So, What Do You Think About Series Books?

I’ve been thinking about series. I recently read six books in a series, but I read the last five because it was a series, not because the first book was fantastic. They were fine books, but they’re not anything I’ll read again, and the first one wasn’t great enough to make me seek out the author–perfectly good but not great. So it had to be that I just wanted to see that community again.

Is that why most people read series?

Of course, there are series where the individual books are so good, you’d read them anyway (like Discworld, for example) but even then, there are duds (nobody’s excellent all the time) and I read them, too. Of course, I’d read Vimes doing almost anything (including reading a book to his kid), so it’s also character, but I really think it’s the community that brings me back.

As to why people write them, I can see the lure for writers–one set of world building, reusable–but I can also see the pitfall. If a great story is about the most important event in the protagonist’s life, then the sequel is about the second most important event, and the third book is . . . . Declining stakes, is what I’m saying. People have asked for sequels, but my stuff really isn’t set up for sequels, so I’m pretty sure anything from the past would land with a resounding thud. But in the future, there’s the Paradise Park/Monday Street books, and I have this three novella idea that starts with “Hot Toy,” and the Liz Danger books were always planned to be a four-book series, so it’s not that I’m averse to the idea. It’s just keeping reader interest. And my interest. (Very short attention span here.)

So what I’m trying to figure out is, (1) why do people keep reading sequels, and (b) is that something I want to mess with in 2020? Not for any of my previous books, although come to think of it, the Alice and Nadine books are kind of sequels (but not really). I really want to write outside the box in 2020, since I have no knowledge of the current box (dating in 2020) and I’m a lot more interested in the stuff around the romance in these books–magic (the prestidigitation kind), butterflies, art crime, writing romance novels (that’s Liz), painting, magic (witches), ghosts . . . my research shelves are full of amazing books.

As you can tell, this post is not organized or well thought out, it’s just me wondering about series in general and as an option for me in particular (I have a VERY short attention span). The odd things is that I’m thinking in series now, like I have ideas for a second Nita book. Change is good.

What do you think? About series, I mean. Well, about anything. It’s that kind of day. I’m making shrimp and penne for lunch. How’s by you?

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76 thoughts on “So, What Do You Think About Series Books?

  1. Cozy mystery readers are known for wanting series. Used to be said that readers wouldn’t even pick up a first book unless there were already 4 books published; now it’s said to be closer to seven or even ten books.

    As to why, I always assumed it was community. Wanting to hang out with interesting/quirky characters. That was sort of the reasoning behind the Danger Cove multi-author series. There were a variety of main sleuths (and sidekicks specific to each sleuth), each sleuth being written by a different author, but they shared the secondary characters and setting. From feedback we got, people liked seeing Sleuth 1 in a book featuring Sleuth 2, and so on. And cameos by secondary characters from one book showing up in another. And settings for one series (like the bakery in the bakery series) being frequented by characters in other series. Sorth of like Easter eggs for people who’d read all of the books, not just one subseries. I’ve lost track — there were about 8 different series/authors, I believe., and I did two of the subseries, including one book that featured BOTH of the sleuths from the two subseries.

    I also recently saw advertising for a similar set-up, five authors, each writing her own sleuth, interacting with the other sleuths, in a shared world. And I think I’ve seen other examples too, although I can’t recall where. Well, of course the other multi-author series at my publisher, the Aloha Lagoon series. Oh, wait, I just looked, and there’s another one coming, the Sunshine Cruise series.

    And, FWIW, that’s why I read Donna Andrews, my favorite cozy author. I don’t really care about the mystery, but I want to hang out with blacksmith Meg Langslow and her notebook that tells her when to breathe and her crazy family.

    But a friend was saying the other day that what she likes most about cozies is the setting, almost separate and apart from the characters, although she was also thinking in terms of how, say, someone from a coast/port city like Boston is likely to act/react/think differently from, say, someone in Denver or Nevada. That’s not something I car about so much, and I’m not sure it makes sense to me beyond an exotic setting, but it was something she felt strongly about.

    1. Additional thought: I don’t think there have to be declining stakes. It’s the biggest crisis TO DATE. Think of the Vorkosigan saga (Lois McMaster Bujold). Every single book has a huge crisis. Different, because the character has changed, but every bit as intense as the ones that came before. And possibly bigger too, because when Miles survives his first insane crisis, the next one has to be even bigger.

      So I guess I question the definition of a story as being the most important event in the character’s life. Instead, it’s the most important in the life up to the now of the story. And then if you have a big enough character, there can be more most important events.

      1. And one more — with series that peter out, I think the problem isn’t that there can’t be equally important events across several books, but more that the character hasn’t grown enough over the course of a series to have escalating challenges, or the author hasn’t made the events grow, so it becomes repetitive. But that’s the fault of the author, not of the concept of series. It’s a little like within a book, that when the black moment comes, the character as she existed on page one would have failed, but she’s grown enough to triumph. I think the same is true in a good series — that the character in book 2 is different from in book 1, so she can overcome a challenge she couldn’t have done in book 1. And so on.

        Or not. I suppose some are more level, but others, like the Vorkosigan series, have a character who’s growing over its course.

        I really respected Charlaine Harris’s decision to end the Sookie Stackhouse series at a defined point, while she could still keep the character growing and the events different and still important. There was definitely a financial incentive to keep going, so I admire her decision to do what she thought was right for the series.

        1. I think that was the problem with Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series for me. It was so funny, but it didn’t evolve; after a while, even the weird grandma and the two lovers and the totalled cars weren’t so special any more.

          1. I was about twenty books in before I gave up on Stephanie Plum because she couldn’t make up her mind whether it was Ranger or Morelli. And I thought I was the only one in thinking that because there are now 26 or 27 book in. And I think it is reason I didn’t care for Molly Malone and Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen, after three each I was done. The characters didn’t move forward for me. Although I can stay with J A Jance Ali Reynolds series without any problem.

            In other series books I’d rather have stories with people taken from a group like Mary Balogh’s, Survivor series, Robyn Carr’s, Virgin River series, SEP’s, Chicago Stars and Emma Chase’s lawyer series. Hmmm! Guess I’m just fickle.

          2. Yeah, those books are in a stagnant universe. Nobody grows or changes and the author doesn’t WANT her to pick one dude because it’s the fantasy to have two hot dudes into you, and if Stephanie got any smarter then the comedy of stupid couldn’t go on any more. I got so bored with those for that reason.

      2. I love that series, and it is a really good example of how the stakes never were smaller. Different, sometimes. And the fascinating characters and the world (plus great writing) kept me coming back. I would buy another one in a heartbeat.

      3. Exactly– I came back to this post to comment because it brought to mind Anne McCaffrey’s “Crystal Singer” books, which I reread recently and which I was much less impressed with as a middle-ager than I was as a teen… but which are interesting in this context because over the three-book series the heroine undergoes three different kinds of pivotal experiences, each of which is dependent on the previous one(s) and could be considered a “most important event.” The first book is a key event in her professional life which also ends up effecting her biology– she becomes a crystal singer, navigates that social/professional world, and adapts to the biological symbiont that changes her physical makeup and which comes with the job. The second book is a romance, but her meeting her ever-after is dependent on her being a crystal singer. Finally, the third book addresses her dealing with the ultimate negative impact of her changed biology, including its impact on her relationship with the ever-after. The end of each plot arc leaves her in a “new normal” after a very important event, but in doing so opens the possibility of there being other very important events to come.

