As a new or upcoming author, you may be wondering whether you should write a single title book or a series of books featuring the same characters. While this is a personal choice most of the time. Sometimes books automatically turn themselves into multiple books. In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between a single book and a series.
Single Title Books
A single title book is one book with one set of characters. When the book ends, that’s the end of those characters, the plot and all the subplots. This means that the author must write the book in such a way as to leave no loose ends. The major plots and subplots must all reach a conclusion by the last page. Once the book is finished, the author is free to work on their next book idea.
Pros of Single Title Books
- They are much easier to write for the author.
- There’s no need to keep track of character events and plot points across multiple books.
- There’s no need to develop complex subplots in order to carry each separate book.
- Once you finish the book, you’re done with that set of characters and that plot.
- They can be much faster to write then the individual books of a series.
Cons of Single Title Books
- Once a reader finishes the book, they may move on to another author rather than picking up another one of your single title books.
- They don’t tend to develop a long-term readership.
- Single title books can be harder to sell.
- It can be harder to build an author brand with single title books.
With the pros and cons being said, there are authors who have done very well with primarily single title books, including Stephen King and Danielle Steel. However, it’s important to note that these authors are all extremely prolific, and they were able to create a brand of books from their own names. Stephen King has written close to 75 novels in his career. Danielle Steel is known for Romance books, but she’s also written children’s and non-fiction books. She’s written more than 141 novels. Interesting fact, Danielle Steel and Stephen King were both born in 1947. Danielle Steel is one month older than Stephen King.
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Series books are multiple books that feature the same main characters. These books can be written linearly, meaning that the first book is the earliest timeframe and the last book is the latest timeframe. Linearly written series books tend to contain one major plot and each book is a subplot that eventually leads to the conclusion of the major plot. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll use the Harry Potter books as an example. The overarching plot was to kill Voldemort. Each book was a major subplot. In the first book, we meet Harry and the gang as they all go to Hogwarts. The overall goal of this book is for Harry to find the sorcerers stone and learn that Voldemort is still alive, just not quite in his wizard body. Readers also learn a little bit about Harry’s past and that his parents were killed by Voldemort. With each progressive book, Harry learns more about his past and more about Voldermorte while getting closer to finding the evil wizard. In the last book, Harry kills Voldemort, and the series ends.
The second way to write a series of books is with the same characters. Books that have gone this route are typically mysteries or crime books where the same detective or sleuthy individual(s) solves each case. Book series that feature the same major characters include Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew, Hercule Poirot Mysteries and Detective Jason Smith. These books may or may not be written linearly. Instead, the one constant is that the same main character or characters always solves the case.
Pros of Writing a Series
- It’s easier to build a readership with a series.
- There’s no need to develop a new set of characters.
- All books can contain the same basic plot or overarching plot.
- A series can include any number of books.
- The longest book series to date is the Hardy Boys with 200 main books and 400 sub-series books.
Cons of Writing a Series
- It can be more difficult to write consistently good books in a series.
- They take a long time to write.
- Each book must have a strong subplot that contributes to the major plot of the series and moves the books forward. (for linear series)
- The author can run out of ideas (for mystery and crime book series)
- Small details may be forgotten and accidentally changed from book to book. (If the main char has a 30-acre farm in book 1 and a red truck, he can’t have a 40-acre farm and a blue truck in book 2 (unless that was written in somewhere that he got a new truck and more land))
- The author will spend a lot of time rereading the previous books in the series in order to maintain consistency.
Which Should You Write?
When it comes to determining if you should write a single title book or a series, it’s up to you. Mostly. If you have a simple cast of characters and a simple plot, you can most likely write it as a single title. If you have a complex set of characters and a major overarching plot, then you may want to create a series. Of course, nearly all my single title ideas have turned into series books, so you may start out with what you think is a small 80k single title book and realize months later that you’re at 150k words, and you should probably make it a series.
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