Why aren’t there any stand-alone SciFi novels anymore?
Last year, the first week of December, I finished the book I was reading. It was an analysis of the U.S. Constitution. I wanted to find out… I’m just weird. Let’s leave it at that.
I posted on my Twitter account asking for suggestions from the #WritingCommunity.
The exact text was:
I’m almost done with the book I’m reading. An analysis of the US Constitution. Don’t ask.
I need some book suggestions
Please, Genre: Science Fiction.
Subgenre: military, exploration, invasion.
I prefer stand-alone, rather than series
I’m reading on a Kindle
I figured I’d get a few suggestions, some from indie authors, some traditional published, and I’d get to choose from a small but interesting pool.
Also, I confess, I wanted to check out the competition. See who my books were going to go up against. Read what people were reading now. Take a look at the reviews, see what readers like, how their opinion compared to mine. Seeing what they don’t like, if I agreed with their observations, or not.
It was a brilliant plan. Even if I do say so myself.
That, however, is not what happened.
I did not get a single suggestion. Not one. Zip.
A couple of days later, I posted again, saying that no SciFi Authors were putting out stand-alone novels and that it was a disappointment and a surprise.
I got some push back on that. An author sent me a link to his books, @BarnowskyLarry sent me this: “Want a great uplifting adventure story where you actually will learn a lot? Read “Out of Place” where two brilliant women from the CIA battle terrorism worldwide. https://amazon.com/dp/B0876C7BWZ $2.99 Ebook or FREE on Kindle Unlimited; Paperback $13.95”
Which is a stand-alone, but part of a series. I asked, point-blank if it ended on a cliffhanger because that is what I don’t like about modern series. The answer was: “It is a stand-alone novel. The sequel starts new stories with the same characters. The current book is a series of arcs that tie together. Not science fiction but there’s science, math, and covert action.” So, you know, I got it and it is now in my TBR pile.
That, however, was the only book that came as a result of my tweet.
So, do I have too few followers on Twitter to get suggestions?
Is it that I don’t have other SciFi authors following me?
Is it that SciFi authors aren’t interested in putting their book out for a random stranger to look at?
The answer to any or all of the above can be yes. But I don’t think so.
I do follow several (read: many) authors and most have the problem of getting eyeballs on their covers. It is very difficult to get people to take a look at your book, let alone buy it. So if someone is asking for a book that is remotely similar to yours, you’ll get it in front of them pronto.
Science Fiction has gone mostly, however, into series. Nowadays almost all science fiction novels are part of series.
I’ve covered stand-alone vs series in another post, but here I want to talk about my real-world experience.
I found that a lot of authors like the series format. That doesn’t mean they do it well, they simply like the idea of putting out a series and having a following that will be getting every book as it comes out. A following that will recommend the book or books to their friends and each one of them will buy the three, six, nine, twelve, or whatever many books are in the series. It is a reasonable way to make money.
Here is the rub. I wanted a stand-alone to see the writer’s skill in bringing a book from beginning to end into the world. A clear and very enjoyable example of an author that has done this successfully, is Jasper T. Scott. I read his novel “Under Darkness”, a stand-alone. He has several stand-alone novels and some series.
I have read novels that do not indicate are a part of a series and find that, at the end of the novel, there is a cliff hanger and you have to read the next one to find out what happens.
Mark Wayne McGinnis’ “Guardian Ship” is an example of a book that can be read as a stand-alone. It does have a full story. A good one too. But. The ending is a “to be continued”. Again, it does end, the whole thing has an ending. But the author chose to finish the book with the premise for the next one. I stopped at “Guardian Ship”, did not go on. I want to know there is an end in sight. I want to know that the road I’m following is going to a final destination.
It is the same reason I don’t like the way most television series end. They end because they get canceled. “The audience is not there anymore,” the producers say, so they stop making episodes. Well, maybe the audience is not there anymore because the writing has gone downhill and/or the stories gave out. There are only so many stories you can tell, especially on a TV series, before you have to mix it up radically.
Some exceptions confirm the rule. NCIS, a spin-off itself, has many spin-offs and is at the date of this post on its 18th season. Eighteen seasons. That’s a lot of stories. That’s a lot of characters. That’s a lot of life and death situations.
Game of Thrones is another series that comes to mind. You see, the TV series came to an end. We can talk about it all day, if the ending was good or not, unexpected or not, adequate or not. But it did end. The book series, however, is still hanging at this time and I know, for a fact, that a few of Martin’s fans are getting antsy and, quite frankly, a little testy that the last book is taking so long to come out. So, there it is again, a series that may fizzle out and NOT end because the author may decide that the money is good and that’s enough of that. I doubt it, though. Martin has said, point blank, that he makes millions on every novel, he says he is simply taking his time. I think he is very close to really pissing his fans off, but, hey, who am I to give an opinion? I can have one and share it here, but that’s about as far as it’ll go.
So, why aren’t there very many stand-alone SciFi novels? Money. Simple as that.
Authors today believe that a series is a better way to ensure income, and since writing is a penny per product business, having a lot of books with a guaranteed audience is a simply good business. Authors have taken this to its natural end. You just have to take a look at, for example, the Facebook community 20BooksTo50K. They have the absolute right idea from a business point of view. From a craft point of view, a series makes the most sense. You’ve got your characters, which you can really develop a lot. You get a lot of mileage out of your worldbuilding. You can cultivate your audience, listen to them carefully, allow them to steer your story… a little anyway, in the later books of the series. There are fan art, licenses, and so many more things that you can do with a successful series.
So I believe that’s why there are no more stand-alone Science Fiction novels.
What do you think? Do you agree with me? Why?
Let me know. I’d love to hear from you. Have a great day.