by accident 🙂 Most of the time, I’ve gone back to catch up, but if that book I’ve read doesn’t grab me on its own, I might not bother heading back for the first…
And I do appreciate when an author can make the books stand alone. I actually really dislike cliff-hangers, for instance, and while I generally love a series, I kind of hate it when an author MAKES me wait for the next in a series, especially when there’s clearly an outcome that I NEED to know, right NOW 🙂 (Clearly patience is not a strong suit for me ;)) So for me personally, cliffhangers are a huge turn off, and while I don’t love when there’s a lot of extra recapping, I also don’t like it when I clearly need to have read the others in order to understand the plot and connections.
Picky–that’s me 🙂 I guess I prefer what you consider a connected sequels rather than a “true series” 🙂
I like how you say it, “You don’t want each book to retell previous novels, just a few hints.”
I love both series and connected books but HATE, HATE, HATE when authors don’t clue me in to that and then find out later I’m reading them out of order so of course I can’t connect all the dots or know who everyone is. Or they say it can be a stand alone book even though part of a series and when I definitely have no clue what’s going on it’s hard to stay engaged and keep reading.
If authors want to write a series or connected books which I love just let us know about it so we can do their writing justice by getting the closure and flow of the story that was intended. Sometimes I can’t even figure out that the books are connected when I go to their website which is totally frustrating.
These sound like interesting books. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on series/connected sequels – a great way to phrase it!
I have to read a series from the beginning. Preferably once it’s completed & then I can read the books back to back.
I hate reading series books out of order–even the looser romance series where every book features a different main couple. Fortunately, my local bookstore provides book orders with no shipping fee.
Great post! I have to read a series in order, too. I don’t like wondering if I’m missing some joke or side plot. I’ve definitely read some series where the authors recapped things so much that half the books contained nothing new. There’s definitely a fine line between helping out a new reader and overloading everyone else.
However, there are times when I’ve picked up a book from a series that wasn’t the first one and ended up getting the others before it, but it really depends on whether the book captured my attention and interest or not.
I prefer to read a series in order, but I do want the books to stand alone. That’s a lot to ask of an author, though, right? You need to include enough info so a new reader can follow along (and hopefully enjoy the book enough that s/he will purchase the other books in the series), but you don’t want to include so much information that the faithful fans get bored. Tough call. I have started a few series in the middle by accident and did go back and read the rest of the series (happened with Larissa Ione’s Demonica series).
I pick up whatever book in the series sounds most interesting. If I liked the book, then I’ll go back and read the others in the series. I prefer books in a series to be stand alone.
If I like the book, then I will purchase the other books in the series. The cover is what I look at first.. If the blurb on the back sounds like a book I’ll enjoy, then it’s all good.