I’ve noticed a funny thing. I’ve had over a dozen and a half novels published since late 1994 when my first novel, Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls came out. During that time, no one has ever come up to me and heartily thanked me for writing a stand-alone novel.
Seriously. You’d think someone would have done so, given the lack of respect that series, especially fantasy series, get. But no one ever has.
Yet out of my nineteen novels, only eight are in series (two different series, actually). There have been plenty of opportunities for people to praise me for writing just that one novel. However, usually the response when I say, “No. I don’t have any plans to write a sequel to Child of a Rainless Year” or whichever book is under discussion, comes in the form of suggestions as to why I need to write more about those people and that place.
While I’ve never been praised for writing a stand-alone, I’ve had a lot of requests for sequels—and not only to novels, but to short fiction as well. When I finished the Wolf Series (which starts with Through Wolf’s Eyes and ends with Wolf’s Blood) I had copious e-mails asking if I was really, really done.
Some kind folks even pointed out minor elements I had left open. I felt genuine appreciation that these numerous someones could put that much energy into picking apart something I’d written. However, I also pointed out that, short of blowing up the world and turning out the lights, there is no way to absolutely, categorically end a series.
So it seems that readers like Fantasy and SF series. Yet, apparently, the fastest way to fall from grace is to write one. Books in series seem to have a lower shot at award nominations. Later books in a series seem not to get reviewed as often. (Please note I said “seem.” I haven’t done the math.) People will avoid novels with “Book One of the...” on the cover.
Why, then, are Fantasy and SF series the girl everyone wants to date, but no one wants to take home to mother?
[Here a few thoughts on why, followed by my own approach to avoiding these pitfalls.]