Thursday, September 19th, 2019

The Series Series, Part 3: What Constitutes a Series?

There are many different ways to categorize a series. One common way is as a set of stories that feature the same character(s) in different circumstances. Each book offers a new adventure, a new plot, a new problem to solve, but the characters – or at least the main protagonist(s) – remain the same.

Series built around a unified character or characters may be sequential, meaning they provide an ongoing story arc and are designed to be read in order – such as Ramona and Beezus or Harry Potter or our Little Bo series – or they may be stand-alone, in that each book seldom makes reference to past events and the characters seldom, if ever, change or age – such as the Magic Treehouse or Nancy Drew books, or our Very Fairy Princess and Dumpy the Dump Truck series.

Some series have a unifying theme – such as the Dear America and American Girl series, both of which are built around the theme of American History, with each individual book featuring a different set of characters in different periods of history. Some have a unifying concept, such as science (Let’s Read and Find Out series), scariness (Goosebumps), or setting (The Chronicles of Narnia).

Some series are open-ended, and can continue as long as there is demand for more, others are designed to have a finite number of books, such as in a trilogy. This is usually the case with series that have an ongoing story arc – for example, our Little Bo series was always conceived as having four books, each of which would reveal what happened to one more of Bo’s missing family members.

Many character-driven series were not created as a series, but rather one book at a time, with subsequent stories being written by popular demand. Others are intentionally planned as a series from the getgo – though in today’s publishing world, sales numbers are still the determining factor with respect to how many installments a series can sustain. With this in mind, if you choose to plan a series these days, it’s best to ensure that each installment can stand alone as a satisfying and conclusive read, even if it is part of a sequential storyline.

Series NavigationThe Series Series, Part 2: Starting a SeriesThe Series Series, Part 4: Continuity


4 Responses to “The Series Series, Part 3: What Constitutes a Series?”
  1. Joanna says:

    I like your pragmatic conclusion, Emma!

  2. Beth says:

    Your comment “if you choose to plan a series these days, it’s best to ensure that each installment can stand alone as a satisfying and conclusive read, even if it is part of a sequential storyline” leads me to wonder if one can write books that “could” be published as a series, but end up publishing them as stand-alones? If a publisher says, “No, your book didn’t sell as well as would be necessary to continue the series,” what are the chances of being able to publish other volumes as stand-alones? Do these questions make any sense?

  3. Jesse says:

    I like the idea that each book in the series should stand on it’s own as a good read. That is what I will do with my book series. Do the titles have to remain similar or just the characters?

  4. Diane says:

    Ahhh… now you have answered my question. Having a unifying theme but the characters are different and the problems they face are different in each book, still constitutes as a series, as well as stand alone, great thanks Emma.

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