    2. What you say here about setting resonated with me. I think in series, the town or neighborhood is one of the biggest draws. The reader wants to live in that world. We CRAVE community.

      Mysteries seem to work better than romances in that you can have the same protagonist solving different crimes, but in a romance series you have different protagonists. Either way, you have a town populated by people you begin to feel are friends and neighbors.

  2. I LOVE series, personally! It’s a guaranteed Good Read, if I liked the first book and the author’s style. I’m currently roaring through The Seafort Saga, by David Feintuch. The blurb talks about it being a space opera, but I find it shorter on science (OK, I’m an engineer, I watch for science) and longer on character development and the premise of a civilization that does NOT have a church/state division. It works as a series because we see the protagonist at various stages of his life, and his current challenges. And of course, there’s The Outlander Series, or Game of Thrones, etc. I just like further development!

    I can see several of your books, Jennie, as series; as I finish one, I think “but what happens next?”

  3. I agree on declining stakes.

    There are several series I read that started fabulous, and slowly started to petter out. I usually stop reading, since my attention span took a dive. But I persist with some, despite hating how the books have turned, because of character and community. And because, yeah, some duds, so maybe there will be a come back?

    But, I feel like if the series is planned to completion up front, it works better, because you are always working towards that end goal, vs until the contract ends. So maybe series arcs are a good middle ground?

    I am leaning away from longer series because they often dont hold up. Either declining stakes, the characters/style change so much it’s no longer something I like, or it’s been so long that it’s no longer something I like to read. Plenty of reasons. I think the biggest right now for me is declining stakes. When you’ve killed the biggest bad, then what?

    I also come to series where if the latest book was what I’d started with, I probably wouldn’t have finished it, let alone sought out more.

    But, I like characters and seeing them more. I like returning to people I want to know more about. But, it’s awful when it doesn’t go well….

    I’m stuck, and have nothing constructive to add. Except maybe expect an ending, and plan that throughout?

  4. Good topic and really quite broad because there are books intended as sequential series and then books that add on to their world with either prequels or sequels or connective stories (ones that flesh out secondary characters in their own spinoffs). I think what you’re describing about some of your earlier stories would fall more into any of the last three categories and could work well.

    As a reader, I actually thought a lot about this when I considered getting Alice Hoffman’s recent book The Rules of Magic because it’s really a prequel to Practical Magic (which originally I read almost two decades ago). I liked Practical Magic and wasn’t sure if the Rules book would add to it for me or somehow take away from that story. Probably not a logical concern, but one I debated before finally buying the Rules book, which I’m glad I got because it was good on its own. There were a few things I wasn’t sure meshed (from memory of PM book) but nothing that reduced the read for me. So I think it can work to revisit characters from previous standalones.

    For sequential series, I think you’re right in that it’s partially about the community for me but also it’s just plain curiosity about what will happen to a favourite character next, which means they only work for me if I’ve connected to at least one character and am invested enough to see what happens to her. Community alone will not draw me in, I need the connection.

    As a writer, I currently publish a series but I also have some standalone projects I haven’t yet published, and both types appeal to me to write. For the series, though, it’s a growth series (rather than the episodic type where characters stay virtually unchanged and mainly it’s the situations that change). So my MC has an arc that moves incrementally in each story and it’s a vital current for her but also for keeping my interest as the writer. And I don’t feel that her stakes diminish with each book but more the opposite.

    I think of the books you mention, you have loads of possibilities if you want to add to their worlds. And I’d certainly check out any follow-ups:)

  5. I don’t read a lot of series–except when I do. I zipped through the whole Craig Johnson Longmire series because I loved the characters, even though the mysteries were more violent than I prefer and the landscape of the West doesn’t call to me. Also, I am generally cold, so the books that were set in winter were hard to read. I think my favorite series (of relatively recent memory) was Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton books, with eight novels, one for each child>adult. Quinn had to have planned that; the mind boggles at all the interrelationships.
    I’ve learned that in addition to mysteries that are cozy, I prefer funny, with an animal/pet. Except I don’t like Sneakie Pie, so inconsistency is key here.
    I can’t see that any of this is helpful to you, Jenny, but thank you for asking and helping me get through the last bit of work on a quiet, gray, mizzly day at the library. I would be happy to read any sequels, prequels, stand-alones, etc. that you write!

    1. I usually don’t read series, because I prefer to finish the story in one book; but I got caught up in one after getting it for free on Nook books. It was about a family in Australia in the early nineteen-hundreds. The setting was interesting to me as I don’t know that much about Australia, except for The Thorn Birds which I loved. Somehow I needed to keep reading all the books in the series to find out what happened to the characters and how they evolved. Now, I never even start a book in a series. I am currently writing a novel and almost added hints to another book, but resisted for now.

  6. I think basic thing about series is that people want something familiar, but they also want something new. So with a series they get familiar characters and/or settings, but a new story.

    This premise also explains the state of the movie industry today.

    1. Nothing explains the state of the movie industry today except cowardice and an excessive dependence on marketing.

  7. I also have trouble with longer series. The quirks that were amusing for the first one or two novels become tedious filler if you stick with the series.
    A prime example is the Peabody/Emerson series by Elizabeth Peters. Crocodile on the Sandbank introduced a pair of characters that had enough quirks for an army and for the first few books it was delightful. But over time, the fact that Emerson was at war with the entire empowered world became too repetitive. It allowed the setting to be different in every book, but it made the result of much of the conflict a foregone conclusion.

    1. I loved the Peabody series and enjoyed a couple of the sequels even more than the first.
      Joan Hess’s contribution to the series, the Painted Queen didn’t work for me. I love Joan Hess (I think I’ve read most of her books.)and I love the characters in the Peabody series, but I don’t think another author can write in someone else’s style.

    2. Yes. That is my problem with most series. I can only think of a few that I have followed a series past 4 or 5 books.

      One of the problems for me is the reiteration of the previous actions, re-identifying at length relationships or the setting if it is a unique world. Or an info dump. I would much prefer a brief statement before the start of the story. When I find that I am skipping not only paragraphs but pages, that series is history.

      I just read Jennifer Lynn Barnes Debutant series (there is only 2 of them so far). I really loved the first book and could hardly wait for the second one which I had on hold. There was some reiteration but not too bad but I found myself thinking somewhere after the midpoint of the second book “Give me a break” because of the plot twists (Spoiler: this person is some one else child but wait it’s okay because her romantic interest is not her brother after all, because someone other than her father is his father. Wait, so and so has an identical twin who just happens to have a daughter who is identical to so-and-so’s daughter). So while I enjoyed the first book, the third book if is forthcoming will not be on my TBR list.

  8. I probably should have posted this yesterday, but has anybody else become addicted to Totally Hip Video Book Review? These are really funny 2 to 3 minute videos produced by Washington Post book editor Ron Charles and his wife, Dawn. Today I got a rerun of a 2012 installment on the overuse of certain words by book reviewers. Of course, the fact that it was written by a reviewer who has employed the same hackneyed phrases time after time just made it funnier.

