Thursday, July 14, 2011

What Do You Think (1) : Series Burnout?

My love for series probably started way back when, during my early reading years, with The Babysitters Club. Just for fun, here is the original cover and the re-release from last year. What a difference a few years , OK decades, make. (An interesting fact from wiki: When publishing ceased in 2000, there had been 213 novels published in the series.)

Kristy's Great Idea (The Babysitters Club)

I've just recently discovered that for series going beyond a trilogy (Harry Potter, Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead, A House of Night by P.C. Cast + Kristin Cast and The Iron Fey by Julie Kagawa and The Mortal Instruments by Cassie Clare to name a few) I have a love/hate relationship. I am a loyal reader. I continue a series even if I didn't enjoy one of the books, but wonder if I wouldn't have been left more satisfied with a trilogy. Charlaine Harris announced yesterday that her Sookie Stackhouse series would end at book 13...13!  I worry that a series just runs out of steam and I'd rather it be left on a high note.

Marked (House of Night, Book 1)The Iron King (Harlequin Teen)City of Bones (Mortal Instruments)Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy, Book 1)

The draw of a series for me is living in that world for years to come.You become emotionally attached to the characters and know everything about them: what they like/don't like, who they love/hate, what they would do/won't do. As someone who loves character driven stories, it's like an amazing journey!

The flip side is that what comes along with being so invested in a series is expectations. The ending of the previous book ends in a cliffhanger of sorts and you NEED to know what happens next. You need to see that character grow and learn from their mistakes. As the books progress, not only do you love to see new conflict, you also want answers.  The longer the series goes, the more expectations we make, but the problem with that is sometimes we don't always get what we hoped for.

So just how long is too long for a series before you feel the story is getting stale? With generally a one year gap in between books, will you still be as passionate about the books 4,5,6 years from now?  (Julie Kagawa is an exception here, releasing every few months either a novel or short story - she is a writing machine!) Maybe I just have a limited attention span or am impatient (probably both), but Harry Potter aside, I'm beginning to wonder if I prefer a trilogy or maybe a spin off.  I'm loving the Infernal Devices (the spin off of Mortal Instruments) and am eager to read and Bloodlines (which takes place in Vampire Academy's world). There's still that familiar element but the story can start fresh... plus if the story is only three books long I get my resolution sooner :D

What do you think? What keeps you coming back for more and when do you think enough is enough? What series do you love and what have you given up on? Do you think Julie (and Harlequin) are onto something here by releasing more frequently?


  1. There are way to many series out there now. I love the Stacia Kane Ghosts, and Chloe Neill Chicagoland Vamps Series but the next book better wow in me in finishing the series, because I didn't like that cliffhanger.

    I think if a series is over 7 then I get concerned about staying with it. I also love Julie's writing so maybe those publishers are doing something right.

    I don't think there is a magicial number with series but another aspect is the trilogios and all the hype from Book 2 to book 3. There is always disappintment around.

  2. Julie ~ that's it, how does a book keep it's charm & get better and better with every book? True, sometimes book 2's are the worst, maybe there is no perfect answer. I've come to the conclusion that if I love the writing I'd like more from an author then the same thing over and over - I like variety & would follow them where ever they want to take me!

  3. There are so many books in series' that I own/love: Diana Gabaldon, Kathy Reichs, Particia Cornwell, MC Beaton, and my all time fave, David Eddings.

    BUT, it depends on the series which I'll continue with and which I'll give up on. I've just read Cornwell's 18th Scarpetta novel and I feel I've lost the love for it. The characters never went where I thought they would. Gabaldon's books are massive and I had lost interest in the middle of book 5 or 6 I think but want to get back to it one day (Jamie Fraser is to die for...and a highlander, fyi, lol). Edding's Belgariad and Mallorean books totalled 10 in the series and I have read them all 3 or 4 times. Every time I do, I want's the ones series I would have really liked continued...forever.

    I have 2 of J.D. Robb's books, and if you think more than a trilogy is bad, her "In Death" series is up to 42 installments (including novellas); people still love them. Great question :-)

  4. Very interesting topic. I love series, I've been loyal to many of them. But I agree that I'd rather know there's an end coming up than let it die slowly.

