Tag Archives: series

Will Book Collections Become Extinct?

I’ve been collecting juvenile books for a long time. The 100 girl series books I treasured as a kid followed me into adulthood. After connecting with other series collectors, I found more series to collect. Within a few years, 100 books became 1,000. Now I have over 5,000 juvenile books in a home library. Have I read all of these books? Heck, no! I’ve only read a fraction of them. But by collecting them I am preserving a piece of history. And I love all my precious books. 

Part of my book collection

If I hadn’t collected most of my books before the internet became the third dimension for modern life, I wouldn’t have such a good collection. I have complete collections of Nancy Drew, Dana Girls, Trixie Belden, Beverly Gray, Penny Parker, Vicki Barr, Anne of Green Gables, Sammy Keyes, Judy Bolton and many more. Most of my books were found in secondhand bookstores, thrift shops, garage sales and trading with other collections. It was challenge to find treasures and I rarely paid over $10 a book. Now if I want a treasure, it will usually be found online. While it’s quicker to search the internet for books, the fun of the treasure hunt is gone.

As an author whose books are selling more e-reader copies than paper copies, I wonder about the future of book collecting. Downloading a book doesn’t mean you own it. You can’t loan it to a friend. You can’t display it on a shelf. And how reliable are reading devices for protecting your e-library? Many people are choosing the convenience of downloading rather than the tactile experience of cradling a book in your hands and flipping pages.

Lately I’ve wondered where the world of paper books is headed. I’ve heard many opposing theories of what will happen. I’m in the camp of the “books surviving” theory. I think publishers will continue to publish books in many different formats: audio, paperback, hardback, e-books. But I do wonder about all those books going directly into devices. Will readers be able to keep their stored books or lose them as devices keep evolving? Will only the bestsellers survive and midlist books fade to e-file obscurity? How will readers find their books? Will there be book collectors? If so, will paper books become a rare artifact that only wealthy collectors can afford?

One thing is for certain: E-books are here to stay. There will be more of them and a variety of prices and publishers. There have been some big successes of self-publishing like Amanda Hocking. But as more authors self-publish directly to e-book, success will be a steeper ladder to climb. I’ve heard many writers, especially eager new writers, say they’re skipping submitting to publishers and going straight to e-books. I wonder if editors will be glad for the decrease in their slush piles. Or will they lament a really good book they never had the chance to buy?

I give a lot of credit to editors for improving my own writing skills (and I’m still learning!). I’ve learned so much by submitting, rejections, rewriting and editorial letters. I was very impatient when I first started writing. I thought everything I wrote was ready to sell. I was told that self-publishing (except for niche books) was not for serious writers. But if I were starting out now, I suspect I would skip the rejections and go straight to e-publishing. Why not? It’s quick and easy. Writers don’t need to prove their skills to get published; only have knowledge of formatting. Ultimately, though, the book will have to compete for readers.

I’m hoping traditional publishers keep publishing a variety of formats. I’ve been lucky to publish with some amazing publishers. My readers can choose between paper or electronic formats of my books. Personally, I prefer the touch of paper books and I’ll continue to buy hardback and paper books for my girl series collection. Someone needs to keep all these amazing books in one place.

As I heard at the 2010 SCBWI Summer Conference, the book is a perfect device. No batteries or cords necessary. But that doesn’t mean I won’t try out e-books. If I’m going on a trip and need to pack light, I’ll download a book to my I-Pad. But if I end up really loving that book, I’ll buy a paper copy to keep.

Linda Joy Singleton is the author of over 35 YA/MG books, including Flux series: THE SEER, DEAD GIRL trilogy and 2012 release, BURIED: A Goth Girl Mystery.


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The Long-Awaited Sequel to A GAME OF THRONES

Big news: A Dance With Dragons, the fifth and very long awaited book in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series, has a publication date–July of this year.

Last year, I posted on the topic of “What does a series writer owe to readers?” and mentioned that George R. R. Martin has kept his fans waiting several years for A Dance With Dragons. A lot of our readers said they could wait patiently for the release of the book, while some said that Martin owes it to his fans to finish the series in a timely manner (supposedly this fifth book isn’t even the final installment).

