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Question: Trilogy versus Series (Dystopian Fiction)

404 Views 4 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  Shei Darksbane
Hello. Sorry my first post is an asking question, but I tend to be a reader of forums rather than posting much. I have been reading this forum board for a while now and it has been incredibly interesting, so thank you all for posting, discussing, debating, advising etc., as for us lurkers it is incredibly useful.

So, to my point. I wrote a first draft of a novel 15 years ago. Feedback was the story was a page turner but I loathed my writing. So I waited till i grew up a bit (obviously got a little side-tracked with the whole life thing) then recently started a new draft and it is coming out much better.

Obviously when I started this self-publishing was vanity publishing and I had no interest, so the concept was to be a trilogy. Now self publishing is the DIY ethic which I very much like, so I have been re-assessing things.

From what I have read, and experienced as a reader, my initial shift was to write the trilogy, sell each book for £2.99 and write short stories around the trilogy which I would give away for free. The shorts would be expanding the story of side characters in the book, which gave them a little more life but also allowed me to explore the world I created without slowing down the main story. Also the free shorts would sign post the trilogy and if people liked those they would most likely like the paid books and the reading they had done would have value to the story as a whole.


From reading what you guys say about self publishing, it appears that as a DIYer the best plan of attack is to release as many books as quickly as possible, and through the weight of releases enable one to play with promotion ideas but also simply have a larger footprint in this rather large sea of fiction.

Now I appreciate people write at different speeds, and though I can write about 3000-4000 words in a day, I will spend another few days playing with what I wrote, tweaking etc., so overall (especially including life) I'm not overly fast.

I have written 120 pages of the first novel. At a guess I would imagine it would end up 350 to 400 pages long. Obviously that would take me twice as long to finish one book, than if I made two shorter books in the series out of the same material (there is a mid-point in the story that could make a good end of book, so I wouldn't have to compromise my initial story).

Obviously, only I can decide, but I am curious as to what people may consider the accepted length of books would be in a series? I'm guessing that for myself I would end up with books around 200 pages long, and thus aim to sell them at £1.99, and would still write the shorts and give them away for free.

Although I really liked the concept of the trilogy that I devised, with the passing of time I am less wedded to meta-concepts than I was when I was younger (which is probably why my writing has improved :), and writing a series of books would allow me to explore the world i've created in greater depth as the conclusion of the story idea is pretty final: so I could go from 3 x 400 page books to 7 x 200 page books (for example) but be less wedded to the main story line, if that makes sense. For example would it be acceptable to readers if one of the Series didn't progress the main story arc at all as long as the story in it was a part of the world created and embellished the readers understanding of that world?

It may be this post is no more than a self-help post for me, but if people have any opinions on this please pipe up, and thanks in advance.

- What are your opinions on the notion of Trilogy versus Series as a self publisher? (both would have the free shorts)
- What would be the accepted lengths of books for a Series?
- What would your opinion be, if you have one :), on my expanding the main story arc to explore the world further by shifting from a trilogy to a series?

Many thanks. And though I have no doubt I will make further posts asking opinions, apologies for not being much of a poster on here. I have no experience of most of what is being discussed at the moment, but do know I am floating around reading your words :)


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Okay, here's my ten cents worth. (Welcome to KB, by the way!)

- What are your opinions on the notion of Trilogy versus Series as a self publisher? (both would have the free shorts)
Readers will know if you stretch a series to artificial lengths, and they hate it. Go with what works for the series and you. Consider, book 3 is usually where the profits starts coming in. Book 1 - loss leader. Book - break even. Book 3 - profit (This is a very simplistic way of looking at it, but it gives you an idea) If you're getting good buy-throughs (people who go on to buy the next book) then consider upping the number of novels in your series BUT make sure you have the story to back it up. (Don't just do it for the money, imo).

- What would be the accepted lengths of books for a Series?
There are factors to consider.
Serials - tend to be written quickly and published every month/few weeks. These are naturally shorter works. Serials also have a story arc per 'episode' So consider how that will fit into your plans.
Kindle Unlimited - short stories/serials can get a good return if they're in Kindle Unlimited, where you get paid an average from the global fund each month.
Novels are anything from 65k words (roughly) - These take longer to write, edit, edit again, more editing... You get the idea. But you can sell them for more $ (However, if they too go in Kindle Unlimited, you still get the same average monthly pay-out from the global fund (not so great)) Novels are more popular than serials/shorts.

