Must Every SF/F Work be a Series?
Asking for a friend.
Actually, I’ve just started listening to the Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast–yes, I know I am a bit late to that game–and the first episode I chose dealt primarily with writing series.
Here’s my thing: I generally find the idea of planned series to be morally objectionable. More often than not today, works are developed into series solely for marketing and profit concerns, not because the story requires it. This often leads to stories that could be completed in one volume being broken up and expanded for the sake of serialization and increased sales. This isn’t just a book thing; look at how taken Hollywood is with series, sequels and reboots. Hollywood even took the last book of already a long, repetitive series and split it into two films (Mockingjay). It has always struck me as a dishonest way to treat customers.
The author interviewed during the podcast episode in question, and one of the hosts even, discussed planning works as a series from the outset, and going from one series into a new series.
Of course, there are may benefits for a author writing series. Among those discussed on the podcast were expanding the author’s presence, being able to promote book 2 when you do launch and release events for book 1, and having intersecting works to keep readers engaged (read: strung along).
But what are the benefits of series for the reader? I’m a consumerist by ideology, and I think the needs and rights of customers should have primary emphasis. Yeah, I might be in the wrong business. Also, as a writer and storyteller, I think the story should take primacy over marketing concerns. But this is probably an easy way to not be successful in the current market.
Speaking of consumerism, the second episode I listened to dealt with an equally troubling problem in my mind: preorders.
As with series, there are benefits to authors doing preorders–the ability to promote unreleased works at the launch events of earlier volumes being, again, a primary one. But the current preorder, early access culture of entertainment is ripe for abuse.
One such issue was brought up during the discussion that represents precisely why preordes are problematic, and both the hosts and the person being interviewed (the founder of SmashWords) were far on the wrong side, as far as I am concerned. The problem of missing released dates was mentioned, and the SmashWords founder criticized Amazon for punishing authors who missed their prerelease deadlines, while staing his platform would never do so. He even went as far to suggest it was okay for authors to be late by weeks. No mention was made on how this would affect readers.
Why shouldn’t authors who miss their deadlines face repercussions? How is it acceptable for an author to break their promise to consumers, ones who have already given up their money in return for nothing but such promises? How can that be acceptable behavior?
I don’t plan to begin writing series after series. While I have some works that have the potential for sequels, I did not write them with that in mind, and I don’t plan on writing my future novels and novellas that way either. I am all for writing multiple stories in the same setting, with the same characters (such as my Storm Hamilton stories), I write each to stand alone. The exception being my fantasy series Call of the Guardian, but that was written for a serial publisher. Even so, I only have two seasons of that series planned, not three or six or ten. If I write more in that setting, I plan them to be independent spin-offs.
So my question for all of you is: does everything have to be a series? Must we use exploitative marketing techniques like serial planning, preorders, and other things that are not in the best interest of our customers?
I am really torn by this. I want to be successful and make money, but I also want to follow my moral views as well. Is that even possible?
I’d love to hear what you have to think about this.
Thanks for reading.