  9. If the characters and world-building are amazing, and continue to be so, I’ll keep reading a series. If they become stale and cardboard, I’ll drop it.

  10. It mostly depends on the characters for me, as long as they’re not TSTL, I am pretty forgiving. I grew up on old Famous Fives, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and Chalet school mostly bought off the used books table from the charity shop.

    I love solid emotional stakes and found family – think The Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce. I have reread those books many times even though they’re library copies and I don’t own any. Some of the trilogies within the Valdemar world from Mercedes Lackey are re-reads because of the aspects of finding a place in society. I find the skill development of the characters with her Joust series just wonderful, similar to competence porn.

    Quests as plot are not necessarily the most important aspect, and often I’ll abandon a weak series that has an unsolved quest such as Star of the Morning by Lynn Kurland. I was disgusted with the cliffhanger and I was so irritated with the book and her other fall-into-time-vortices-in-the-backyard time travel romances that I’ve abandoned the author too. Insult to injury was the character name Miach which my brain kept changing to Micah, so I just read it as Micah.

    I’ve re-read The Emperor’s Edge books by Lindsay Buroker and enjoyed the development of relationships. Same with her Chains of Honour series but with the development and growth of the individual characters within the found family. Nobody at book 3 is the same as they were in book one.

    I just pre-ordered the next Illona Andrews Innkeeper book last year. Actually, a few days ago; before I’d reimplemented “NO NEW BOOKS FOR ME 2020!” This is a series that’s not dependent on action happening outside of the books.

    I deliberately didn’t buy Illona Andrews Sapphire Flames which is the spin-off from Hidden Legacy because reviews say that it’s set three years after Diamond Fire and House Baylor hasn’t done much, i.e. action outside of the books that was deemed necessary in the third Hidden Legacy book.

    I remember being a member of the Elizabeth Lowell boards on Writerspace and being a part of the Donovan chorus. I think we were led by Talpianna and our purpose was to bay outside Ms AE’s window for more of the Amber Beach, Jade Island etc books. I can understand why Ms AE never wrote the two more – how was she going to give the twin brothers different enough characters, while still keeping them Donovans and interesting? But back then I’d’ve probably bought a paper bag with the title a Emerald Bay or whatever title Justin or Lawe got. 🤷‍♀️

    I remember how thrilled we all were when JAK wrote the Eclipse Bay books and dedicated it to everyone on Writerspace who’d asked for a contemporary romance series. 🎉 I enjoyed the first few Arcane Society novels but lost interest after about 5.

    My favourite La Nora series is The Three Sisters Island trilogy – “Dance Upon the Air”, “Heaven and Earth”, and “Face the Fire.” I hardly enjoy any of the others enough to reread the way I did that series.

    Sometimes the author’s life changes and it shows in their books. In one case, the person dedicated as a Born-Again Christian and the tone of the universe of the books changed a from the world built and set-up by the earlier books in the series.

    Jackie Lau, Talia Hibbert and Suleikha Snyder have contemporary series that are just a pleasure to read.

    And I’m just going to stop here now. 🌼

    1. I wasn’t sure I would like the new trilogy from Ilona Andrews either, as I hadn’t found the sister that interesting. And the novella that sets the stage between the two also was just ok. That said, Catalina did a lot of growing up in the three years between end of first trilogy and beginning of hers. I really liked the first book a lot – good plot and of course romantic interest. So you might want to go back and take another look. And the world building that continues is pretty decent, too.

  11. It seems to me that one way some authors write outside the box is to create an alternate reality world. Similar to earth, but not the earth we know. Lots of freedom to invent that way, I’d think.

  12. Series work best, in my opinion, with a protagonist who doesn’t change very much from book to book. Detective fiction is the classic example.

    1. What you consider as working best and what I consider as working best I suspect are very different. A lot of the detective series that I read and enjoyed become rather tired around seven books in for that very reason. Kinsey Milhone, I stopped after H is for Homicide, Stephanie Plum, I got to about book 10, but I should have stopped earlier, though I suppose that might not count as ‘detective’ fiction. I know that Meg Langslow and her crazy family are beloved here, and I really enjoyed the first five or so, but after a while it just started to feel like more of the same and I intended to keep reading them after book seven or so, but I haven’t gotten around to it. Joan Hess’ Claire Malloy and Maggody series are the same.

      J.A. Jance, I’m still reading the Joanna Brady series but she has kept changing throughout. I gave up on J.P. Beaumont because although his circumstances have changed he hasn’t.

      Walt Longmire changes and develops in every book. Or sometimes you just find out more about him that you didn’t know before, like in the short stories.

      I did read all of M.C. Beaton’s Hamish MacBeth (Death of a …) series. But I probably should have stopped earlier. They had become quite repetitive by then.

      1. Yes to everything you said. Except I have not read Walt Longmire but will give him a chance. Also Lois McMaster Bujold has always written books that I enjoy.

  13. For me it’s definitely about community. I like series in which the protagonist in each book is someone different from the same community. So every book is the “most important moment” for someone different, but familiar characters in the background continue to move forward in their lives. As a result, you (the reader) build a relationship with everyone in the community and really want to find out what happens to them. E.g. you see two people circling around each other warily in the background for six books, and by the seventh, you are so ready to see how they finally get together.

    For me this happens even when the writing is not that great. There’s a popular author out there who has written a few series. Her writing is so bad and sloppy that at a certain point, in frustration, I started keeping a file on my phone listing all the misused words, chronological mistakes, plot holes, etc. But did I still preorder the final installment to find out what happened to my favorite character and block out time on my calendar to read it as soon as it came out? Yes, I did. I hated myself for it, but I was hooked on the characters.

    1. That’s what I like, too (which is obviously why I’m writing that kind of series). An interconnected world of romance stories. Protagonists A & B have friends, after all, or people they meet while doing what they do. All of those people could have stories. Mary Jo Putney and Mary Balogh have both done it for years. I love the way KJ Charles does it and that’s what I’m aiming for.

      I’m writing contemporary so I tend to avoid reading contemporary, but I did just read all three ‘American Dreamer’ books (in a day) ((I was home from work with a bad cold)). Fortunately that author has a very different voice from mine. I really enjoyed those.

  14. I think series can be great. The familiar settings/characters are like snuggling up in a favorite sweater. I grew up on series – Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Ngaio Marsh, Emma Lathen, Dick Francis, Marcia Muller, Sara Paretsky and Donald Westlake among others. I still re-read most of them on an annual basis – they’re pretty fast reads since I’ve practically got some memorized by now. For me series are my ostriches – the more disturbing reality is (and reality has been extremely disturbing of late) the more I stick my head in the sand and reach for the familiar.

    That said, you have to step out of logical head space more frequently with some series – it’s the Jessica Fletcher problem. Just how many murders can a character/small town/quirky family just happen upon without straining credulity? Similarly in romance the series can get stale when you know the new character mentioned in book 10 will get their story in book 11 and so on.

    I’m guessing authors of series can be under stricter deadlines since sometimes you can tell that one volume was written with less care.