    I stopped reading the Sookie book 3 books ago..I used to love this series but it got less interesting with each new book.
    If I look at my TBR shelves I can see MANY books from series I just stopped caring about.

    I found I like trilogies best. I want closure.

    On the other hand there's always exceptions to the rule. I cannot get enough of the Dresden Files and we're on book 12 or something now.

    Huge # of books can be scary too. I know I have a hard time trying to start the Death series because I know there's just WAY too many of them. And I'm too tempted to read spoilers LOL

  5. Jackie ~ yes there are definitely exceptions (Harry Potter which I consider in a league of it's own anyhow). I would probably say series that use the same main character, like a cop, investigator etc, but where plot is sort of standalone may also be an exception here...Kathy Reichs and James Patterson for instance. Darn you for reminding me that I will be in love with the Gabaldon series, well part of it anyways ;)

    Caro ~ Glad I'm not alone. I think Dresden falls into the exception of new case so you get variety. I should check them out! Yes, the size can be intimidating though.

  6. I think that VA was just the right amount of books, and I am really happy wit h how HP went, but with HON and Morganville Vampires I am really starting to lose interest and I am only buying the books now t osee what happens with them.

  7. Michelle ~ yes, I was happy with VA too. That I think is the problem, you eventually lose the passion to read the story, it's more like a routine to keep reading them :(

  8. I love reading series. It's interesting how characters and how the author's writing develops :)

    Some though, I just give up because it just didn't interest me or I thought they were just utterly..well let's just say my eyes would hurt after a while.

    I don't mind about series length. It just depends on how the storyline is going.

  9. I think this is a wonderful question. And I think it's different for every author and every series. But I just saw Kelley Armstrong is going for her 13th book in Women of the Underworld Series. WOW! But I think this series focuses on different characters for a while as well. So same world and minor characters become major characters. This idea is interesting and new readers could pick up with the new narrator. But, some times series over do their stay and start repeating story lines. That is when I think it's time to retire the characters, or kill them off. ;D But So far I've been enjoying the trilogies that turn longer. I just hope they don't over do themselves as well.

  10. As much as I love the concept of a series (where you can really get to know the characters), I must confess to a bit of series burnout at the moment. I'm longing for a pair of books, or a standalone book that is thoughtful, well-written and makes you sigh with delight when its over. Sadly, these seem to be few and far between these days.
    I adore the Women of the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong (they are autobuys for me), and wouldn't miss the latest by Cassandra Clare, so I'm all about a well-written and interesting series, but still.... every one dreams of a fantastic one off (minds out of the gutter, people. I'm talking books). Perhaps that's why I'm one of the few to rejoice when a favourite author does an interesting standalone novella or alternative piece. I love their writing style and voice, but just need something more from them to keep me going.
    I get it - I really do - that publishers want writers to be successful so that the publishing house will be successful, and trilogies and beyond are really popular right now, just like sequels in the movies. However, what's wrong with that perfect little one-off novel? Sometimes everything you need to know about a story can be summed up in one book.

  11. I'll keep going as long as the characters remain interesting and the stories fresh. I find as much as I enjoy a series, many of the longer ones suffer from a book 4 or book 5 slump and then my interest wanes and I let it go. The series I have followed all the way- like Vampirates and Skulduggery Pleasant to name a couple, have a clear story arc, with characters who grow and evolve. Too much of the same just gets old.

  12. Great post! Growing up (especially in the 90's) that's all there was out there - tons of series! I was such a series freak. I still love series, but I'm more of a trilogy reader. I read a lot of books, and if there are year gaps between releases - I don't remember half the stuff that happened. Then some other series I get into, after the 6th book comes out, I'm thinking okay why is this still going on? Nothing is getting resolved and I cannot wait every year or so to find out what's going to happen next. Kind of why with a lot of series, I wait until just about all the books are out before I get into them. (Only exepctions so far have been Iron Fey - but like you said Julie is writing machine, She's So Dead To Us series, and a few others.)

  13. I really have a love / hate relationship with series as well. I mean, I love them in the sense that you get more time with a character and know there is more coming... but really, can authors not tell a full story in one book anymore?! I am sick of having to keep up with so many!

  14. I don't mind series, I just wish that every single new book wasn't part of a series.