A key thing that has come out of my writing conferences this summer is that publishers prefer series to standalone novels in the Mystery genre. This leads me to a couple of questions:

1. Do you prefer to read about the same characters over and over, like Harry Bosch or Dave Robicheaux, or do you like the odd standalone, i.e. T Jefferson Parker or Elmore Leonard?

2. Does the setting of the book matter to you? Is it Cabot Cove or New York City that floats your boat?

3. Do you prefer reading a first person or third person mystery?

I started out with a NYC novel as part of the 9/11 healing process. My intention was to write a novel set in Columbus, Ohio next, but I've scrapped that one to write a sequel. My first book, unReQuiTeD, is a first person/second person, mixed POV. The next one, Patron Saint is straight first person. I find it very difficult to write in the 3rd.

My thought now is to work in trilogies.

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1. Series. Not just any series for the sake of series, but following characters I love. It isn't so much about the plot as it is getting to know more about them. Someone on 4MA put it as 'catching up with an old friend' and that's a big part of the appeal. With a few exceptions (Laura Lippman) I feel no sense of urgency to read a standalone book. I'll bump a series ahead usually to keep up with it.

2. NYC and LA don't do it for me. Generalizing here a bit, but overused locales run the risk of becoming stale for me, or coming off like a stereotype. There are stories where the setting isn't crucial, but in terms of appeal I'm drawn to a different setting over the same old same old.

3. Third for me. If a book is in first and I can't stand the protagonist, I'm more likely to abandon the book. And I like seeing things from different perspectives, seeing how it all comes together.
1. I like both - Some of my favourite books are series, some are standalones. I like comedy caper/thriller type stuff and many of those seem to be standalones. Plus I also really love noir and you can't really have a noir series.

2. The setting doesn't matter at all to me. I'll read books set anywhere.

3. Again, I have no preference either way and again, some of my favourites are first person and some are third.

Sorry - that's not very helpful is it?!
1. prefer standalones unless it's Hammett's Continental Op ;)
2. makes no difference
3. doesn't much matter as long as it's well-written. Hell, even 2nd person can work (Rex Stout's :How Like a God")
1. I prefer a series, once I find a character(s) I like, and want to see how they grow and what happens to them. The series can get old if nothing ever changes with the characters, but I'll admit to having stuck with one series in particular, even though I think the writer's just going throuhg the motions, just because I like the two main characters so much. That doesn't mean I don't read everything Elmore Leonard and carl Hiaasen write, just that I often finish a book and would love to read more about this guy.

2. The setting has to match the story; that's why I like to set things in Chicago and Pittsburgh. The neighborhoods (and criminal traditions) allow the tone or the setting to be adjusted for each scene, if necessary, without having to move too far afield. Cabot Cove is okay, up until it has been virtually depopulated. Small town work better in standalones, except when they may be close to a larger city, or have something unque about them. (Good entry point for smugglers, for instance.)

3. POV depends on how best to tell that story. I have no preference.
1. I love series, although I really enjoy Harlen Coben's stand alones and The Devil's Bed by William Kent Krueger. Series give me the chance to know the character better and see how he or she grows. Of course once they stop growing, I lose interest.
2. Big cities or small towns? Doesn't matter if the story is a good one. Well-developed characters are what make the difference for me, even in thrillers.
3. Either works for me, although I find it harder to write in first person. I'm not a big second person POV fan. It takes a great talent to make that work well.
I prefer to read a good series because I like to get to know the protagonists. Settings matter so long as they are unfamiliar or in places I love (like London or Venice or even my childhood home town). I do not like series that celebrate a particular region in the U.S. Overall, I like police procedurals set in foreign countries -- though I do accommodate Hillerman.

As a writer I have learned that investing in a series is a very dangerous proposition. Publishers do not buy into continuing. A standalone is a much smaller risk.
I'm curious about your last comment. Everything I have heard says publishers are inetrested in "franchises," which implies a series. Your experience is obviously different. Have you had trouble selling a series?
I agree with I.J. in that I think that the climate for sustaining a series has changed. It used to be that a traditional series could go and on slowly but steadily gaining a fan base. I think that the time frame for a series breaking out has dramatically shortened. (What do you think, I.J.? Three books?) With a New York publisher, you usually have to deliver a book at least once a year plus making sure you make time for promotion, which can eat away two to three months. So that doesn't leave you much time to keep improving on the series (which needs to sell better than the previous one, remember?).

Publishers like series because if you have a good one, you don't have to keep looking for a readership from scratch. You have a built-in audience. Each book can help promote the next one or the previous one.
I think I like the idea of doing a trilogy first. After that, I've either gained a readership or I've failed and it doesn't matter what I do next. After all, what's the difference between a tarnished detective who can't detect and a tarnished writer who can't write? We are both anti-heroes. I hope it's the laughter that's making me cry.

Have a great weekend y'all!
Right, Naomi. My first publisher bought two books but decided after the first not to offer another contract. Actually, they wanted to wait to see if the second sold, but I pulled out rather than losing more than a year. My brilliant agent found another publisher (and anyone can tell you that that is a near miracle after one publisher has dropped a series).
So you'd better be prepared to be judged on the sales of the first novel.
Another thing that has changed is that publishers no longer promote series. I'm all for publishing more frequently than once a year (people forget a good read in a year), but that isn't likely to happen. And book stores do not keep books on their shelves if they don't have a rapid turnover. They send them back to the publisher (who takes this very badly).
Arrgh! Don't get me started. I'm still going, but the fear is always there. And a good deal of anger at the system.
I prefer a series, when reading, but I have started the 2nd, 3rd and 4th sequels to Medusa's Curse, (only the 2nd has Medusa returning!!), numbers 3 & 4 are different storylines, but with the the main protagonists, and there are several from the initial story.

If working on a new story idea, I tend to use UK based cities, with my main characters also moving about Europe or the US.

3rd person POV for both reading and writing, although I have to say I have struggled to read books in the 1st person... I don't know why, except perhaps I watch too much TV and films, as they're generally made so that the camera is supposed to be you looking on in on the action... (at least that's how I look at it!)
This is always tough for the unpublished writer, too. When I wrote my first novel, I envisioned it as the beginning of a series. However, when that book didn't sell to a publisher, it was pointless to write the next book. The next few manuscripts became stand-alones with series potential, but they didn't sell either and I began to feel a bit limited by trying to give them an ending that would easily result in a sequel. My latest works have all been uncompromising stand-alones, but if one of them ever sells, I'm sure I can come up with a sequel idea or two if that's what the publisher wants.


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