    I also assume authors can get bored of their characters as well – at least that’s what I surmise about Lee Child making his Jack Reacher books increasingly implausible (which I find hilarious to read, both in a how will he top this insanity way and also by imagining Tom Cruise attempting, well, anything from the books)

  15. I don’t much like series with the same protagonist(s). With very few exceptions, like Vimes or Vorkosigan, they usually get tired after book 3 or 4. My favorite series are those that are set in the same world but have different protagonists. They’are frequently romance series. Like Julia Quinn with her Bridgertons or Mary Balogh, who has many different series. Such series are based on a group of people – a family or a bunch of friends – with one book per one member of the group.

    1. I’m not sure it is a community revisit that is important to me in a series. More like the writer herself. If she writes a series and I enjoy her writing, of course I’d want the next book in her series.

      1. Yes, but in the Bridgerton series there was the added spice of seeing how the younger siblings grew up and faced the challenges of finding a mate to add to the main stories as well. And as the youngest of five kids, I could really identify with some of the sibling interactions.

  16. My current favorite series is the Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews. And that’s because the characters are very vivid and the main setting, the Inn, is a totally amazing world within a world. It’s an organism that looks like a home, but can grow and change as needed, which is such a fun idea. The books are short and snappy. Very clever and inventive.

    1. yep! I love that series. They are just so much fun. Great characters, including Gertrude Hunt (the inn). And the plots are inventive.

  17. I really, on the whole, don’t care for series books. I’m reading the Expanse right now series. But in romance I don’t read that many. I don’t need the same character the heroine of the book over and over again. Sure I read Sweet Valley High (sue me!) back in the day, but even then as a kid, I got annoyed with the reintroduction of everyone, the way things often didn’t change.

    Basically, they are TV series in book form.

    I like the less is more format. When I close the book, I want more, I wish I knew more about their lives, but in reality, a whole other book? Nah.

    Stand alone book series I’m good with. You do get a peek into your previously characters’ lives, but just a peek. Someone else is centre stage and their stakes are what I’m interested in.

    But as I writer, while I have to acknowledge series books are in, the most I can bring myself to do is stand alone book series.

    1. No shame, Sweet Valley High was very popular, back in the day. I stopped reading when they left High School. Elizabeth did excellent academically in High School, but ended up in the same college as her twin sister didn’t.

  18. I love series when they are good. There is a comfort to coming back to a world you know, characters and writing you already know you are going to like. I feel the same way about writing series–sometimes I’m just as eager to find out what happens as any of my readers! (Mind you, my series usually have some kind of an arc, and in two of them, each of the books was focused on a particular character who got his or her own happily ever after in that book.)

    I would love to read a Jenny Crusie series, whether it followed one character or a community of them. I’d love to find out what happens to some of the family from various earlier books, for instance, but I’d be happy to start from scratch getting attached to new quirky characters.

  19. I think it depends entirely on the series.
    I read almost all of the Oz books by four different authors. I loved several of Nora Roberts series. Also Jayne Ann Krentz Series in all three of her guises, LM Montgomery’s Anne series , SEP’s Chicago Stars series, Beverly Jenkins’ Blessing series and Alyssa Cole’s Royal series to name a few favorites. Are they all equally good? No. But by this time I’ve fallen in love with something. The premise, the characters or the setting.
    And I am willing to continue hoping for a good one.

  20. Yes, for me it’s the people and the community. One of my favourites is Patrick O’Brian’s long running Aubrey/Maturin seafaring series set during the Napoleonic wars. The joy of it is coming back to those same characters and seeing them change and grow over the years. When O’Brian died I felt as if my conduit to those characters had been cut off – as if they were still living their lives somewhere, but there was no longer anyone who could tell me about them.

  21. I think I have mentioned here before that I am so not a series person. Probably a lot due to my personalty – I like a beginning, a middle and an end. So many series these days seem to be written specifically to be a series so that things don’t get tied up on purpose and you are left hanging. Some books that would be an awesome stand alone suffers because the author wants to drag the story out. Some are just repetitious – same basic people doing the same thing in the same town and having basically the same conversations. If I buy a second book in a series, I want a whole new story. One that I really do like and have followed is The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews so not totally adverse to series 🙂

  22. Series. Some I like, others not so much. Diane Mott Davidson writes foodie mysteries. I liked the first few. Sue Grafton wrote the Kinsey Milhone alphabet mysteries. I liked them up to about G, kept reading, stopped. Patricia Cornwell wrote the Kay Scarpetta mysteries, and one of the things I loved was she was he Medical Examiner for the Commonwealth of My State, and I recognized some of the scenes in the books. Well, the early books. Then I thought she jumped the shark.

    Eve Sandstrom, writing as JoAnna Carl, has the Lee McKinney Chocoholic Murder Mysteries. I read the last one last year and still enjoy them. Jim Butcher has the Dresden Files. I don’t own any of the ebooks. I have audio books, instead, and so far I like the ones I’ve listened to. He may be my favorite wizard named Harry. Of course, there’s another series about a wizard named Harry, and I’ve enjoyed the books and movies, both.

    Lois McMaster Bujold has managed to create three completely different series that I absolutely adore. I really thought the Vorkosiverse was complete when she wrote Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, it seemed so perfect an ending. Then she added another novelette about Ekaterin and I smiled happily. Four and a half novels in the Sharing Knife world, another series I thought was done until Knife Children. Then there’s the Five Gods Universe. Different protagonists in the first three, and much speculation that there might be two more books starring followers of the Mother and the Father (the other three gods being the Daughter, the Son, and the Bastard.) Instead, she’s written seven novelettes about a sorcerer, which is someone hosting one of the Bastard’s demons. I love all her series.

    Robert Jordan wrote the Wheel of Time series. and died with it unfinished. Everything I heard said “not your cuppa” so I never started it. George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (aka Game of Thrones)… I haven’t started it. Maybe someday. Too much controversy.

    I liked Susan E. Phillips’ Chicago Stars series. Different protagonists, cameos by previous ones. Fun. Crusie’s CLEA series (in which some Dempsies and others have cameos…). Lots of fun 🙂

    I grew up on a diet of Robert A. Heinlein. I always loved his Future History series, unfinished as it must remain. I read everything he wrote, but even I recognized that he was getting really, really strange in his old age. When it comes to future history, even Heinlein couldn’t beat Poul Anderson. You could label his as The Rise and Fall of the Terran Empire, from the trader stories of Nick van Rijn and David Falkayn through the career of Sir Dominic Flandry and beyond.

    As an example of “should’ve quit while he was ahead,” there is Isaac Asimov. He wrote a bee-yoo-tee-ful “trilogy” in the 50s about the Galactic Empire. Then he had to go and muck it up by tying in most of his previous novels and especially his robot books. That kind of ruined the series for me.

    Harmon’s Wearing the Cape series ranks high in my currently enjoyed series. Mia Archer’s Night Terror series is a, as we geezers say, “Hoot!” Seanan McGuire is prolific, but the series I’m familiar with is the Velveteen Vs. series.

    tl;dr I like some series.

    1. I’m with you on SEP’s Chicago Stars series. I particularly enjoyed it when the heroine of one book (Nobody’s Baby But Mine) stole the marshmallows out of the hero’s Lucky Charms only to be called a cereal killer.

