|Button made by the very talented Susi! Thank you!!|
Standalones vs series
Red, when the heroine, Elodie, literally woke me up in the middle of the night. Three in the morning and the girl is saying, “Wake up! You have to tell my story!” I was not, what you would call, sympathetic to her plight, as I value my sleep. The house was not on fire and nobody was dying, so I was Not Amused. But I made notes since she was being a pest and wouldn’t let me go back to sleep otherwise. As I was winding up another project, she kept talking. And that was different from every other book I’d done. Many, many things about Red were different from what I’d done before. It was first person. It was YA. And it was a total standalone.
For someone who tends to write and think in trilogies or series, it was this last point that was strangest. I’d become accustomed to thinking in huge plot arcs or with wide casts of characters that made for natural spinoffs (because, gee, that’s what I read all the time). But Red was very specifically Elodie’s story about coming to terms with who and what she is, and her budding relationship with Sawyer. No extraneous cast, everything resolved nice and neatly by the end of the book. It was fun and new and exciting, because as much as we grow to love our characters while writing a book, by the time we’re finished, we’re usually ready to move on to someone new.
I thought it was pretty obvious that their story was finished on the last page. As author I looked at the conflicts—they were resolved. Any wondering I did about what happened to them after that was idle play with brain dolls that wouldn’t make for anything more and a handful of scenes of pure fluff. So imagine my surprise when the first emails began rolling in from fans asking (and in many cases demanding) to know when the sequel was coming out.
Initially I found this really exciting. People really liked my story! They liked my characters and wanted more! So I politely thanked them for their enthusiasm, said I was so glad they liked it, and informed them that there wasn’t going to be a sequel, but I was definitely going to be writing more YA. The longer the book has been out, the more of these emails I’ve gotten. To the point that I’ve added information to my website hoping to stem the flow. Why? Because fans are disappointed that there’s no sequel. To a book that, to my mind as author, has nowhere else to go. Elodie and Sawyer got their happily ever after, and I’m not really interested in messing with that.
From a business standpoint, this makes total sense. You create characters that readers engage with, storylines that they can’t put down, and you guarantee (insomuch as anything in publishing can be guaranteed) that author’s success and marketability. This has become so much the modus operandi for publishers that readers are now conditioned to expect that everything is part of a series or a trilogy. And they’re disappointed when it’s not.
As an author of a standalone novel, I find this troubling. I am not setting out to disappoint readers. I really think I did my job in terms of delivering a complete story. But if their expectation is of a series where there is none, this sets up a potential problem. I even had one reviewer drop a star on the rating because the sequel wasn’t out yet. Um…okay?
Now don’t get me wrong—I love series. I adore getting to spend more time with characters I’ve fallen in love with. But I also hate waiting. It’s frustrating to have that first love of a book, only to have to wait a whole year before the sequel pops out.
I really love standalones for this reason. I love that I get a whole, complete story, no cliffhanger ending, no threads left hanging. It is more satisfying to me to be able to read a book and not have that dissonance of unfinished business nagging me in the back of my mind. It’s like a form of literary indigestion where you’re just not quite done yet. A standalone is like the perfect meal—appetizer through dessert. Just right.
So readers I’d love for you to weigh in on this. Do you want nothing but series to read or do you enjoy a nice, well-rounded standalone for a change in pace? Inquiring minds want to know.
Every fairy tale has a dark side…
Elodie Rose has a secret. Any day, she’ll become a wolf and succumb to the violence that’s cursed her family for centuries. For seventeen years she’s hidden who and what she is. But now someone knows the truth and is determined to exterminate her family line. Living on borrowed time in the midst of this dangerous game of hide and seek, the last thing Elodie needs to do is fall in love. But Sawyer is determined to protect her, and the brooding, angry boy is more than what he seems. Can they outsmart a madman? And if they survive, will they find a way to beat the curse for good?
To be entered all you have to do is: