Series Books and When Should They End?


I have a lot more respect for authors who end their own series versus when the publisher does it due to poor sales. The latter really does make some readers really angry. Some long-standing series really do need to stop, Diana Gabaldon anyone? Gabaldon’s books are thousands upon thousands of pages long.

The protagonists in her books are probably in their 60’s by now or older. What many readers fear is that Gabaldon will kill off her characters when the series end or they will die (the reader) before she ever pens the last novel. My response to that is: how cruel either way you look at it.

How long should a series last? A series should last only as long as the author had originally intended. That doesn’t mean to write 5 additional books just because your sales are strong. I know that sounds crazy but coming from a consumer, it really isn’t. If the story arc is to last only 4 books then stick to it! Also, where is the subtlety? The surprise?

A lot of the time as I’m reading the first book in a new series, I’m being introduced to six brothers and two sisters along with a couple of cousins and all I can do is groan aloud at how many books that will take. I say, you’re no longer writing for the sake of story completion, no, you’re writing for a check.

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About Keishon

Voracious reader of just about everything.
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15 Responses to Series Books and When Should They End?

  1. Kat says:

    I so agree. And on a related note: not every secondary character needs to have a book of their own. Also, don’t change genres in the middle of a series. Finish up the arc, and start a new one if you must, but don’t take advantage of loyal readers.

  2. medumb says:

    Nothing against writing for a cheque, but realistically the fans can tell when the author is tired of the series. And I think it hurts more in the end than the benefits of keeping on with the series.

  3. Susan Laura says:

    “A lot of the time as I’m read­ing the first book in a new series, I’m being intro­duced to six broth­ers and two sis­ters along with a cou­ple of cousins and all I can do is groan aloud at how many books that will take.”

    HA! Did you just read “Outcast” by Joan Johnston, too? Not a bad storyline but I was incredibly distracted by the introduction of the hero’s huge family – 10 siblings plus his step-parents’ children. Oh, and his parents and step-parents are mired in drama, too. And ALL of these people are handsome and beautiful, tragic and sad but so worth redeeming by true love that of course they will have their own books. I was overwhelmed and not a little disappointed by the obvious set-up for future books. No thanks.

  4. Tee says:

    Some series should end after the first book (sorry, I had to say that, because there are some really bad series out there). I think most authors know when to end one, they just don’t want to. They must receive feedback, either directly or by diminishing sales from their readers, that the series is dragging. Quite frankly, I have a hard time with too many books focusing on the same characters continuously, even though the stories may be great. That’s only IMO, though. Something that shakes up the routineness of the people is good occasionally; but by and large I like fresh blood introduced from time to time. There are exceptions to this for me, of course; but overall those are my thoughts about continuing series. In the romance genre, I think it was Stephanie Laurens with her Cynster series who didn’t know how to say “The End.” And there are others also who kept refilling their inkwells when they should have left them to dry out.

  5. Lisa says:

    I recently blogged about series myself and didn’t even begin to address this particular aspect of it. It seems more obvious in romance novels when you get a family or 6 or 7 kids that everyone will have their own story. There are some family groups that I just don’t care about after a while, and some that still stay fresh. For someone who doesn’t read mainly romance (me) it seems like EVERY book is part of a set, there just aren’t many stand alones. This is both bad (if the series isn’t good) and good (makes choosing my next book easy, if it’s good.)

    One thing I do love is an author who has books set in the same town, but not connected other than that. Perhaps there will be a coffee shop waitress in both, but nothing you’d EVER know if you hadn’t read the other and nothing you’d ever need to notice at all. Sarah Dessen does this with her YA novels very well.

  6. handyhunter says:

    The pro­tag­o­nists in her books are prob­a­bly in their 60’s by now or older.

    But that’s one of the things I LIKE about this series…

    There are plenty of series I’ve stopped reading early on for various reasons, but a few I’ve stuck with because I love the characters and don’t think it’s gone stale or that the author is writing for a cheque more than for the story. The Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow is one of them — now 16 books long, and still going well. Maybe it helps that each book more or less stands alone; there are underlying threads that connect the books, but each individual installment is its own story. It also follows the titular character, instead of having sequels about different secondary characters (which I tend to think of as a different type of series, or not even a series at all, really).

  7. Popin says:

    I agree. Just because the sales are doing well, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t leave the series the way it was intended. If you continue, then the readers will be able to tell that your last book was just filler and not up to par.

    I don’t mind secondary characters getting their own books, if they’re interesting, and I don’t really count them as part of the series – unless you have to read that book in order to understand what happens in the books to come.

  8. SarahT says:

    I’m a couple of books behind in the Outlander series, so I won’t be storming a bookstore to pick up the latest installment.

    A series should have a foreseeable end. I hate it when series run and run, such as Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books. It’s painful to see a formerly good series go dramatically downhill.