A Dance With Dragons isn’t actually finished yet, according to Entertainment Weekly, but the novel is expected to run over 900 pages and will bring back some favorite characters. Assuming the story is as good as the other books in the series, I bet fans will forget all about how long they waited once they’ve got the book in their hands. Instead, they’ll be worrying about how long the next book will take.

But I wonder if Martin’s fans will be eager to read any new series he may come out with. Knowing that he isn’t afraid to take his time to write each installment, readers could decide that they’d rather not put themselves through another long wait. While a popular series likes A Song of Fire and Ice will have fans coming back to buy the next book–even if it’s five or six years later–is the author damaging his reputation by forcing fans to wait? Is he hurting sales of futures series, or does a name like Martin sell a book no matter what? I have a feeling that fans will return for any book he writes, but I’ve seen more than one disgruntled comment on the web to make me wonder.

Would you read a new series by Martin, knowing that he might take years and years to finish it? Are you loyal to your favorite authors no matter how long they keep you waiting for their next book?

Parker Peevyhouse is afraid to get attached to this series


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It’s Like That

Okay, so I’m way late getting in on the dystopia discussions. I’m also late to pick up the Hunger Games series, being only at the start of Book 1 while everyone else seems to be polishing off Book 3. (My excuse is that I’m only on Book 4 of Suzanne Collins’s Underland Chronicles and as a longtime Collins fan I really wanted to finish that first before starting anything newer.)

However, I can be the first to mention another trilogy set in a post-apocalyptic engineered dystopia revolving around life-or-death games: Battle Circle by Piers Anthony. In fact, I first mentioned Battle Circle in a comment over a year and a half ago. So who’s the trendsetter now, hmm?

Battle Circle was made up of Sos the Rope (1968), Var the Stick (1972), and Neq the Sword (1975). The series was my first introduction to the genre of engineered dystopias and therefore the yardstick I’ve subconsciously used ever since. I’ll be interested to see the parallels and differences between this Cold War inspired series and Suzanne Collins’s more modern futuristic drama.

I also want to recommend a new dystopic trilogy that’s just started in Mark Peter Hughes’s A Crack in the Sky. I had a chance to critique an early manuscript and this is a very cool book. It has a modern environmentalist and media culture mentality but also reminded me, at times, of Logan’s Run, another late 1960s book.

Which got me thinking “It’s Like That” would be a great topic for a blog post. There’s nothing new under the sun, and only 3, 7, or 36 different story plots, depending on how you count them, so maybe it would be fun to talk about some other new books, the classics they remind us of, and why. Suggestions, anyone?

—Greg, who also thought of that Shirley Jackson short story, The Lottery, when reading the Hunger Games opening. Dude, that was published in 1948!

Greg R. Fishbone

Greg R. Fishbone

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Don’t Let It End

All the buzz right now is about the latest book in a certain trilogy. Some of us on this site have written series or sequels. I wrote the Haunted series and Linda Joy Singleton’s work includes the Dead Girl and The Seer series. Joni Sensel’s The Farwalker’s Quest was recently followed by a sequel.

What author wouldn’t like to have a series, whether the original contract is for several books, or a single title is so popular that readers (and the editor) want a sequel? And what reader wouldn’t want to return to a favorite literary world?

And yet, series can be a hard sell. Some publishers of course focus on series, typically the direct to paperback, open-ended type. I sold Haunted (about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show, for ages 8 to 12) based on a first manuscript, series proposal, and outlines for books 2 and 3, to Aladdin, a paperback series publisher. But most publishers want to see how a first book does before they request a sequel.

“Characters that carry over a number of books certainly work well, but this isn’t the same thing as a series,” a former Llewellyn Acquisitions Editor said in an interview. “I’d rather see a strong standalone with sequel potential. If a single title works and the main character isn’t too old, it’s rarely a problem to continue the story into a new book, if there’s interest.”

Another editor commented, “I wonder how many trilogies or series were conceived as such—and how many began as one-offs that performed well and/or became bestsellers, at which point authors are often encouraged to write a follow-up.”

I wonder as well. As a writer, perhaps the best thing you can do is to bring your first book to a satisfactory conclusion, but leave the sense that the characters will go on to have other adventures — and wouldn’t it be nice to read about those?

