Okay, so I tried to address this issue in a single post…and I got a series out of it, which seems fitting. This is the first part of the series to be delivered in four parts. Sadly, this means no Trailer Time for this week.
Differentiating Among Series
Have you ever wondered whether you are (or will be) marketing a book or a series of books? Is there a difference? In speculative fiction, mystery, westerns, and romance (among others), there is a tendency to write books as part of a series. This series may be a trilogy (or other number-ogy) in which the story has an arc that surpasses the length limits of a single book or it may be a series in which the world and many of the characters are the same, but the events encapsulated in the multiple books don’t crescendo into something spectacular. Or it may be a combination, in which certain books go together, but others are simply set in the same world, with or without the same characters. Sometimes you’re not sure which you’ve got until you’re well on your way into the series.
Let’s take a look at a few examples:
First, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time is marketed as a series. When considered from this point of distinction, it’s more like a trilogy with fourteen books—a quattuordecimology, perhaps? At some difficult-to-discern point, Jordan envisioned the story as a twelve-part endeavor. (It was turned into a fourteen-part endeavor after his death). You cannot appreciate the full story without all fourteen parts. Each book is a story unto itself, sure, but not really. It’s all really one, long, intertwined story. BUT the milieu could (and probably would have, had he lived) produce other stories as well, which could make it a series. The point is that the reader cannot have a complete experience of the story without reading all of the books.
That brings us to the Pern novels. Anne (and Todd) McCaffrey’s Pern series is a series. There are books in that series which are dependent on one another and there are books in the series which are dependent only on the milieu. Some of the stories are intertwined. Others are independent. The reader’s experience is richer if the reader reads all of the books, but reading some of the books doesn’t obligate the reader to read the rest in order for the story to feel complete.
That brings us to the Xanth series by Piers Anthony. Each of those books are independent (at least, those I’ve read are independent of one another), but there is carry-over that ties it together. So, you can start at any point and not be missing much—story wise—by not reading the preceding books. The reader can enjoy the Xanth novels as stand-alone books.
Each of these types of books/series appeals to a slightly different audience. Personally, I like all three. But not all readers do.
So, when marketing a book that’s part of a series, we need to take into consideration what we’re actually marketing. As explored during last week’s Trailer Time, you can meld the two, but that’s risky. You can be so captivated by your own milieu, trying to express something that requires multiple books to explore, even though you are really trying to market a single book that you fail to successfully market either the book or the series.
We’ll explore what this means for you, the writer, in the next three posts.