Would you rather only read or write standalones or only trilogies? I know it gets annoying when I answer every question with “it depends on the problem you’re solving for.” Except, you know, it does.
There was a time when I had far more time to read. I would devour a novel a day. Trilogies and series were a godsend, because I didn’t have to think about what I was going to read next. If it wasn’t the series, then it was another book by the same author.
Now, because my reading time is precious and I consume books more slowly, I prefer standalones. By the time I finish a novel, I’m ready to switch things up. There are too many other authors that I want to get to. The limitation on how much I’m able to read puts my focus more on quality than quantity. Not that you can’t have both, but classics and literary fiction tend to be one-off novels.
From a commercial standpoint, if I could create a series that would keep people coming back for me I’d ride that train until I ran out of creative steam. I know that good sales on the first book don’t guarantee good sales on the second, third, or fifteenth book. From a marketing standpoint, though, having multiple books available creates the impression that the series is successful. You wouldn’t create writing them if they weren’t selling. The implication is that they wouldn’t keep selling if they weren’t any good. So people are more inclined to buy them.
As a creator, though, I prefer to write one-offs. It’s the same as my current approach to reading. There are a lot of things I want to write. Not all of those things fit nearly into a single universe, let alone one series. I want to be able to try different things. The whole reason I’m writing my current work-in-progress (a standalone) is because it is markedly different from my “day job” writing (which could be classified as multiple series).
The Merry Writer is a writer’s game on Twitter run by Ari Meghlen (@arimeghlen) and Rachel Poli (@RPoli3). Each day there’s a new question, and each month there’s a new theme. In these posts I expand upon the answers that I’ve posted on my Twitter.