    2. More Velveteen!

      I love Velveteen. She’s a tremendously sympathetic character. The books are a series of short stories so you get the feeling more of vignettes where you learn more about her and her background in each one, and her past haunting her wherever she goes. But she changes throughout the sequence of stories, dealing as more and more obstacles from her past rise up and slowly building her own found family.

  23. I’m an outlier here, because I’m not fond of most contemporary romance or of mysteries (or at least not murder mysteries). The first usually gets tied up too neatly with the HEA of the main characters, and the second focuses on uncovering the nastiness of people, which I’d just rather not spend my time pondering.

    As a result, my favorite series are almost all SciFi or fantasy, in which the author can create a world and within that world, examine topics relevant to our own world but approached in an interesting way.

    A bonus happens when the author creates likeable characters and communities that tie into what she or he is depicting, and I usually return to the series in part because of those characters, but also to re-enter the world and the issues examined there.

    Pratchett, for example, doesn’t really create a Big Bad to do battle with — it’s more a matter of posh people vs. the working poor, people moving through their lives getting better and more connected, tribe vs. the tribal system, and so on. All very interesting to think about, and no fear of getting painted into corners.

    I loved the Others series because of how well it handled humans vs. nature, and communicating across boundaries, and good people succeeding despite systems that manipulate them.

    And Shinn’s Twelve Houses, since all the main characters get their turn on stage, are working to overcome personal obstacles, and are really working within a much larger framework to build a fair, balanced world for ordinary folk and animals. (Plus the My- Way-or-the-Highway religious cult tickled my villain fancy.

    And I love the whole Chrestomanci world of Diana Wynne Jones — it’s a magical world, but one in which someone, whether ready for the job or not, has to begin acting as a police officer of Magic — bad people in those books are pretty much normal people doing selfish things, that harm or impoverish others, and that’s a topic that couldn’t be more contemporary.

    Still, I don’t think a series can be ginned up out of nothing, or necessarily out of building off a single novel and its setting/characters. I think it needs to be thought about as a larger canvas.

  24. There are some series that I followed until the last book. The Brother Cadfael mysteries by Ellis Peters is an example. I liked the Amelia Peabody books by Elizabeth Peters but there were a couple I didn’t care for and the last one that Joan Hess finished should, in my opinion, have been left unfinished. I couldn’t get through the first chapter, the voices of the characters were mixed up.

    One series that I absolutely love and re-read is the Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. There are 5 in the series so far with the 6th (and final) book coming out this August.

    1. Yes the Thief series is amazing. It’s also one of the few I can think of where the first three books have the same protagonist and then the last two have different protagonists. I also think the arc of the series continues throughout because it is ultimately about holding power and using power and what rulers can or must do and what is right.

      Mary Balogh’s series about the survivors of war is a little like that too—one theme running through all of them. And the series by Nita Abrams about jewish spies for England during the Napoleonic wars…

      I wouldn’t exactly say Joanna Bourne’s books are a series but certainly we want to know more about her community. Then again, she writes so beautifully I will cherish anything she writes.

  25. For me, that feeling of familiarity and consistency is the key with series. When I read for comfort, I usually choose to reread a favorite book or a new book in a series I’ve enjoyed, because I trust that I’ll have a similar experience. If I’m tired, I appreciate a familiar structure carrying some of the work. (I mostly write for kids, who also appreciate having a good idea what to expect and having some parts feel familiar, especially as they learn to read.)

    But Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence series changes protagonist, tone, and location for some of the books, within a (really interesting) world. Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series covers different characters and different worlds; I think they’re also more united by concept than tone. Kind of like Ant-Man and Captain America: Civil War. Connie Willis’s Oxford time travel books are another example — I don’t personally treat To Say Nothing of the Dog and Doomsday Book as a series, but most others do. I think it’s because the piece they’re most looking for is a different piece than I am.

    I used to be a librarian, where finding read-alikes and other books people would like is an important skill (called reader’s advisory.) For anyone who hasn’t come across her, Nancy Pearl is an awesome librarian who’s thought a ton about how to identify the factors readers like, and sorted them into her Four Doorways: Story, Character, Setting, and Language. In my opinion, a reader might come into a series through any of those doorways (or any of the other appeal factors people have identified), and decide to stay there. I imagine a reader who loves Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars series might mostly want to see Mars get terraformed over the long haul, for instance. I read primarily for character, emotion, and language, I often appreciate familiarity in those areas, and so series that are consistent in those areas work well for me until I’m ready for something new.

    If you’re interested in reader’s advisory stuff, you might check out:
    Nancy Pearl: https://www.nancypearl.com
    Overview of her reader’s advisory process: https://8cb21ba1-dc5e-476c-9b6f-0ae2174e6fd4.filesusr.com/ugd/ab497f_733aa1f402354399944335c946259362.pdf

    So far, I’ve written two books in the same kids’ series about a girl taking care of chickens with superpowers (not planned or sold as a series originally.) For me, it was easier to write the sequel because I knew the characters so well, but it was harder to sort out the stakes and the same protagonist’s new growth. I approached it by slightly widening the world and deepening the issues. To me, that fit with how kids’ worlds grow as they get older, too.

    The Alice and Nadine books (as I understand them so far) would fit in my brain as series, pulling in Faking It and Maybe This Time. Even though I’m really interested in characters, I don’t need the same protagonist in a series — I like seeing what other characters become.

    I’m excited to see what’s next, whatever it might be!

  26. A couple of thoughts come to mind about series – one is, it can make a difference if the series has been planned to be a series from the beginning. I’m think of the example of Lockwood and Co where each book is more or less complete in itself, but it was conceived as a series and each book escalates and adds to the finale.

    The other thought is that there are series I’ve read and invested in where the first book is not the best, and not the one I go back to most often, which leaves me disagreeing with the idea that the first story is the most important (interesting) event in the protagonist’s life. Writing one story can kick up questions about the characters or the world that weren’t there before you started, and those questions can wind up being more interesting stories.

    Mostly I read series because I’m invested in the characters and spending more time with them. So, community. But then there are series like Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh where it’s more about getting more of what the author does with the changing cast of characters than being especially interested in the staple characters.

    1. I have at least two series (Pratchett’s diskworld and Bujold’s Vorkosigan ) where I always advise people to start in the middle. So I heartily agree the first book is not always the best.

  27. Series are almost comfort reads for me. If I like the world and the people in the first one, I’ll keep coming back to see what happens next. While I will accept the odd so so/ not good books in the series, If things don’t improve or they get too obviously formulaic without growth or break the rules of the world set in the first one, they’ve lost me.

    The last series I read was Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane, not intentionally. I read one and then found a character I was curious about mentioned in another book, which lead to someone else. When I looked up, I’d read nearly the whole series, which is pretty good for a year which I could barely manage to read anything new. They were entertaining historical romances and at the time what I needed

    My friend has to read all the books in a series.

  28. Series I didn’t list in my post: Diskworld, and I like the watch sub-series best, witches almost as good, then the rest. The Ring of Fire series, because it has great characters in a historical setting (the 30 years war) which it proceeds to butterfly, and there are over twenty main novels and 90 anthologies. If you don’t like some part, you can live in another. Best shared universe ever!

    At the other end is David Weber’s Honorverse. It started out great, then… declined. Honor Harrington was (very) loosely based on Horatio Hornblower and Lord Nelson, the universe was “Britain VS France in Space.” Naturally, that outline changed as the series matured. But Weber can’t write 100 words where 478 will do, so the books became bloated – except the ones with co-authors. And Honor Harrington went from “a Yeoman’s daughter” to Lady Dame Countess and Duchess and Steadholder (also a title, sort of like princess) Harrington and from commanding a Light Cruiser to commanding the combined battle fleets of five or six star nations as a five or six star admiral. She got an eye put out and an arm shot off and has cybernetic prosthetics that make her even more deadly in personal combat, where she holds the highest degree black belt in the most deadly martial arts. She’s also a swordwoman and marksman. Weber Mary-Sued the crap out of her!

    There are other series I could think of – Patricia Wrede has several, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Elizabeth Moon write ’em – but it’s the Tenth Day of Christmas, and I’ve got to see about some Leapin’ Lizar…. er, Lords, Sandy. 🙂

    1. Honor Harrington is another series I should have stopped after about 5 books. The first one is fantastic. The second and third are really good. Four and five are pretty good. Then it becomes a whole different series, or set of series, as subsidiary series, and flashback series, are started. It’s a huge sprawling mess now. And yet I’ve kept reading them, for various reasons. The discovering of treecats prequel series, because treecats! The founding of Manticore prequel series I’m enjoying. But I guess I’m still reading the main timeline books because the villains are really villainous and I want to see how they’re defeated. I don’t recommend slogging thought the millions of words I read to get to this point, and they’re close, I think, but not done yet.

      1. The main line of the main series is done. Uncompromising Honor finished all the plotlines and most of the loose threads. The only book outstanding at this point is a final collaboration with Eric Flint in the side series that starred Victor “Black Victor” Cachat and Anton “Scourge of the Spaceways” Zilwicki, two superspys whose exploits have become widely and popularly known.

        Like you, I kept reading. I used to buy the eARCs (un-edited electronic Advance Readers Copies) but I stopped, more than happy to wait for the release dates.

        At Baen’s Bar in the Honorverse Forum, there used to be humorous threads to pass the time between books. Mister Hayenga, the other Gary, brought up treecats, which are one of the nine intelligent alien species found in the Honorverse. It took some time to recognize the degree of intelligence of treecats because they are telepathic and telempathic – they have no need for verbal or written language – and there are females called memory singers who are the repositories of the races important memories. Anyway, sometimes posters wouldjoke about making small space suits and energy weapons for treecats. Sigh. Sometimes, Weber is a tad suggestible.

        Oh. Add to Honor’s numerous amazing abilities that she is the only human who can telempathically communicate with treecats, and as a result, she can read human emotions, too. Mary Sue fer sher.

        Okay. I am not saying, “Don’t read the Honorverse series.” I’m saying, “The early ones are the best.”

  29. I like series because I often want to go back and spend more time in a world built, or with characters.

    I think there are some that find ways around the declining stakes – shifting the protagonist, creating a case of the week/case of the book type series, or some just ever escalating the stakes.

    That said, there are some that I have stopped because it began to get very formulaic and repetitive. You know that this character would come and do X, this other character would appear and do Y, and a love triangle kept being dragged out… I’ve still gone back and read the first few books in the series, though, as they were excellent.

    I do also like the thing you (and others) have done where books are in no way a series, but that take place in the same world, so a familiar character might pop by for a scene, or may have been a minor character in one book and become the protagonist in another.

  30. Another fyi Google Doc from Lynn Spencer linking to the various RWA chapters’ responses to the current situation. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1HfdrLqjCiPLyvpuJ74GmcNDPYgtUKNI6lGFOQalPXQM/mobilebasic

    I came here to say that sometimes a series gets really successful and it seems like the editor or publisher backs off from their star author.

    In these cases the author writes the parts that people skip, uses language styles that would have been edited down, and pretty much doesn’t kill any of their darlings. For me, I can not pick up any Black Dagger Brotherhood books, even the original ones because the later books soured me on the series.

  31. I am the sort of reader who gets invested in characters, and wants to know how they are getting on; but because I like them I don’t want anything too bad happening to them, after they’ve found a succesful resolution to their first story/arc.
    So, in the Vorkosigan saga, I was very happy when she took Miles in a different, less self-destructive direction in Memory and then on Komarr ; I really enjoyed the Ivan book – a more lighthearted look into the lives of the people I cared about.

    I also really enjoy Andrea K. Höst’s Touchstone world; the first book Stray pulls you in with the protagonist’s voice and character, the second one (Lab rat one) broadens the scope to the people and teams she works with and introduces the love interest; the third (Caszandra) builds to an exiting action climax, a resolution that saves the world, but also shows the romantic pairing adjusting to one another and stabilizing their relationship. This trilogy is one story arc, clearly conceived as such, leading to one ending. The action-oriented readers can stop after the trilogy, but for the character/community readers she’s written several follow-ups which I greatly enjoy: the Gratuitous Epilogue, showing what happens in the year after the grand denouement when they start settling their new world and building their family (including the adopted kids) and community; then later she wrote Laura, from a different but connected viewpoint, taking the lives of those we care about further (but turning on an important pivot-point in the life of the new character), and now a short story giving a small look into the settled community from an outsider viewpoint.

    I guess this points to one of the things I want to say regarding series: the kind of series that speaks to me depends on the goals and themes.
    In a pure detective series, like Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe, an episodic series works for me: the detectives are not very emotionally involved, they just solve the puzzles as it’s their job, and so there is very little personal growth and change in the primary characters, and the secondary characters (certainly those involved in the case itself, rather than solving it) are mostly different from book to book.
    This unemotional sort of puzzle-book does not sound like something Jennie Crusie might like to write.

    This episodicness, in fact the whole series-thing, does not work for me in most cosy mysteries, as those sleuths are supposed to be personally and emotionally involved with what is happening and who it is happening to, within a fairly small community. That feels impossible to me without changing the protagonist, and to have such trauma recurring book after book feels bad, as Jinx said on January 3rd.

    If a writer builds an interesting world, like Pratchett did, the world itself becomes the reason to go back, seeing what new aspect he’s going to take on now.
    If it’s a world with likeable people I’d like to catch up with / hear more about, the recurring series withing the world works well in one of two ways: either the series shows the same protagonists going through personal growth from book to book (like Pratchett’s Vimes or Tiffany Aching; Mikes Vorkosigan, and others), or each book dips into the same community but follows the pivotal life event of a different protagonist (showing cameos of other people we care about, as in the Bridgerton books, and many other romance series).

    I think which of these two series-structures you use depends strongly on what kind of conflict you set up for the series.
    If your whole story is set up to defeat the “big bad”, either you need to spread the action of defeating it up over the arc of the series (setting up smaller targets as pay-offs for each individual book/episode), i.e. planning the basic series-arc, or at least the end-point, from the start. If you don’t, you need to set up an even bigger bad for the next book – this only works for a limited few iterations before people grow tired of it. Or, like the continuations of the Touchstone trilogy, you accept losing half your readers when you switch from the action-packed adventure to the slice of life ‘epilogues’.

