Series or Standalone?


Active Member
Apr 10, 2010
So many writers that I have seen on here seem to be writing Book One of Trilogy, Quadrilogy, Whateverilogy.
My question is this; are you more likely to be published in the SFF market if you have a decent series than if you have a decent standalone book?
More learned people will be along any moment, but my understanding is that, particularly in Fantasy, you should at least have the potential, or a plan, for a trilogy.

Personally, it's so much work to get one book out, that I couldn't possibly do three, unless I had the capacity and money to write full-time.
I agree many people here do say they are planning trilogys or Whateverilogy (nice word by the way) I personaly am writing a single novel with my own fantasy world, but do plan on writing more using the same world. Just a bunch of single novels int my world, there is allways the possibility in the future I may write triogy or something. But for now I'm fine with A Wanderers Will - Adam T. Parkinson ;) (me)
I'm writing an epic-fantasy duology(around 400+ pg for each book), and a modern Urban fantasy trilogy(around 300pg f.e.b). I can't stretch the duology into a trilogy, because it will destroy the story, and similarly I can't crop the trilogy into a standalone (or a duology) for the very same reason.

It would be cool though if, you could one day submit a manuscript and inform the Publishers that its part of a Decalogy. :D
I have also heard that the possibility of a sequel is a good selling-point for a potential publisher.

I myself, have written a first draft novel, and I have stories in my head for at lest five sequels. I just can't help myself.
I'm planning on a trilogy, but I was wondering whether this would be a help or hindrance.
My understanding is that having at least one sequel is a virtual pre-requisite to getting a publishing contract in SFF at present. It's undoubtedly different for well-established authors who might want to put out a one-off stand-alone, but for the rest of us it means having to have follow-ups.

Though having said that, I know of one recently published book from a newcomer which was a stand-alone -- at least I've heard nothing of any follow-up, though it's possible he intends to use the characters again (though I'm not sure how). **

Anyway, having plans for a trilogy is unlikely to be a hindrance, kopiteste. But there may well be a difference between writing a book which can have two sequels, and writing one ginormous thing of 450,000 words and having to split it into three parts. Which of those it is easiest to place, all other things such as writing ability being equal, I don't know.

**EDIT: I hadn't heard because I hadn't bothered looking... :eek: Just checked and the book I was thinking of isn't part of a trilogy but the setting, if not the characters, is used in two other books, which is presumably enough.
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This is a question I sometimes turn a few of my brain-cells to pondering, too. My WIP is intended to be one of a series. Its main story arc comes to a (hopefully satisfactory) conclusion, but it's obvious from the way several important questions aren't answered that it forms part of a larger story too. So it seems to fall somewhere between the "standalone with potential for sequels" and "fraction of longer narrative" stools, and I'm not sure how best to describe it when I try to sell it.
If you're writing fantasy, I suspect it will need to be either the first part of a series of at least three (but preferably about 4000) books, or failing that have the potential for numerous sequels written all over it. SF slightly less so - the novel of ideas still exists in science-fiction, as does the futuristic war story (although these often are in series). Personally, I can't see how fantasy is supposed to grow as a genre if every single book is meant to be a vast sprawling epic about the entire world going to war, but that's what seems to be the rule, presumably because that's what sells.
On the advice given here HareBrain, if I was you I would sell it as "part of a longer narrative." Thanks for the advice everyone!
Considering how long it takes me to write 1000 words, writing enough to fill a trilogy seemed incomprehensible to me. Then when I actually started planning and writing my current thing, I realised I had way more plot than would fit in one book. I guess because (most) stories naturally have three distinct parts (beginning, middle, end) it makes sense to divide them into three books if they're too big to fit into one. Or if the publisher wants more money.
I guess because (most) stories naturally have three distinct parts (beginning, middle, end) it makes sense to divide them into three books if they're too big to fit into one.

But each of those three sections should have its own beginning, middle and end. A book that's all beginning can leave readers frustrated, unless they can move on to the next one straight away.
Personally, I think it's best to do whatever you need to tell your story the best way you can. I don't worry too much about numbers, much as I don't worry too much about other details that won't be relevant until I have a book deal. I find it limits my writing too much to be trying to squeeze things in/ stretch things out, worry about word counts and so on.

Though I have changed my behemoth of a trilogy to two separate ones that occur at the same time, I did this more because my story was too big, themes getting lost, the whole thing generally spiralling out of control. I think that's when you should worry, and you certainly shouldn't butcher/stretch a story just to fulfil whatever is fashionable or marketable.

Write the best story you can, and to hell with the number of books/ words/ whatever.
But each of those three sections should have its own beginning, middle and end. A book that's all beginning can leave readers frustrated, unless they can move on to the next one straight away.
I was probably being more simplistic than I meant to, but yeah. Obviously to maintain interest each of the books needs to be a somewhat self-contained story.
The reason that a series is preferred is that it is difficult to get someone to pick up a book by an author that they don't know and to read it. If you're around longer, with more books out, people will get to know you better and be more likely to pick your stuff up. The publisher, and the retailer, are looking to make money off you and this is more likely to happen with incremental sales. I've read in plenty of places that first books rarely make up their advance. There are exceptions to every rule, but don't assume you're one. If you want to get published by a mainstream publishing house, they have to know that you're likely to be a sound investment. If you have one idea, one story to tell and that's it, then they're not likely to take the risk because the customer is not likely to take the risk. If you're writing for yourself, then write your single book. If you're an established author then you have the customer attraction already there. If you want to get started writing commercially, then a series is the more secure route.

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