Thursday, February 14, 2013

Why Do Series Novels Draw Readers? by Jacqueline Seewald

Why Do Series Novels Draw Readers?

 There are a number of reasons why series novels draw readers. Many readers enjoy a consistency of setting in a series. It becomes familiar and comfortable to them. My opinion is that the setting should be one the author knows well whether it be a city he/she has lived in, a rural community, an exotic place visited, or an historic location that has been researched in detail. This lends authenticity to the novel. For instance, in the first mystery in my Kim Reynolds librarian sleuth series, THE INFERNO COLLECTION, I chose a university setting because it was one I was very familiar with. I had not only received several graduate degrees, I both taught English and was an academic librarian (at different times) at Rutgers. However, intending to keep the series fresh, each of the three novels has a different locale in Central N.J. where I lived for nearly forty years. THE DROWNING POOL is set in a luxury apartment complex. At one time, we were members of a pool club much like the one in the novel. The main locale for THE TRUTH SLEUTH is a suburban NJ high school. Fifteen years of high school teaching gave me the background to create authenticity in the setting of this murder mystery.

In a series the author needs to create characters readers will want to return to again and again. We enjoy reading Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series because we know the characters and they make us laugh. We enjoy reading the Number One Ladies Detective Agency series because of the wonderfully charming and unique characters Alexander McCall Smith has created. In THE DROWNING POOL, the second mystery novel in my series, Kim Reynolds and homicide detective Mike Gardner return to solve another set of murders. They are joined by a new character, a woman of color, police detective Bert St. Croix. The three main characters are very different in personality and background but each lends something unique to the novel. While Kim Reynolds remains the main character in THE TRUTH SLEUTH, Mike and Bert are very important as well. As with Evanovich and Smith, these novels have humor as well as drama and crime.

I believe that plot is also a key factor in the mystery novel or any series. In the Kim Reynolds series, there are connected murders that need to be solved. The main characters may even become personally involved as in THE TRUTH SLEUTH when Kim initially finds the body of a murdered boy and later discovers another on the high school grounds.

I am pleased that THE INFERNO COLLECTION and THE DROWNING POOL are now available at low cost in all e-book formats. You can check them out at:

Do series novels have an advantage over stand alone novels? As a reader or as a writer, which do you prefer?  Drop a comment here, and if you want to be entered for a print copy of the new edition of THE TRUTH SLEUTH recently published by Harlequin Worldwide Mystery, include an e-mail address. Giveaway winner will be chosen at random. An excerpt from the novel is available at the Harlequin website:


Betsy Ashton said...

I just published the first book in a series featuring a baby boomer and her grandchildren. Not mystery, not any real genre, but a compelling set of characters that are growing in book two. I follow the characters, not the setting. In book one, the action flips between Manhattan and Richmond. In book two, the action primarily takes place in post-Katrina Mississippi. Same characters, new conflicts.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Sounds really good, Betsy, thanks for sharing info on your new book series with us! I think character development is even more important than plot, although in a good novel, the two elements intertwine.

Leigh Neely said...

I have scream writers who have given me a lot of good reading with series characters--John Sanford, Robert Parker, J.A. Jance, Patricia Briggs, Charlaine Harris...I could probably keep going all day! I love getting in-depth knowledge go a character.

Leigh Neely said...

Scream should be series!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I'm with you Leigh! My husband and I both love Sanford's Virgil Flowers, for instance. We find the combination of humor and gritty realism worthwhile reading.

Marilyn Levinson said...

I love writing series, and reading them, too. My next mystery to come out, Murder a la Christie, is the first in a new series. My sleuth. Lexie Driscoll is a 48-year-old professor who leads a Golden Age of Mystery book club. Intelligent as she is, Lexie often goes for the wrong sort of man. Since her last husband burned down her home and died in the process, the setting of each book changes.

Kathy McIntosh said...

I love to get to know the characters in a series, although on occasion I have issues with the parts that are catching me up on their history.
My first novel, Mustard's Last Stand, is the first in a series, but I FORGOT to say so on the cover. Oops.
I'd love to win a copy. kathy at

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Marilyn,

The new series sounds wonderful! Good luck with it.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Kathy,

I really love the title of your book! It sounds like it would be a humorous cozy.

Cindy Sample said...

Great post, as always, Jacquie. I definitely prefer series especially if the characters are fleshed out so well they become my friends. I also agree on writing about an area you're familiar with. My third novel moves the action from the gold country of California to Hawaii and while it's been fun to have an excuse to go over to the Big Island, I spend much more time googling than writing.

