It’s not a new topic, I’m sure. And still. I would like to know your opinion. Some reader (fans ? acolytes ?) claim that readers new to a series have to start with the first instalment of it (Ian Rankins or Karin Slaughters series have been named). Do you have to ? Is there any real necessity ? What do you think ?

I like to read books and not series and I would think that a good writer can sum up the life of his/her protagonist in a few word, so that there is no need to read all the books you don’t care for. Therefore, far more interesting, can you give examples ? Serials where the reading of the whole series brought something new to you, like shattering your expectations build up in earlier instalments of this series - expectations regarding the plot line or the authors style.

One example: William Kent Krueger leads his protagonist, Cork O’Conner in the earlier instalments of his series through some tough personal crises, so after “Blood Hollow”, where O’Connors life settles down, one wonders whether Kruger can keep the drive up in this series. Obviously Krueger realized that and surprised the reader with a stunning final in his next book, “Mercy Falls”. You don´t have to read the series but in this case it adds to the fun.

Can you think of more examples ? Please, brain me up, please.

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or in german, but that will not help I fear.

You raised an important point. The serial aspect of translated books is in germany also no issue. With Rankin (e.g.) they started in 1999 (after Black and Blue) and published parallel two books a year. A new one and an old one (but these in the correct order). But what could the publisher do ?
What publishers publish often makes no sense. I have run into problems of having books published out of sequence both in the United States and in Germany.
Years ago I gave up on any possibility of obsessing over reading anything in order - mostly because I never seem to be able to buy in order and the idea of leaving something sitting until I can find the earlier books - well that's just too organised for me. Of course, organised makes me break out in hives and hyperventilate so maybe I just like to read out of order to be contrary. Who knows.

But I do think that an individual entry in a series has to be able to stand alone - otherwise it's a bit unfair on the reader who can't do the in-order thing even if they want to.
I'm not particularly bothered about reading series out of order - particularly as I like reading authors in translation, and it often seems to be a lottery which titles are even translated, let alone in which order. It tends to be a title or synopsis or review which grabs me, so even in a bookstore with a choice including first in a series, I would go for whichever appealed most, rather than purchasing the first.
I hear from a lot of readers who won't even start a series if they can't get hold of the first book. Others read them at random and then go back to the beginning to read them in order. Obviously the first title is the most important, and some people won't even notice a few gaps, but I hear from both readers and booksellers desperate to find one title or another.

A question for anyone who writes or reads mystery series: How important is it to have all the titles in a series available? Especially the first book?

My amateur sleuth, Daisy Dalrymple ,recently had her 17th brush with crime (Black Ship, 2008). Of the 16 titles already published, almost all are out of print in hardcover, and 5-6 are presently not available in paperback either--some not even used at a viable price. Last month I ordered some copies of Death at Wentwater Court, the first in the series, from my pb publisher only to be told they had none in the warehouse.

When I notified my pb editor, he was very quick off the mark--within a couple of weeks they reprinted. But the other unavailable titles are going to reprint on a schedule spread out over the whole of next year.

How many readers do you reckon I'm losing?

I know I'm very lucky a/to have a series run so long; b/to have the earlier books reprinted, even if not constantly in print. But I needed to rant a bit about that, so if you read this far, thank you for your patience!
We have no control over keeping our books available. For that matter, we can't even control the big book store chains carrying anything but the latest one. And, yes, I care very much. I have to deal with all those e-mails.

But even more important is that readers forget quickly. If the next book is not available until a year or more after the last one, you have lost readers. For a beginning author this is particularly deadly.
Fortunately, here in Columbus OH we have one of the best library systems in the country. I search for the specific book I want online, reserve it and have it shipped to my closest branch. As much as I read, I have to budget myself, I can't buy every one. I do try to read most in order.
Yes, there is an interlibrary loan system. I also use the library, but I like to buy books by authors I particularly admire. I think most writers hope that their readers feel the same way. I have had any number of desperate e-mails from readers who were frustrated that HELL SCREEN has (temporarily) gone out of print.
I agree that it's a treat to own the books of your favorite authors. One of the reasons I attended the Killer Nashville mystery writers conference (a great experience that I'd recommend for all of you) in the summer was because of the guest of honor, Michael Connelly. I was speaking more to the finding of new (to you) authors. It's a lot easier to find the 3rd in a series of 12 at the library than it is at a bookstore.

If you insist on buying, both Amazon and Barnes have reciprocal deals with hundreds of Indie bookstores and you can find almost any book by searching on their web sites. I've never failed to find an out of print book by searching these websites.

On that note, where do you buy your books? It's interesting to me to see the prevalence of New, Used, Hardback, Trade, Mass Market, et al. I for one hate mass market paperbacks. I refuse to buy them unless it's a very short book. I do find that books under 200 pages make a tiny, and somewhat elegant paperback. I'd also prefer to buy one signed hardback by an author I love, than five books at the same price that I'm indifferent about. I think I'm tetched in da head.
We have no indies, and I hate both B&N and Borders. I buy from amazon.
FYI, Margot, in case you missed the first book in my series (Death at Wentwater Court) it's now available in large print. And if you have any other titles missing that are now out of print, I have copies available of most. I like to see a librarian who's serious about getting hold of complete series ;-)
You can find a complete list of the mysteries on my website: (at least I'm pretty sure that's right! If not, just do the first half and click on the mystery link.)

The last 5-6 hardcovers have terrific art, since my editor found an artist we both really like. I get to see them in time to request changes, which helps. The earlier covers vary--some are a bit peculiar. All the paperbacks are pretty good. They're a different publisher, who, incidentally, didn't start with the series until 7 were out in hc. As a result they were putting out 3 pbs a year until they caught up. And then readers were wondering why they had to wait for the next in the series!

I'm attaching my favourite hc and pb covers. Don't know how this works--so we shall see.


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