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. Which is what happened with The Sex Club, the first book featuring Detective Jackson.

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. I love series, especially ones where each book is a complete story. I enjoyed the end of Robert B. Parker’s career where, each year, I could find a new novel about Spenser, Sunny Randal and Jesse Stone. Once I meet and like a detective, I enjoy seeing them progress as a character. Their love life, their problems at work, their alliances with snitches. Their rivalries. I especially like the stories where earlier cases come back into a new story as a subplot. I tend to have a good memory for stories, especially series I like, and meeting those excellent stories again in future books adds a richness to the tapestry that I find irresistable.

  2. I write in a different genre (fantasy), but I’ve had the same experiences that you have. Sometimes I think that if I took a standalone and wrote more books with the same characters, I could perhaps build up a following for it, but often, that would feel forced to me.

    Fantasy readers LOVE series. I have to admit, I’m in that camp as a reader too. Once I find characters I love and an author who hits all the right notes for me, I really enjoy the safe familiarity of it and the possibilities of deeper characters and longer arcs than are possible with a single book.

  3. Series are- of course- only good as long as they stay good. When I find authors that I like, I follow them and read every book I can get my hands on. If they don’t publish, I read their blogs until they do publish another book.
    Series do become like familiar friends – good to catch up on what they are up to. But if as a writer you lose interest – then I probably do as well and you are better starting a new series or writing a few stand alone books until someone or something in it strikes your fancy and you want to write more about them.

  4. While I enjoy the series books of certain authors (ie Jonathan Kellerman) I enjoy reading psychological suspense and therefore look forward to work by Joy Fielding. I enjoyed Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, also standalone thrillers. My first published novel, Groomed for Murder was to have been the first in a series but for various reasons that never happened. (It is now being considered as the basis of a TV pilot where, ironically, it would be developed as a series) I have recently completed writing a psychological suspense thriller but I’m finding it difficult to get it accepted – it is a standalone. Even if I chose to self publish it, readers seem to gravitate to series rather than identification with what a favorite author writes. I am hoping that I can build my name recognition by leaning on the fact that a movie which I wrote that aired on Lifetime last year is of a similar genre to the book I’ve just written. Perhaps I can build readership that way. The bottom line is as an author I want to write what I want to write and hopefully I’ll find a readership, even a small one, that can appreciate my stories.

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