This is also comforting for the author, who doesn’t feel as much like she’s abandoning her characters forever. (I ended my historical fiction novel The Well of Sacrifice with the characters heading off to a new Mayan city. I imagined their adventures, though I never wrote a sequel. Some teachers who use the book in the classroom have students write about what happens next.) This is a bit different from “And they lived happily ever after” — unless you believe that happily ever after would involve new challenges and adventures!

As readers — or writers — do you like to feel that a book is complete and self-contained, with no questions or concerns left for the characters? Or do you prefer an ambiguous ending that suggests challenges ahead? Something in between?

The Well of Sacrifice

The Well of Sacrifice is a drama set in 9th-century Mayan Guatemala.

Chris Eboch likes happy endings!


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What does a series writer owe to readers?

PG-13 language ahead…

You read the first book in a series. You love it. You can’t wait for more. But what happens when the next books don’t meet your expectations? It is your fault or the author’s fault?

I remember being enraged by the end of Meredith Anne Pierce’s Darkangel trilogy, a story about a girl married against her will to a vampire. The ending of the final book The Pearl of the Soul of the World, seemed exactly opposite from what the author had set up in the first book. I felt betrayed, cheated. And yet, I also feel forced to admit that the author has the right to spin her story as she pleases.

In our day of constant online communication, the give and take between an author and her readers only exacerbates the problem of unmet expectations. Since fans have the chance to tell an author exactly what they want to read, the pressure builds for an author to deliver it.

I was intrigued when Linda Joy Singleton recently wrote (in regards to writing a series), “I like to have two very different guys for my heroine to choose from, and then I wait to hear back from readers which direction to go.” I love the idea of getting online and telling Linda which guy I want to win the girl. I love the thought of reading the final book in one of her series and getting exactly what I want. And if Linda isn’t married to the idea of choosing one guy over the other, the only problem can be that she will disappoint the minority of her fans.

But what about authors who aren’t open to dictation from their fans? Of course, the recent uproar over Meyer’s Breaking Dawn comes to mind. A huge number of fans were dissatisfied by the way the Twilight trilogy ended; some started a campaign to return copies of Breaking Dawn. Apparently, Meyers didn’t feel that she owed her fans anything other than what she gave them. “There’s no way to make everybody happy,” she said in an MTV interview. She didn’t apologize for decisions she made about her characters–she simply told her fans to take the book or leave it.

Then there’s the fury surrounding the missing fifth book of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series. When Martin posted about attending football games and other leisure activities, fans chastised him for not spending every spare moment getting his fifth book to market (thus far, they’ve been waiting four or five years for the book). Neil Gaiman’s response to this situation is hilarious. He tells Martin’s fans: “George R.R. Martin is not your bitch.”

In essence, Gaiman claims Martin has the right to finish his series or not, and he has the right to do whatever it takes to get his muse back. Gaiman says,  “You’re complaining about George doing other things than writing the books you want to read as if your buying the first book in the series was a contract with him: that you would pay over your ten dollars, and George for his part would spend every waking hour until the series was done, writing the rest of the books for you. No such contract existed.”

What do you think? Does a contract exist between a series author and her fans? What does an author owe to her readers–the right ending, prompt delivery, happy romance?

Parker Peevyhouse just finished the first book of Martin’s series and wonders if it’s too soon to start worrying about the fifth


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Creating characters for a series – tips

Here are a few tips to follow when creating characters for a series. (Don’t miss yesterday’s post, which provides the foundation for this one.)

1. Keep an organized list of background information.

2. Create flaws and strengths of character that enhance the plot. (For instance: In my DEAD GIRL DANCING, Eli & Amber both like math, and in the climax math reveals a solution).

3. Add interesting details to your characters to make them more real. (Amber likes self-help books and refers to titles as she meets challenges).

4. Keep up with technology. Texting, iPhones, gaming, etc. are part of teen life.

5. Pay attention to teens and read many YA novels to study characters.

6. Listen to your characters as they evolve; be true to who they are, not who you want them to be.

7. Don’t kill pets (unless they’re already dead, like Amber’s dog). Many authors may disagree and that’s okay. This is my personal “pet” peeve (pun intended). Pets are characters, too, and readers love them. I avoid reading books if I know a pet is killed. That sort of death lingers with readers and will often be the main thing they’ll remember about your book—not my goal.

