Each week the Suspense Sisters (and our Suspense Mister!) will answer a question from one of our followers. If you’d like to be a part of “Ask the Sisters” Thursday, leave a question in the comments below. We’ll pick a question and pose it to the Sisters!
Next week’s prize is a copy of JUNGLE FIRE by Dana Mentink! (Be sure to leave us your contact information. Any comment that doesn’t include a way to reach you will be disregarded.)
This week Mary Preston asks: How do you decide if a book is going to be a stand alone or part of a series? (She won a $10.00 gift certificate to Amazon for submitting her question!)
It's easier for a publisher to sell a series. If readers enjoy an author, they gravitate towards series so I try to write mostly those. At first, when I was a newbie, I wrote standalones (until my editors began to have more confidence in me!) Sometimes I'll write the odd single title, but mostly it's series for me!
When I wrote my first novel, I had no idea about stand-alone vs. series. And when I got my first fiction contract (not on my first novel, by the way), it was for a single book. After that, most of the decisions about stand-alone vs. series were made by my publisher, not by me. One publisher even had figures that showed sales were better for stand-alones, so that’s what I wrote.
If I were given the choice, for medical romantic suspense I like to start with a fresh set of characters in a new situation each time. Some readers prefer that, others like a series. What’s the answer? I’m not sure, but I think it’s “give ‘em what they want."
I've always written my books as a part of a series, even before I was published--when I was just pitching my book ideas at a conference. Usually I was pitching a whole series. That's because I love reading series myself. That said, though my first few books were meant to be part of a series, the publisher didn't package them that way. It wasn't until recently with my Mountain Cove series, that my publisher began flashing the cover with the series title. Each book should be written as a standalone, though, because you never know if a reader will pick one up out of order.
As an indie-published, mystery author, I've found that series sell. Now, I don't write any standalone books. Everything I plan to write will have at least three books in the series. Readers fall in love with a character and want to continue on the journey with that character.
Cynthia Hickey (Melton)
I'm like Elizabeth in that I think in series. The first story that I wrote ended up being the second book of a yet-to-be-pubbed set. And the series I'm writing now was inspired by my habit of watching reruns of Murder, She Wrote and Dignosis Murder. I didn't want to write an episodic novel, so I wrote the completed mysteries as novellas. Some day, when they're all wrapped up, maybe I'll put them together in a book, but for now, I like digging into the cases one at a time.
My publishers have always made that decision for me, although I love writing a series. Creating characters and places – and then just walking away would be difficult. Besides, I’m not sure you can fully develop all my characters in just one book.
Right now, I’m writing for two different publishers. One of them wants the main character continued throughout the series. The other asks me to focus on different characters in each book. I’m honestly not sure why, but I assume it’s because they believe it keeps the stories fresher and more interesting. Some readers have told me they would rather stick to one main character, while others seem to like the change. Either way, I would rather write a series than a stand-alone, although I’m not opposed to doing that someday.