Friday, June 7, 2013

Do You Stand Alone?

by L.J. Sellers, author of provocative mysteries & thrillers

Sandra Parshall, who happens to be a terrific blogger, posted yesterday about standalone suspense fiction and how she likes it better than crime fiction series, but that few authors are writing it. I'm not sure that's technically true. Many of us are writing it, but often, one of two things happen. Either the standalone doesn't sell as well as our series books, or it's so popular that readers want more, and it ends up launching a new series.

There are exceptions of course. Gillian Flynn writes popular standalone thrillers and grows her readership with each one. And some series writers have expanded their readerships by writing standalone thrillers (Laura LippmanHarlan Coben). That's what I hope to do with my new thriller.

Yet, I love the character, and I know I'll bring her back for more stories. Her setup as an FBI agent who specializes in undercover work is perfect for a series that has a lot of flexibility.

I introduced Agent Dallas in Jackson #8, Crimes of Memory (which will release Oct. 15!). I had so much fun writing her part that I knew she needed her own story. And I had an idea that I really wanted to write about and she was perfect for it. My beta readers loved the story, and I'm still waiting to see if my publisher does too.

More important though will be if readers like it. Especially new readers. I know some of my Jackson fans will pass, just because it's not a Jackson story. But I hope enough new readers will be interested in the novel to justify the five months I put into researching and writing it.

Here's a quick description: Agent Dallas goes undercover to find a missing woman who is likely being held captive in an isolated prepper community. What she finds is a lot more terrifying.

Readers: Do you read the standalones of your favorite series authors?

Writers: Do you write series, standalones or both? And what is your experience?


  1. If I really love an author, I'll try to read everything s/he publishes. However, I'm not a big fan of short stories: I always want more.

  2. Yes.

    I think series vs author is like chicken vs egg. Which comes first in a reader's preference? Sometimes what's working for a reader is only the combination of series and writer. You see this in comics, for instance, where an enduring character has ups-and-downs depending on who's doing the writing. Some readers follow an author everywhere (even if you don't blow in their ears). Some are only into the character. Same with stand-alones. Some authors can switch between series and singles, some can only do one or the other.

    A great question, and a good dilemma to have.


  3. I tend to get really attached to the characters, so I love to continue on to another book in a series. The characters begin to feel like friends. I always want see what happens next,

  4. I like both standalones and series novels. I have several favorite characters I like to go back to and see what they're up to next. But a complete change is nice, too, with brand-new characters, so I'm one of those "both, please" people! But like Marlyn, I'm not really into short stories - I want a novel I can sink into for longer - stretch out the enjoyment and anticipation.

  5. As I recently posted on this blog--as an author I struggled mightily with this. In the end I think I decided that I love the idea of creating fresh new worlds and characters each time I start on a novel. With my current WIP where did just that and embarked on a standalone, I felt exhilarated with new energy. I think that was my gut telling me I made the correct choice. For now, I plan to stick with standalones and see where that leads me.

    As a reader, I don't think I have a preference, as long as the story and characters are compelling.

    1. I enjoy both, but I can see myself writing all standalones some day in the future. Series can be limiting and can create unreasonable expectations in some readers. I just hope this standalone will be successful enough to give me the courage to might more.

  6. As a reader, I like and appreciate both. As a writer, the draft I just completed will be my third standalone that shares the same community of Aspen Falls. There's a little carryover of characters, but not much.

    Readers have contacted me asking for a series though. They want to know what happens with certain characters and I think it might be fun to see what happens myself. With any luck, I'll be able to do both.

  7. My books have all been standalones until my latest, which is the second in a new series. I have to say that writing a second book with the same characters was a lot tougher than I thought it would be, and it took me twice as long as usual to do it.

    1. So much to keep track of, right, Rob! LOL. Can't have the character be a different age or have a different color hair, etc., etc.

    2. Thanks for stopping in, Rob. Series are more work in some ways because you have to keep checking/referencing what you've already done. Yet, there's some advantage in not start from scratch each time. Still, standalones are faster to write for me too.


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