I just want to make it clear, up front, that I don't have ~*secret
insider knowledge*~ about this. It's just my pet theory. I could be
totally wrong. But I don't think I am because I am usually right about
ALL THE THINGS, naturally!
Anyway: it's pretty easy to walk into the YA (and even the Early
Readers or MG) section and realize that there are a lot of series out
there. Trilogies are supposedly the big thing, but really, it's any
series. To be fair, it's not like series are a new thing. Fantasy and
science fiction have been doing series books for an awfully long time.
But what's the deal? Why does it seem like series are so popular and
Here are my theories.
Most authors don't get "discovered" and
become popular off of their first book. They usually have to release
several books before their readership grows to a point where people are
recognizing their name in the bookstore as an author they enjoy. As
such, you don't see a lot of breakout success stories with standalone
novels by newer authors (authors with several books under their belts,
perhaps, but not newbies). Standalone books also have the issue of
being, well, standalone. A reader doesn't need to buy more than one. If
they like the author's style, they may try some of their other books,
but there's no reason out of hand to buy more than one.
Series authors, on the other hand, have these things naturally built
into their book deals. Instead of one standalone book every few years,
they're releasing series books probably once a year. They're getting
that whole "multiple books" thing done more quickly. If readers get
invested in one book of the series, they're likely to want to continue.
That means built-in book sales. It usually takes a new series a few
years to really pick up speed, but once the readership has grown and
word of mouth has spread, the sales and popularity escalate rapidly. You
have the "been there since the first book" audience, and then you have
additional reader numbers that grow with each subsequent book. New
readers can't just pick up the latest release. They have to start at the
beginning (usually). With series, readers typically know exactly what
they're getting -- a world and characters they already know they like.
Not like picking up a new standalone and not knowing if they're going to
like protagonist Joe Blow more than protagonist John Doe.
Some people like familiarity. They like community. They like the
feeling of already being a part of something. That happens in series. It
also happens occasionally in standalones, but it's a lot more rare.
There's something sort of appealing about being able to get MORE of a
book you enjoy. It's all very commercial (you're unlikely to find many
literary series), but that's kind of the point. Series books are good
So what does that mean? Write series to be successful? Standalone
novels aren't worth it? I don't think so at all. I just think that when
it comes to younger readers (and older readers, honestly), many tend to
gravitate toward series because of the accessibility, familiarity, and
immersion. None of that means that standalone novels can't also be
incredibly successful, or won't find readers. In fact, I think there's a
special place for standalone novels for those readers who don't want to invest a bunch of time in an overlong series, or who enjoy a lot of variety in their literature.
What do you think?