To Sequel or Not to Sequel…

Happy Friday! Casey here.

It invariably happens each time I write a new story – I face the same question. Do I leave room for a sequel?

An important question to consider because starting and sustaining a series takes planning. Of course there are famous exceptions – those surprise literary hits, where clearly the story was supposed to end, but the lure of cash was too great to ignore. And in movies, sudden sequelitis happens all the time.  Sometimes it works and sometimes, not. Please, no more Pirates of the Caribbean movies (I do love Johnny Depp but even he can’t save a bad script).

In order to have a potential sequel, you need to prepare the reader. Depending on the plot, I may introduce a secondary character early on and carry them through, as either part of the main plot or in their own subplot. By the last third of the book, I set the ground work for the future – the next book in the series.

As discussed in last Friday’s post, executing the next book isn’t always easy. One thing I can tell you – it’s a lot easier to plan ahead. Have some ideas for potential sequels and map how they might fit into the overall world you’re building. Future planning comes in handy, especially when pitching to editors. They might ask you to send the concept for the next two books in the series.

So think like a Boy Scout – be prepared.

Do you like sequels? When do they work? And when don’t they work? And are there any series that need to call it quits?

25 thoughts on “To Sequel or Not to Sequel…”

  1. I find this very helpful. Thanks for sharing! Personally I prefer single titles myself but novel series are okay.

  2. There always seem to be sequels in romance novels. In fact I find that I rarely read a historical that is not part of series. Usually I tend to like them, but sometimes I get annoyed when I realize that I picked up at series in the middle because I feel bound to go out and buy the rest.

    1. Yes, I’ve experienced the same thing. When I first found Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series, I started with book 8 (cause I didn’t realize it was a series). Then I ended reading them in the order the library had them – don’t recommend doing that. In the end, it worked out but it was weird!

  3. I think sequels and series can work really well if mapped out properly. You can tell when a series has gone on too long, the reader gets bored and most say the end was disappointing.

  4. I enjoy reading sequels. And tend to write them as well. Why? Because I want to know what happens to everyone involved. You meet minor characters in previous stories then see what journey they take to solve their problems.

  5. I do love a good series–notice I say good. But authors (and publishers) need to know when to quit. JK Rowling–perfect timing. Another Potter would have been one too many IMO. The fact is, that in today’s market, series’ sell. It seems that in our human makeup, we think if some is good, more is better. Sometimes, more is just more. I think part of the problem is as you said, the lure of cash drives the market. I think in most cases this is the publisher’s issue and not the author. You can see it clearly when an author is being pushed to create another book in a series. They lose their creativity and the books start being just what they are–squeezed out of a dry well. The trick is in knowing when enough is enough. In my experience, a trilogy works best. If you can’t tell a complete story in three books, you need a better editor. The one exception for me is Diana Gabaldon, where the writing is beyond good and the characters come alive on every page. Keep ’em coming Diana!

  6. I like the affiliated books that aren’t really series, but where you get to see old characters again. Lynn Kurland has done that with her time travel romances. We often get to see old characters again. She’s got one medieval family where an astonishing number of the medieval siblings are married to modern spouses, but the characters are so good that I just go along for the ride.

  7. I enjoy reading a series if it’s done right. They can definitely be overdone, and I blame the publisher for that. They should know the best place to end it.

    But as a new author coming on the scene, a series could be what makes you. Chances are, your first book is not going to be a big seller right out of the hatch, but by having a second book issued shortly thereafter, you could potentially increase your sales of that first book. People want the whole story and many want to start from the beginning.

    1. I know I have secondary characters that have their own stories so for that reason, a few of my books will have a sequel or two. And I love to find a good series and then read them all in a row. It’s a bummer having to wait for the next book!

    1. I love when that happens. I felt that way about Sherilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunters. Acheron was always my favorite character so I was thrilled when he finally got his own book.

  8. I enjoy sequels, up to a point. The number for me seems to be about the 5th book. Any more than that, and nearly all series lose their magic. And yet, because I’m loyal, I continue to read them, just in the hope that the author will somehow pull me back in, somehow redeem him/herself and make me love the stories again. I nearly always feel cheated, as though the author is just phoning it in, or not even writing his/her own novels anymore, yet collecting royalty checks anyway. I won’t name names, you certain big name author, but you know who you are . . . end the series and put us out of our misery! That being said, there are some long-running series out there that work. Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles books are still excellent. Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody Emerson series has its highs and lows, but overall I’m not tired of it. And I love spinoffs almost more than sequels, where characters cross over from book to book. Julia Quinn is wonderful at this.

    1. So true about the fifth book. I’ve probably read the exact same series you are alluding too. I think series can really be problematic in small town mysteries where the murder rate is higher than a city! I mean, how many dead bodies can one person find. After a while it gets old. My biggest pet peeve is the “heroine with two guys to choose from” scenario – make a decision already!

    2. I love the Bridgertons! I wish there were more of them! Please, Julia…PLEASE! Maybe some of Anthony and Kate’s kids deserve a story. Certainly Colin and Penelope’s kids do! And Hyacinth!

      1. Um, Hyacinth has a book. It’s in his kiss and is book 7. I spent far too much money on Ms. Quinn’s books last year.

  9. I love a good sequel, as long as each book can stand alone, of course. I fall in love with the world as much as the characters, and as long as there is more to discover, I’m game for the next in the series!

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