    If your story is set up, as many romance stories are, to illuminate an important turning point in the protagonist’s life, i.e. when they commit to their partner, you need a new protagonist for the next story. If you want to weld those into a series, you need to come up with an interesting setting full of likeable people, who can figure as secondary characters and cameos in each other’s life stories. So the first book needs to contain enough interesting secondary characters to build onto for the second book, and the later books need to refer back to (some of) the protagonists from the earlier ones as secondary characters or in cameos, so we get a sense of their lives going on.

    Or the series could be set up not around one pivotal turning point, but around gradual growth of the protagonists. People don’t just take one important decision that influences the rest of their life; they keep making decisions, taking on responsibilities and growing emotionally, in maturity and competence. In that case you need not one ‘big bad’, but ongoing stressors that can ebb and flow, like family dynamics, life going on (I like reading about families or settled couples taking on events in a competent manner without relationship angst but working together), or politics.
    C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series is an extreme example of this, still going strong at 20 books, because the stressor there is society and politics, the pay-off in growing competence and maturity of the diplomat protagonist, and in developing the characters and their relationship. Politics never ends. When one situation is stabilised, she zooms out one more step to show how that situation fits into the wider social network, and how the local solution changes and is impacted by the wider social and political reality in the world. This sense of gradually widening our viewpoint and discovering more of how the world works is part of the pay-off too, getting readers interested in stepping from one completed problem -> solution arc (generally she writes three books per arc*) to the start of the next.

    (* though the first could be read as a standalone – and the first third of the first book is two separate short ‘prequels’ to set up the world and situation.)

    1. I was thinking about how Cherryh’s Foreigner series fits in here, with 20 books and trilogies of trilogies, and I do keep checking in (when I can get my hands on one trio at once) to see what is going on now. I like her writing and characters, which I knew from previous books, both explicit series and more open, shared universe kinds of things.

      What I liked about series when I was younger was finding a Big Thing I could commit to reading for a while. Books were expensive, finding what I liked reading best in the library was impossible (mostly SFF – not a thing libraries thought they needed to keep on hand much) and having a new thing from a known author was a gigantic win. If it tied back to things they’d done already, it was an even bigger win.

      A lot of what’s been said about the size and shape of the story arc feels true as well – each book (detective mysteries aside) should change the protagonist, and leave them somewhere new. If the series relies on the same arc for every book, it is precisely TV on the page. If the series has a larger arc, and someplace to land eventually, then the individual books fit into it and the characters have places to go and things to do through the entire narrative.

    2. You’ve got to like an author who names the sequel to her action adventure science fiction trilogy Gratuitous Epilogue 🙂

  32. I’m all about series. Love the familiarity of the world, the fun of new adventures for characters whose stories I’m already invested in, the knowledge that there are more books to come.
    And when I think fabulous series, my brain goes straight to Robin Hobbs’ Fitz and the Fool/Assassin’s Apprentice books. All 9 or 12 of them, plus the Live Ship trilogy with characters from the Fitz books. Amazing world, with characters I treasure having met. Just an amazing set of books.
    That said, have made notes about the many good suggestions in this thread and look forward to some enjoyable reads.

  33. As a reader, for me series are less work. After book 1, I’ve already met at least some of the characters. I know the setting so I don’t have to remap places. I know whether or not I like the author’s writing & style, so it usually makes it a safer bet when looking for a particular kind of story or feeling from a story but still gives you a new story. They are easier with less risk.

  34. I read a lot of mystery series and some fantasy ones, though I don’t go seeking them out. I think mysteries lend themselves to serialization very naturally, since the case is usually a focal point. But they can definitely get worn out, I found I lost interest in the Stephanie Plum books, they felt very repetitive to me after a while.

    I just recently finished rereading Tanya Huff’s Vicky Nelson series (Blood Lines, Blood Pact etc) and enjoyed it as much as I did when I first read them in the 90s. Vicky’s story progresses through the series and I like the nod to Universal Pictures monster movies. There’s progression for Gail Carriger’s Alexia Tarrabotti in her Parasol Protectorate series as well, and Gail has a great sense of humor. For both series I was definitely drawn to the characters and the premise, but settings and supporting characters change enough I can’t really say community has any draw for me.

    Right now I’m eagerly awaiting Voodoo Shanghai, the third book in a supernatural mystery series by Kristi Charish, more supernatural sleuthing, not so much romance. The character and setting are big draws for me in these. I think one of my favourite communities was Zinnia in Carolyn Haines’s “Bones” series, with Sarah Booth Delaney. Not sure why I haven’t kept up with them, sometimes I need a change of scene and switch to different genres, time periods, settings that sort of thing.

    I’ve read all of Sue Grafton’s books, and while I like Kinsey, it’s Sue’s voice that brought me back to each new book and a few rereadings as well. I really enjoyed it and will definitely miss it. I’ve also read all of Craig Johnson’s Longmire series primarily because of his voice, although I found Depth of Winter to be unrelenting grim and a lot more work to get through than his others. Jenny, you have a great voice, I’d love to read a series you wrote.

    1. Carolyn Haines Sarah Booth Delaney (Zinnia, Mississippi) series actually managed to keep developing pretty well through book 15 or 16. Books 18 and 19 I felt things started to stagnate, which is why I haven’t read books 20 or 21 yet.

  35. Some series are just long single story arcs. Most trilogies for instance. Some series, particularly romance series, are just the individual stories of a family or group of people. So and so finds true love through a series of trials and tribulations while supported by a group of friends, or family. But so and so is now living happily ever after so the next book can’t be about so and so. It has to be about so and so’s sister/best friend finding true love. Or my least favorite, redeeming the villain of the previous book by making him fall in love with her.

    Some series are more episodic in nature. The mystery of the week, Police Procedurals, the PI’s next case. I tend not to like these as much, although I enjoy a good mystery plot and often the mechanics of solving a case are interesting, it’s caring about the characters that makes me enjoy a story.

    I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy, and in a lot of those series it’s mainly about the world building, and people keep reading them to see what happens next. For me that’s important, but secondary to the characters and finding out what happens to them next, or how they will react to the changes in the world. I prefer it if there is also character development, but in many cases it’s just a case of you finding out more about what the characters are really like.

    In mysteries, and romance, the world itself doesn’t usually change very much. With some exceptions, Stuart M. Kaminsky’s Inspector Rostnikov series takes place, and was written, before during and after the fall of the Soviet Union. And while Inspector Rostnikov himself doesn’t change very much throughout the books everyone around him does as the world around them changes profoundly. But since the world usually isn’t changing around them that much you often spend the first several books in a series finding out more about the character or group of characters, and after 5 or 6 books, you know everything about them, and while lots of people just want to spend more time with characters they know and like, if either the world or the characters aren’t continuing to develop I just start to feel like, eh, more of the same. Susan Wittig Albert’s China Bayles springs to mind.

