Series vs. Stand Alone in Fiction RWA 2009

by Michelle Miles

I know I usually talk about movies here on Pop Culture Divas, but since I’m fresh from the RWA® National Conference in Washington, DC, I thought I’d talk about something I heard more than once from editors.

In several workshops I attended, the question of series came up. The question being, are series more popular than stand alone books? The response back was that yes, they were. The reason? Editors and readers love to see books about recurring characters…like a beloved television show.

I think that stands to reason. I know for myself, I love reading a series about the same characters or the characters best friend or whatever. And yes, I’ve noticed that too. There are a lot of authors who are writing series with recurring characters.

Does that mean it’s hard to write stand alone books? I think in some ways they are. They’re not frowned-upon by any means. But I really think an author can cash in on telling stories with recurring characters. Plus, as an author who has written stories with some of the same characters, I can see the appeal.

It’s like cozying up to the TV on a Wednesday night, waiting with great anticipation to see what happens to our favorite LOST characters. We want to see what will happen to Jack and Company, don’t we? Another favorite of mine is Grey’s Anatomy. Will Derek and Meredith FINALLY tie the knot?

I know I feel the same way about books. I’m a huge, huge fan of Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series and I wait with baited breath for each new release and then devour each book (the fourth released this fall with Dreamfever!). Though I confess, I’ve made myself savor the books. Take my time reading them and relishing every delicious word and every succulent page. I’m dying to see what happens to Mac and Jericho Barrons. Will they or won’t they? I think that’s the question most readers of that series have.

Another series I’m really enjoying is Vicki Pettersson’s Zodiac series. Her characters are real and interesting. I’m currently reading the second book and really looking forward to the third.

Now when I pull a book off the shelf, I find myself looking to see if the author has a series with recurring characters.

What about you? What are some of your favorite series (television or books)? And why?

Michelle Miles is an avid movie watcher, writes romance, drinks coffee and collects shoes. You can learn more about her books at


  1. Great post, Michelle! I love series so long as the characters stay fresh. Sometimes it seems writers grasp for plot threads that are too thin, or veer off in illogical ways just to keep the story going.
    I started Sergei Lukyanenko's Night Watch and Carrie Vaughn's Kitty series. Unfortunately, I read less than I would like (spare time's set aside for writing!) and my TBR list is very long!

  2. Hi, Cate! I can really relate - spare time is about writing, too, and my TBR pile is growing by the day and I came home with about 20 books. LOL

    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I'm not surprised that series are most popular with editors. Even I hesitate to start down a new road with an author with whom I'm familiar. Picking up another book in a series I've already started seems less of a commitment, I think.

    As for my faves, Julie Garwood's Scottish Historicals and everything Karen Marie Moning and Lynn Kurland. It's fun to find the common threads and recognize characters I didn't want to leave behind in the first place.


  4. Hi, Michelle! It was SO great to meet you in person in D.C.! You are as gorgeous and gracious in person as you are on line - and that's saying a LOT!

    I love series as well, whether in the romance or mystery or sci-fantasy genres. Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series has to be one of my favs, and there are too many more to name. Well, except for Joan Hess's Maggody mystery series. I've been waiting years to find out what happens next!

    On TV, Monk will end soon, but I'll be tuning in for Bones and many others. I love series in books or TV bec. I love catching up on what "friends" are doing. :)


  5. Great post Michelle! Well, that's great news for writers who are looking to pitch a series. I have enjoyed many a series - on the historical front - Julie Garwood who had some connecting books back in the day - but more recently of course Julia Quinn's Bridgerton series and Eloisa James' Essex Sisters and Desperate Duchesses - and Loretta Chase's Carsington Brothers series and Lisa Kleypas's Wallflowers just to name a few. On the TV front - I love Grey's Anatomy - great balance between medical stories and the private lives. Cate - I agree with you as well - if an author is stretching just to find a place for the recurring characters then the series loses steam - but they're magic when you learn something new about the characters in each book - and when they each stand alone but together form part of a wonderful series. :D

  6. Michelle, sorry I missed you in DC! and we were probably in some of the same sessions. Made me happy. I write stand-alones with recurring characters and I'm currently working on a series with Ellora's Cave so I enjoyed hearing this.

    My favs are Feehan's Carpathians, Sand's Argeneaus and Spark's Love at Stake - each ends happily and you get to see old characters you fell in love with.

    Great post.