    I don’t think any series should span more than a few books – unless the author introduces new characters and/or shifts the focus to keep the stories fresh. Although I adore Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Russ & Clare series, I do hope she intends to resolve their story arc in the near future and either end the series entirely, or spotlight different characters. It would be such a shame for a quality series like that to become stale.

  9. Bev Stephans says:

    After reading the comments, I don’t have much to add. It comes down to what the author is doing with the series. Does she/he keep it fresh? Does she/he keep it interesting? Do the characters grow as people or do they stay in an emotional quagmire?

    There are several series that I have quit reading because the protagonist(s) just didn’t move on.

  10. Kaetrin says:

    I agree that a series should end when it was originally planned to and each book should have a purpose. I remember a few years ago when I was reading Fantasy and I started reading Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. I got to book 5 and was really enjoying it but the next 2 or 3 (I stopped halfway through one of these and quit) NOTHING happened. The plot didn’t move and the characters didn’t advance. At the end, you could basically skip the whole book and not miss anything.

    Other than that, many of the romance series books seem to be stand alone but the next book is about the sister or the brother or the best friend. If there’s no overarching story arc I don’t feel concerned about how many books there are – I’ll read them while I enjoy them but it won’t be like not reading the last book of Lord of the Rings or anything – I’m not going to miss out on the end of the story (hope that makes sense).

    JD Robb’s “in Death” series is up to about book 27 ish now and I still feel there’s plenty of character growth left for Eve and Roarke, not to mention the secondary characters in the stories. And I just love reading them. But, each book is a stand alone and at the end of any given book the book the series could end there if Nora Roberts decided she’d had enough. I am happy to read the JD Robb books – they are like crack to me – but, if Nora Roberts ever gets to the point where she thinks she’s got nothing fresh to say, I agree with you that she should stop before it loses the magic. (hope it’s not for a good while though!)

  11. CindyS says:

    I’m with Kat – don’t change genres in the middle of a series!

    If a romance says book 1 of the ________ Series I’m already having to think before I buy it. Not every person you meet in the book is going to be someone you want to read about. It’s like suggesting you can be friends with every person you meet. It just doesn’t work that way and it feels like all the characters I don’t care about get a book before the one I do care about.

    Thankfully I’m not one that has to read a series in the order published. I tend to buy all the books in the series (drat it) but I’ll read the characters that most appeal to me first if the series is all out there.

    I think if J.K Rowling could walk away from Harry Potter then other authors should realize that a series can end. Hey, if the author still has a passion and the reader can feel that enthusiam the series can probably still work. When the author is just phoning it in for the money, the reader can tell. For me, Evanovich is just skating along – I made it to book 12 before I heard she never planned on the heroine to grow old or choose a guy. Once I knew that I didn’t need to read the series anymore.

    Leave the audience wanting more. It’s always nicer to have readers ask if you’ll ever revisit a series then have them ask when it’ll end.


  12. Tee says:

    CindyS: Leave the audi­ence want­ing more. It’s always nicer to have read­ers ask if you’ll ever revisit a series then have them ask when it’ll end.

    Great perspective in viewing series, CindyS.

  13. Jessica says:

    I mostly agree. I think there should be fewer series and less sequel baiting. My own personal rebellion has been to start and end series whenever I please. So I started JR Ward in the middle and read backwards, stopped Outlander after the third book (although I think she needed better editing, like Rowling at the end, I am glad Gabaldon didn’t dump her aging protagonists!), etc.

    So often the “series” concept is much more of a marketing ploy than a literary necessity, that it truly doesn’t matter what order you read them in. How’s that for skepticism?

    As far as keeping authors committed to end the series as planned originally, I don’t agree. I think writing is a creative process, and an author can find there’s more story to tell. Authors have to look into their hearts to know whether they are writing additional installments for bad reasons, or for legitimate ones, and they have to consider what effect it may have on the long term reputation of originally outstanding series to end with a whimper no one hears.

  14. Avid Reader says:

    thank you all.

    I do agree that Janet Evanovich is skating along and she has a core audience that seems to be buying her books. I won’t begrudge them their comfort reads but her books are like a record that keeps skipping.

    Jessica hit on a point that I do agree with in that if an author has a lot more to say than she had originally intended, hey write it. Agree with that.

    I do like a series to CHANGE maybe not like how Karin Slaughter did it but she did change the direction of her series and it is still interesting.

    Claire and Russ series – love them and I trust JSF to know when to close the door. If there’s a different focus or direction that might find traction, I’ll all for it but in the end though, I prefer the characters to have a nice ending.

  15. KristieJ says:

    With a few exceptions – four seems to be my magic number – especially when it comes to historicals. From 5 on, I get a bit tired of them. Part of me thinks series is the lazy way of doing things – you already have a lot of the characters established, but part of me enjoys going back and revisiting – so 4 seems to be the number.

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