What Defines a Book Series?

When I wrote Into the Darkness, I had in mind that there might be a couple books to follow, but at least one of them that I had in mind wasn't really a direct sequel, so I resisted calling Into the Darkness the first in a series. At first, this worked out ok.

Reviewers said they liked that it didn't end on a cliffhanger like so many other books, and even though I left the door open for future books, it wasn't set in stone. Then, The Taming came along, and that's when the questions started - is it a sequel to the first book, is it part of a series, etc. - and that's when I realized that I had to put more thought into the future of the Cathell books.

From there, I started to think about what really defines a book series. Everyone knows that books like Game of Thrones and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone are part of a series, all with direct sequels of each other. But, what if there aren't direct sequels, or some books are direct sequels and some aren't (like Into the Darkness and The Taming). Is it still a series?

If you Google "what is a book series", the top answer is from Wikipedia:

A book series is a sequence of books having certain characteristics in common that are formally identified together as a group.

That's a little vague, right? But, the gist of the matter is that as long as your books have certain common elements, like the characters or environment, it is still be a series, whether all books within the series interlock or not.

I think readers have come to look at multi-book series as being defined by a clear trilogy or a clear Book 1 - 7. I blame both publishing houses and enterprising authors for this trend. Numbered volume series tend to be bigger moneymakers than non-numbered volume series, partially because the cliffhanger that typically falls at the end keeps readers buying books.

But, this hasn't always been the case. Look at series like Dragonlance and Discworld. Although there are clearly defined arcs in some of those books, with numbered volumes, some of the books only have the world itself and the characters in common from one book to the next.

So, when I looked really hard at my two books and said, ok, is it a series? I had to say, yes, it is. It's just the Cathell series. There's no fancy name like The Godslayer Chronicles (which admittedly would be cool, and totally would be the series name, if the godslaying happened over multiple books). But, regardless, it is in fact a series.

Will there be books that interlock? Absolutely. I'm working on a couple right now.

Will there be characters in common across many of the books? Sure. How can I not have Thystle cross paths with her friends Aeryn and Theo again? The books take on a whole new dynamic when those three get together. There will also be characters who simply never rub elbows with the other three, and that's perfectly fine.

So, what's up next in the series?

First, we'll be visiting an apprentice knight who is blamed for the disappearance of her best friend, the king's youngest daughter. Then, we'll be circling back around to Aeryn and Theo for the first of several interlocking books that will bring Thystle back into the mix for at least two of them. Exciting stuff all around.

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Need some help developing your book series? I can help with that.