  7. I totally agree with the series thing. I love secondary characters - they always seems to make the hero and heroine much more entertaining because they get to have all the snarky asides and pithy comments. As a reader I LOVE Julia Quinn's Bridgerton series. The Cynster novels from Stephanie Laurens and Sabrina Jeffries' Heiress Series and Royal Princes Trilogy. But, I will say that after a time I do get not impatient, but ready for something new. Kind of like drafting for football. I love the stable, but who do you have that's new and up and coming?
    One of the most well done returns was by Johanna Lindsey. She wrote a series of Regency novels featuring the Malory family ages ago. Within the last few years, she's revisited them and it was like old friends returning!
    As a writer, I like both series and stand alone. And I must say, I had no intention of writing a sequel (or two) to my book that comes out in Sept., but my editor really liked the heroine's brother and asked me to write it. Who am I to say no?! lol

  8. Love those series. I'm definitely hooked on the Stephanie Plum series, as well as Sue Grafton's alphabet series. Diane Mott Davidson does a wonderful job with Goldy the mystery-solving caterer.

    Being an old Sci-fi/Fantasy buff, I'm also fond of Anne McCaffery's Pern series, Heinlein's Lazarus Long books, the Empire series by Raymond Feist and Janny Wurts, and the orginal Belgariad by David Eddings.

    Of course for me the children's series: Trixie Belden mysteries, Edward Eager's magical tales, and the one and only Wizard of Oz books, started it all.

    Yup, there's something about returning to beloved characters and following their newest adventures.

    Great post. And WILL Derek and Meredith ever tie the knot??? *laughs*

    --Chiron O'Keefe
    The Write Soul:

  9. Yay for series! I like them because I get to return to the lives & relationships in which I have already invested time and empathy. Reading: Feehan's Carpathians, Wilson's Taren Souls, Feist's Magician, Ivy's Guardian's of Eternity...there are so many more tumbling from my bookshelves. I always buy the series if the first book hooks me, but there is nothing more aggravating than jumping in in the middle of the series. Publishers: if the latest release is Book 4 in the series, please put that on the cover so I know to scurry around and buy the first three as well. ;D

  10. LOVE series!!! Like they've said, there's nothing like visiting friends. I love reading the book of a secondary character and seeing what my beloved hero/heroine in the previous book are up to - especially in a romance so that I can see that they are still in love. And if the books continue through other characters - better still because then I can see that my h/h have had children, etc. Life/love goes on.

    I love Dresden, Kay Hooper's Bishop series, and yes - Trixie Belden was a favorite. Loved Jo Leigh's In Too Deep series and Rhonda Nelson's Men out of Uniform - both Blazes.

  11. I love series. We are currently addicted to Grey's - we came in late and are watching it on DVD - up to season 4. We are also hooked on House (DVDs) and I love Boston Legal (again on DVDs).

    I also love series in books. I love the Eve Dallas/In Death series by J.D. Robb and I love Nora Roberts' trilogies too. I am hooked on the David Baldacci King and Maxwell Series and so many more. I love series, but I do love stand-alone too, but for some reason I seek out series books.

  12. Ainsley: Thanks for stopping by! You make a good point about picking up books by authors. One of the reasons why I picked up Vicki Pettersson was because she had the series! I totally forgot to mention Terry Goodkind. I LOVE the Sword of Truth! :)

  13. Nancy: You are too sweet! It was lovely to meet you in DC finally after knowing you online for so long.I really need to check out Jim Butcher's stuff. I've been hearing lots of great things about that.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  14. Okay I'm clearly tardy in replying to all of your great comments. Thank you EVERYONE for stopping by to talk about your favorite series.

    Do you hear me scratching furiously away over here? I'm writing them down. Adding them to the list so I can grow my TBR pile even higher. ;)

  15. Michelle! I'm so thrilled I got to see you (And your fab red dress) in DC!

    You are singing my series song here, my dear! I'm not sure stand alone books and I could ever have an artistic understanding.

    I hail from an obsession with Fantasy so I have a hard time wrapping my brain around things that aren't series.

    And as far as TV is concerned, my favourite shows are sci-fi/fantasy shows (X-Files, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, Dr. Who, anything/everything Whedon) whose series arcs are long and complex so right there we can be easily trained into the series mentality.

    My dream is that people will become as connected to my hero, heroine and multiple secondary characters in the Strangely Beautiful series as I become with series characters in books and television.

    Thanks for the post, Michelle!

  16. Leanna! I'm so glad you stopped by. And I'm really glad we met in person in DC! You are just too cool.

    I agree with you - I'm a fantasy person myself and I can't write books that are just books. I always think series!

    And I LURVE me some Star Trek, too. :)


Post a Comment

We would love to hear from you but hope you are a real person and not a spammer. :)

Popular Posts