  36. For an author, the pro side of series is that if readers do get hooked, you can sell a lot of books with the promo on Book #1 instead of having to push every single title. And not having to create a whole new world each time is a plus. As a con, coming up with new situations and characters within the world strains credulity and one’s brain. Vivid characters and great situations really help to keep the series alive. In romance, it’s easier with related characters (7 Brides for 7 Brothers) so each book is a different couple. In mystery, a protag who actually grows, has relationships, and learns the business, keep readers reading. I think they also like the world that develops around the protag and how that protag learns to deal with that world. (unlike Evanovich, which people read just for humor)

  37. It depends on characters for me. Then great world and plot development. Most cozy mysteries bore me after 3-4 books. How many murders are believable in one tiny town? If there’s a continuing and escalating conflict, no matter how interesting the story, I’ve still got to be invested in the characters. I’ve read a lot of urban fantasy in the past few years. One favorite author is losing my interest. I’m getting tired of the main character, who no longer seems to be growing as a person. And the conflict has become, oh whatever. But another favorite author duo has ended one series after 10 books. I didn’t like either main character at the start, but it was a joy to watch them grow and their world never got boring. And the side characters were fascinating in their own right. They’ve taken an arch nemesis and turned him into a hero of sorts for his own series now. And they’ve got two other series still going strong. Again strong characters and a fascinating world. So yes, I do like a good series. But there are plenty of favorite stand alones in my life, too.

  38. I love series. If you like the world/characters and there’s still more to do there, then why not? I can see why in romances sequeling is a different animal, though. I would be delighted to read Alice/Nadine books, or all of Liz Danger, someday, though.

    Really, as long as you end the series before it dies out, or gets boring, or is stagnant…. I think stagnant can go on and might be the biggest series killer, unless you start wrecking the world or making choices nobody likes. Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series, the aforementioned Vorkosigan series, and the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire are long runners that still make me run out and get the next book the second it comes out. They have new challenges, new worldbuilding, they keep it still feeling fresh somehow. But less dynamic worlds and plots are more likely to get stagnant and I can see this being more of an issue with mysteries and romance than sci-fi. I’m less invested in mystery and romance sequels after a while.

    But as for sci-fi I used to love, I know I got bored of The Hollows after a while, the Mercy Thompsons are kind of a library read now, I got utterly lost on what was going on in Urban Shaman, I got bored of Sookie…. and then there’s the infamous Anita Blake series, which had a drastic turn at one point and pretty much broke the series when the relatively chaste heroine was now forced to spend almost all of her free time having sex with whoever was in her vicinity. Sigh.

  39. I hate cliff hangers, so I require that each book in a series can be a stand alone.

    I am suspicious of the “telling each story of a community” series, because they feel contrived to me, but Kristin Higgins has pulled it off pretty well, and Joanna Bourne’s I like a lot (though I have to bury my cynicism about that many incredibly smart/talented people in close proximity).

    Agree with everyone above who said growth is necessary if keeping characters – and Lois McMaster Bujold is the queen of this. A lot of mysteries – Nero Wolfe for example, it’s more about the mystery than the character arc, so I guess I think of it as two different things – a series that is just one REALLY long book, cut up into pieces (Lois) and a bunch of stand alone snapshots of the same world/people (Stout,Christie, etc) with any character growth or personal life plots a bonus. Which is probably not helpful to you, but was fun to think about.

  40. All these comments are really interesting. I usually quickly say that I dislike series intensely. But what if I defined series more closely with the author than with the story? Jenny Crusie’s Ohio books are fabulous. Her non-Ohio books are great too, showing influences from co-writers. Georgette Heyer, Dorothy Sayers, Mary Stewart, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen and others pull me into their — worlds? styles? — so strongly that selecting one of their books is like choosing one of a series.

    Definitely, as others have said, series risk cliffhanging endings and risk failing the reader’s expectations — perhaps to such an extent that the reader won’t pick up another book by that author.

    In my case, thinking of authors instead of series explains why I can reread Persuasion and Pride & Prejudice regularly while not ever returning to Emma. In the case of series, Gentleman Joe & the Red Queen was such a disaster for me that I will never reread a Vorkosigan book.

  41. I dread the thought of The Rivers of London coming to an end. I relisten to that series constantly. More than once a year. In part because I love Kobna Holdbrook-Smith’s voice.

    I think I like series for the same reason I like to re-read my favorite authors. The protagonist’s voice which can translate into the author’s voice. I like humor and go back to books that make me laugh. Or comfort books where things work out the way I think they should. Or better than what I could have imagined. It’s discovering a place that holds my attention, makes me laugh, and then, at the end, things work out.

    I’ve had a lot of stress in my life and a fair share of sadness, the right series can take me away from unpleasant reality. I recently bought the latest Plum, remembering how much I liked the series when I first found it. I should have just re-read the first few books, because, as has been stated above, Stephanie never improves. If I had a job I never got any better at I’d make a change!

    I am considering writing a fifth Bree book to wrap up a storyline that was left a little unfinished in book three. But I’m not sure I want to go back there, so we’ll see. Currently, I’m happily writing a romance (me, imagine that!) that is based loosely on my life and that popped into my head almost fully formed. Then back to Glimmer Girls and then possibly Bree. We’ll see. I loved writing the fourth Bree so maybe.

  42. I like series, and it’s revisiting that world and characters that I enjoy. Which is why I’m re-reading the Temptation / Faking It series right now — love following the characters as they each get to take the lead. I read most any series that doesn’t bore me completely. I keep hoping Stephanie Plum will step off her merry go round and find a new lover and or career. I wouldn’t mind if that were the last book, but I keep hoping. (That’s a damned long-lived hamster, by the way, that she feeds.) I gave up on Lackey’s Elementary Masters because there was no character interesting enough for me to want to any more. I love the Dorothy Dunnett series including her Johnson Johnson mysteries that were written out of chronological order actually. But it’s fun learning that order and watching JJ move through the stories (he’s never the POV character).

    Give me someone interesting and good writing and I’ll keep coming back.

  43. I like Tessa Dare’s Spindle Cove series because I know I enjoy the concept of the broader community and I like the general vibe of the first ones I read so I’d probably like later ones. I also like Jackie Lau’s Holidays with the Wongs series because it’s light and fluffy and you know exactly what you’re getting and the supporting/repeating characters are a delight. KJ Charles has a few historical romance series where each book is a different couple but there’s an overarching mystery/suspense plot that I found very compelling. I really liked the books kind of overlapped in time, so things are happening at different times and you get different perspectives on the same events. I do think it doesn’t work as well if the first book was set up as a standalone and then sequels followed – I like it if it seems obvious that the story was meant to go over multiple books, either split up or like in a mystery series, just episodes out of a life. The Flavia de Luce books are a mystery series that follows a kid who keeps finding murders and sticking her nose in and I like them because the mysteries are solved within the book but there are overarching plots about her relationship with her family and how she’s growing up.

  44. I love series books where either there is a new “mystery” or in the case of JAK a new murder, to each book, or each book features a different couple and the other characters fade to subplots but are still there making you laugh and giving up updates on their story. I really loved the I want to say Lavender but you have Liz above so no idea why I’m thinking Lavender, so the Liz snippets that you posted – awesome ideas. Jill Shalvis does the different couple same town thing so very very well. Her books are so similar in plot, but I still devour them when they come out because it’s like a peek back into a town I love. The really funny side characters are the same and it’s so nice to check in on other characters that I love while still having an entire story arc featuring new people. Ditto JAK’s Arcane Society/Ghost Hunters, the dust bunnies and setting are SO my cup of tea, and I love that the world that I enjoy is the same while the murder mystery is different.

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