8. Humor is a wonderful trait! Use it well and have fun.

9. Avoid clichés – the perky cheerleader, mean rich girl, etc. I won’t deny that I’ve used these clichés but I go deeper now to show what makes all characters unique. Sometimes, though, for a very minor character, using a quick cliché gives a mental image without distracting from the plot. Still it’s a good idea to twist the cliché; make the cheerleader have bad teeth or the bully a science whiz.

10. Study real teens, but don’t write like they talk. Um’s and yeah’s get boring. For dialogue examples, read current YA books that librarians and teens like.

This is a huge topic and I’m writing an article, not a book, so I’ll bring this to a close. If you have questions, just reply here.

— Linda Joy Singleton, who wrote on a writing school application at age 14 that she wanted to write her own series someday. And it happened.

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Creating characters for a series

When creating characters for a series rather than a standalone book, major and minor characters can evolve in surprising ways. A minor character who only shows up briefly in Book #1 could be a star of Book #4. Or a major character from Book #2 could die a horrible death in Book #3. Series characters, like people in real life, take on paths and personalities of their own.

I’ve published six YA/MG series. Most were sold on detailed proposals, which included sample chapters, mini plot outlines, an overall series view of the events and character growth, brief character descriptions, and a detailed synopsis for the first book. At this early stage, I only know basic facts about my characters. One of the first things I do is figure out my main character’s inner and outer motivation; motivation and conflict are the keys in my process of character development.

The easiest way for me explain is to give examples of my character process that created my supernatural YA series, DEAD GIRL (Flux), where my teen heroine, Amber, has such a bad sense of direction that after a near-death experience she makes a wrong turn into another girl’s body.

When I sent in my first proposal to my Flux editor, he disliked Amber. He said she was too negative and insecure, and he didn’t like her self-deprecating comments. He added that he liked her career aspiration and thought someone who wanted to be an entertainment agent should be more outgoing.

Did this editorial letter upset me? Not even! It fired me up to rewrite. I realized that my attempt to start off with an insecure heroine (so she can gain confidence through the course of the book) didn’t work. All I’d created was an unlikable heroine. So I focused on Amber’s career aspirations and gave her ambition, determination, and an earnest desire to help others. When my editor read the revised version, he wrote back that he liked this much improved Amber. And within a week I had a 3-book contract for the DEAD GIRL series.

Now on to other characters; main and minor….

Teens love romance in their books, so I always include at least one love interest. In a series, though, I like to have two very different guys for my heroine to choose from, and then I wait to hear back from readers which direction to go. This is another advantage to having a series; characters can explore many different relationships.

Usually I contrast my hero and heroine on a surface level then go deeper for traits they share. For Amber the guy was Eli—the brother of the boyfriend of the girl whose body Amber swaps into in #2, DEAD GIRL DANCING (yes, it does get confusing!). I contrasted Amber and Eli: Amber is ambitious and her family struggles to pay bills; wealthy Eli is shy and wants respect, not fame. Then I gave them reasons to fall in love: they both love math, chocolate, and music. I complicate their relationship by letting them fall a little in love before the body switch. Things get even more complicated when in #2, DEAD GIRL DANCING, Amber swaps into the body of Eli’s older sister.

Inner and outer character conflict increases tension and pushes the plot forward.

For other characters, I included a dead grandmother with a lot of attitude, a best friend who seems the opposite of Amber, and a guy friend who is comic relief and her tech guy when problems arise. The best friend, Alyce, has a very small role in #1, DEAD GIRL WALKING. But I established a close friendship and hinted at problems because I planned a much bigger role for Alyce in #3, DEAD GIRL IN LOVE.  So when it came time to write the third book, I was ready with ideas and a foundation of facts in the previous books.

Of course, the down side of creating a series is that whatever happens in the first books becomes fact. And keeping those facts straight can get confusing. That’s why publishers who create very long series like Nancy Drew keep a “Bible” of series events, characters, and all background information to give to their authors.  I’ve learned from experiences like this and tried using a binder to keep books and details straight. It’s easy to mess up and give a blue-eyed character black eyes or forget that a character’s mother is dead and then have her walk into a room

Tomorrow, I’ll give some basic tips for creating series characters. In the meantime, if you have questions, just reply here.

— Linda Joy, who wrote on a writing school application at age 14 that she wanted to write her own series someday. And it happened.

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