Happy Valentine's to you.

joye said...

I like series because I get to learn about the secondary characters. Also, if it is a book I read from an author that i like, well, i want to read more of their books.

D'Ann said...

Super post!

I enjoy series until the characters become stale. I've left Kellerman, Hillerman and Evonovich for this reason.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Cindy,

I'd like an excuse to visit Hawaii!
Maybe I should set a novel there as well.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Joye,

I agree with you. Secondary characters get a much better development in a series. Another reason a series appeal more to readers.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, D'Ann,

I agree with you about a lot of series going stale. Some writers just keep a series going as long as it will make money. But personally, I'd rather not do that.

Unknown said...

As always, a really interesting blog, Jacquie. I write The Bodyguard series and love it when readers like it enough to inquire when the next one will be released. I targeted young women (my protag is a 24-year-old female bodyguard) but have found older women and men are enjoying it as well. Your books are always great and I know your series will do well.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Christy,

The Bodyguard series sounds like great reading. Thanks for your support and encouragement.

Anita Page said...

Jacquie, I enjoy a series for reasons others have mentioned, but agree that sometimes writers keep a series going too long. That said, I'm a big Sue Grafton fan. I think she's managed to keep Kinsey and friends fresh and interesting.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Anita,

Thanks for dropping by and commenting. Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky have both managed to keep their female P.I. lead characters fresh and interesting.

Nancy Means Wright said...

I've done three series, two for adults and one for kids, and love growing and aging the characters and even giving one of them a new career. I understand that editors prefer series to one stand books--and for me, I love to flesh out the lives of one protagonist and hopefully deepen the characterization. In my latest, Broken Strings (out in May), a character from a former series takes over and becomes a puppeteer.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

That's a great idea--moving a character from one series into another. Often writers taken a secondary character and give them their own starring role.

dkchristi said...

My friend just said she was working on a "series" during her illness and could hardly wait for the next one. I do think they have an advantage. I have a "prequel" for Ghost Orchid, an attempt to add a before and after for a series of three...but it's a challenge in some ways. Characters make the series in my mind; the reader can't wait to see what's next in their lives - sort of like a long-running soap opera or mini-series on the tube. dkchristi at yahoo dot com

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, D.K.,

You're right, a series is a lot like a soap opera in which viewers get invested in the characters. With the novels, readers want to read about the continuing lives of the characters they've come to care about.

June Shaw said...

Thanks for the reminders, Jacqueline. We all need them.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, June,

Thanks for stopping by! I know what a good series you write.

Carole Price said...

Twisted Vines is the first book in my Shakespeare in the Vineyard series (and first published book). I was surprised when I received emails from readers asking when the next was coming out. They wanted to know if Cait, my protagonist, and Royal Tanner (RT), Navy SEAL, would return. I was happy to respond with YES!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Carole,

It's a wonderful feeling when readers tell you they want more novels about your main characters. Congrats!

bn100 said...

I like both, but prefer series books to be stand alone.


Anonymous said...

Most my favorite books are parts of series. If the characters are well-developed and the storyline will allow for numerous books, then series are better than stand-alone because you can never get enough of a good thing. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy of the book.


Jacqueline Seewald said...


Thanks for commenting!

Jacqueline Seewald said...


Thanks for dropping by and commenting. The consensus seems to be that a series with interesting characters will draw readers more than stand alone fiction titles.

bdtharp said...

I just finished a SCI FI series and it's never ending. There are more books to come. Frankly, I was disappointed. Usually I do like series books (Paretsky, Grafton, Evanovich, etc.) but this one isn't ever going to be resolved. I enjoy a good cliff hanger, but enough already.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I don't read sci-fi except for short stories but I know how popular they are. I guess like the song goes, you gotta know when to hold them, know when to fold them.

JackieW said...

I like series novels for the reason that once you have read the first in the series you then know the characters and in the following books you don't have to waste time getting to know the characters , you can get on with the story. Love your name, Jacqueline.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

So nice to hear from another Jacqueline! Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I'm ending this discussion here. As promised, it's Monday morning. Since so many of you responded with wonderful comments, three have been chosen at random instead of one to receive a copy of the new edition of THE TRUTH SLEUTH.
Read and hopefully enjoy!

Best to all,

Jacqueline Seewald

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