Would Moby-Dick or The Great Gatsby work out as a series? Well, to an extent, I can see possibilities. A book as long as Moby-Dick, some 206,000 words, could supply a bounty of plots and subplots for a series. And Gatsby? It’s short, just 47,000 words, but oh the characters! I can envision prequels and plenty else. Consider how, in Gatsby: My Story, Michael Spindler brilliantly fleshed out Fitzgerald’s work even if his Gatsby differed radically from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s.
Just the same, I’d hate for standalone books to be on the decline, and I appreciate Moby-Dick and Gatbsy as finished stories.
The standalone-vs.-series issues arises by way of a KBoard post where the writer asked: “From a sales perspective, is there any point in writing a stand alone horror novel? I know it seems like everyone who is successful in indie publishing writes series, and I’m currently writing one, but many of my other ideas as ‘one offs’ that I don’t feel could be spun into a series. Would it be a waste of time (in terms of potential financial earnings) to write a few stand alone novels too?”
Yes, I know—“from a sales perspective.” But in an era where lines are blurring between the commercial and the literary, who knows what’s ahead?
If nothing else, will the long-term move to e-books exacerbate the problem? E, after all, makes series more attractive. Without hassles, you can carry all the installments everywhere and easily refresh your memory about books read earlier. No masses of pulped wood to mess with. Just a thin slab of plastic in the form of a cell phone, tablet or dedicated reader.
I say “problem” with a quote in mind from the late Andrew Turnbull’s biography of Fitzgerald. Turnbull tells how Fitzgerald’s second published novel, The Beautiful and the Damned, differed from his first, This Side of Paradise. He writes: “Fitzgerald, with the instinct that distinguishes an artist from a self-repeating hack, had tried something new.” Will the current popularity of series make writers more reluctant to grow with new characters, new plots and new mileus?
That said, it isn’t as if series are inherently trashy. Look at all the proof to the contrary. Arthur Conan Doyle, for example, hardly limited Sherlock Holmes to one book. He even featured the master detective in plays.
So what’s your own take on series vs. stand-alone book—in literary terms as well as commercial ones?