- What would your opinion be, if you have one :), on my expanding the main story arc to explore the world further by shifting from a trilogy to a series?
I'd be tempted to get the first book/novel done and see how that sells. You don't want to be stuck writing a five book series that nobody wants to read. Have the series arc in the back of your mind and from book 2 onwards you can shape the series.
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Ok, so here is my experience on these matters: I have a four book series (that will eventually be a seven book series). Each book is 150-200 pages in length, with the first entire book set to free. This series is my money maker. No one complains about book length or paying $2.99 for books 2-4. I think this model would work well for Dystopian Fiction as well (mine is YA Paranormal). That being said, I don't think readers would appreciate a book within the series not furthering the main storyline. If I'd been waiting for the new release in a series, dying to know what would happen to the characters next, I'd be really disappointed by a book where not much happened.

As far as releasing shorts around a longer series: I know many people have had great success with this, but I am not one of those people. I tried releasing a 70 page "prequel", got a few 2 and 3 star reviews complaining that the story wasn't long enough, then ended up pulling the prequel and writing it into a 230 page book.

As far as releasing a trilogy (granted that shorts work for you, as they seem to work for others, or if you're willing to set a 400 page book to free): I really like the idea of a trilogy with longer books, especially if your books have a lot of world building. If they would fit into the "epic" category, I would definitely go this route. I'm currently working on a new series of 3-4 books where each of the books will be 350-450 pages. I'm not going to do any shorts. For marketing I'm either going to try to do promotions where I discount the first book to 99 cents, or if that's not working out, I'll go free after the release of book three. My series of shorter books will probably make me more money, but I feel like writing a big, epic trilogy could make for a really loyal fan base. I look at it like this: I read a lot of series with shorter books, and I like them, but I don't go around pushing them at other people. I also read epic series like "Wheel of Time". I am much more dedicated to Robert Jordan as an author (may he rest in peace) than I am to the authors of shorter works.

So I guess in summary, trilogy=more difficult to sell, but if you CAN sell it, totally worth it. Series with shorter books=easier to sell, but more likely to get lost in the sea of shorter works.

I hope this was remotely helpful, and sorry for babbling :).
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Hello both. Many thanks for the replies.

D, cheers, and I am marching on with the writing, but I'm of a personality type that tends to think about other things at the same time. In fact your advice is often levelled at my by my wife as well. My intention was to write the full version of the book anyway and see how it broke down into smaller bits.

That said, if serials are expected every couple of months, that's not really me, so that nudges me back towards the trilogy.

Sara, many thanks for your input too. Interesting perspective on long form over short form with regards to engagement. And thanks for feedback on the shorts. Though negative reviews aren't great, I think I quite like the idea of how i want to use shorts but I'll bare it in mind.

I think my concern came from reading about the need for a lot of content to be found. Which I get. I spent three years working in the DIY music scene and though a different beast, I believe the same issues for DIYers are there in both. Mostly how to get noticed without the PR$ behind you.

I'd be very happy to hear other people's opinions, but from you two you've nudged me back towards my original intent. I think partly my fear was that it will take me a fair chunk of time to write each one and get it into shape, and that may hinder things when the first is launched (as in not having a second to build on any momentum if it comes). That said, I could simply finish the first two before launching the first. Even if it took any six months before the first was out, it's not like anyone knows they're coming anyway so harm really.

Oh, Sara, thanks for the pointer about the main story line in Serials too. Good to know that would annoy.

Ok, many thanks again.

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One thing. Serials =/= Series.

So you don't have to put out books in a series at the same rate as a serial.

I'm writing an UF series and I plan to put out my books pretty quickly, but many successful series are not put out every month.
I think many are put out quarterly, but most of the ones I've read were put out more like yearly. (Dresden Files, Mercy Thompson, etc.)

Of course, the fast you write, the more you put out, the more money you can make. But you can only do what you can do. So don't let that be the main point.

Especially not due to misunderstanding the difference between serials and series.
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