Series? Or Stand-alone books?
Oh, series. I was organizing my Review Directory by series yesterday, and I’d just like to take a moment to tell non-speculative fiction authors that a snappy title for a series works wonders; compare and contrast His Dark Materials and The Karen Vail Novels. If it has an internal chronology, it’s a series; own it! Love it!
But the thing is, series are hard to do, and many authors screw it up. Ideally, each installment in a series ought to be a standalone novel—yeah, it makes more sense and works better when read as part as the series, but you should be able to pick up Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and be able to follow along and enjoy that novel’s story. The novel is the basic unit of a series, and it irritates me to no end to see authors think that splitting manuscripts in two is how you do it. It’s not—the only author I’ve see pull this off successfully is Jacqueline Carey in The Sundering, and she paid attention to pacing and structure to pull it off. I was hugely disappointed when The Innocent Mage and Pegasus pulled this. On her website, Robin McKinley called the sequel to Pegasus “a sequel like THE RETURN OF THE KING is a sequel to THE TWO TOWERS“, which I’ve always found flippant, considering The Lord of the Rings is a single novel. In fact, with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien does a series right—they’re richer in tandem, but aren’t required to understand each other.
I guess I do prefer standalone novels—in series or one-shots.