Series and trilogies are the latest and hottest trends in fiction writing and apparently authors everywhere are making it their go-to strategy for selling novels. It can be lucrative when it works; marketed correctly, it secures an author’s place with a publisher and leaves readers hungrily anticipating more. Suddenly, you have a fan-base waiting in line for the next installment (as I said if everything goes as planned). It certainly worked for E.L. James with the Fifty Shades trilogy and a host more. Series, unlike trilogies are not limited to three and a healthy love affair with characters or story arcs and readers can develop as with James Patterson’s Detective Alex Cross series or the Women’s Murder Club. We love coming back to someone we know and love or hate for that matter (think Hannibal Lecter).
My problem lies with novels marketed with a sequel in mind, but the first book is…well…incomplete. O.K., I get it, there is more to come. But novels, unlike soap-operas do not have the make-up of cliff-hangers. Granted there may be issues lurking and a sense of more to come. But at the end of each novel or story there should be some type of conclusion. The story’s main problem should be resolved, even if only partially. O.K., you’re not happy with the fact that Spider-Man has decided to forgo a relationship with Mary Jane to protect her from his mission to save the world. But the point is there is an ending and he has made that decision. Are we happy with it? Of course not. And we pray that there will be a change of heart in what has to be Spiderman II. Stories without resolutions are just unfinished works. At the end of the story don’t leave your reader with a dead body not identified or wondering if it’s John’s baby or not. It defies the structure of a novel and is unfair to the reader.
Authors Victoria Christopher Murray and ReShonda Tate Billingsley collaborated on the novel, Sinners and Saints and marketed it as the first of a two-part series. But after reading, you knew it was a well-written single work. The story’s main problem was resolved, even if there were underlying issues that needed to be addressed. It was the perfect segue for Friends and Foes, their second collaboration. It was easy to pick up where Sinners left off.
Perhaps some writers do this to ensure that the reader will return. Finish the novel and let the reader decide if they love it enough to come back. If your writing is good enough, readers will be begging you for more. (I’ve lost count in the Fast & Furious series.) But there should be some sort of reader pay-off at the end of a book that is 300+ pages. That’s a lot of pages and time spent to get: “stay tuned” as the only return on investment.
Look, I get it, everyone is trying to make a buck or two, but seducing readers into something that is misleading is wrong– plain and simple.
No reader wants to feel as though they are the butt of some twisted marketing ploy. (c’mon at least be subtle about it) I say, produce a well-written first novel and let the reader give you the nod on that five-part series.
What are your thoughts? I would love to hear from you.