Are Stand Alone Romances Dead?

These days, it seems that all we hear about are series. Series. Series. And I love a good series, I really do, I follow more than I probably should, given the time I have to read. I love revisiting a favorite world and group of people. But what about those books that stand alone? Romances that tell a story fully in one book? (And yes, I know unless we're talking about an on-going serial, each book in a series should be able to be read as a stand alone, but I'm using that term here for a non-series book.)

Some of my favorite books are single title, stand alone romances. Non-series romances. They don't contain tons of extra characters the reader can tell are there just to set them up for their own story. They focus on the current characters and tell their story. Period.

If you listen to the "experts" (and as a romance author, I do) we should be only writing series, as quickly as we can. Don't bother writing any books that can't be connected to other books in the same world/small town/group of friends/band of brothers/etc.

But to me, it's sad to think that if LaVyrle Spencer had been given that advice there would be no MORNING GLORY. We'd have nothing by Jennifer Crusie or many of the books by Susan Elizabeth Phillips and so many other great romance authors. How many wonderful romances might never be written now? Yeah, series are great but can't the romance market support those books that aren't as well?

I have written both series and non-series books. As we stand on the cusp of 2015, I'm sitting here trying to make my goals for the coming year. I have my royal romance series I will be continuing, but I need a new project. I want a new project. But are the experts right? Would I be wasting my time writing a single title romance with a plus-sized heroine coming home to heal after a bad relationship and the tattooed hero she was always a little bit afraid of back in high school - a don't-judge-a-book-by-it's-cover book that's been calling to me for a couple of years now?

Yeah, I know I could come up with friends who could have their own stories later on, but then, as the author, I have to be planning those from the beginning. I have to start thinking release schedules for future books and weaving in those secondary characters so they don't feel like they are there merely as a set-up, and I maybe I don't want to do that with this story.

But of course, I want to sell books. I want to write books the readers want to buy, and create characters the readers will fall in love with. Writing is my business and the reality of that business is that my practical side has to choose my projects with the bottom line in mind, while my creative side cries out to write the stories that call to me.

This is where I am now. Do I keep writing my current series and when I'm ready for a new project, start one of the other group-of-friends/band-of-brothers series I have planned out? Do I just suck it up and go with the current wisdom and just forget about that other book?

So what do you think? Are stand alone romances dead?

The Cottage Next Door
Her Royal Masquerade
Her Royal Bodyguard
Her Royal Rendezvous


Nancy Kay said...

If writers quit writing stories that call out to them they might as well squash their inner creativity and write canned romance. If you're strong at writing a series, or characters from one book demand to continue on their own, so be it. I think it's time for writers to be true to their God-given talent and let the chips fall where they may.

Hot Ash Romance Novels said...

Hi Natasha,

What a timely question! And it's a very good one. I, personally, wrote only stand alones in the beginning of my career. Many were novellas. And I love reading them! No big time commitment. No disappointment if the second book isn't as good as the first. And to be honest, I rarely read a whole series anyway!

I don't mind writing a series when I like the world I've created, but sometimes I have forgotten a detail and am faced with either rereading my own books (something I don't have time to do) or take a wild stab at it! Gaaah! Readers will pick up on that, especially if they read a series in order over a few days. It takes me a year and a half to finish up a trilogy. A few details will slip through my Swiss cheese brain and be lost in that time.
I've asked 2 readers to construct a series bible for me when I wasn't expecting a series to continue...and then it did. I've been waiting for about a year for those readers and apparently they're having a hard time getting it done too.
Agh. I digress.
Yes, I love reading a stand alone. If I get the next book in a series it's usually because the author has left the first one on a cliffhanger. And I usually curse the writer as I'm getting out my credit card to order the next one.

Terry Spear said...

It all depends. I don't care to read stories that I have to read all the stories in sequence. I rarely start on the first one because I rarely realize it is not the first. If it's standalone, that's fine in a series. If I truly love the book the author has written, I will go back and buy every one of them. But the thing of it is, some readers LOVE series. Some don't. Which makes it nice. Writers can write whatever they prefer. And readers will follow the authors that write to their needs, while the author is fulfilling her own needs. :)

Sometimes, I'll write a story that I don't intend to write a series to, but then readers clamor for more. I love it when that happens. I'm happy to oblige. Sometimes, I write a series because I love it, even if it's not as popular as other series I write. And all my books are standalone no matter what.

Gwen Hayes said...

I prefer reading AND writing standalones also. Morning Glory is one of my faves, too! And...Crusie! Wanna be twins, Natasha?

Natasha Moore said...

Gwen, I'll happily be your twin!

Unknown said...

I prefer reading and writing standalones too. But standalones were apparently killing my career momentum. I've finally jumped on the series choo choo. I won't say I hate the ride, but it's not a train I would've taken if it weren't so clearly necessary in order to reach my destination of financial success.

Natasha Moore said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Nancy!

LOL, Ash. We always want readers eager to pick up that next book & I suppose that's what series are all about.

Thanks, Terry. I wonder how many readers will pick up a standalone as opposed to a series book.

Natasha Moore said...

I hear you, Bonnie. My stand alones don't seem to sell as well either, especially lately.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Personally, I love writing and reading series best. I didn't start writing them with the intention of writing a series. It just sorta happened. Each following book grows organically out of the previous books. The strong secondary characters need their own stories and the readers want to read them. Each book stands alone however. A series should not be contrived though. That wouldn't feel natural. I never plan the whole series beforehand. That wouldn't work for me. My books are just loosely connected with some of the same characters. Basically, I would say write what you love and what you're drawn to.

Louise Lyndon said...

Years ago, when I started learning the craft of writing, one thing I was told - write the book of your heart. In other words, write the book that is screaming at you to be written. I personally think when you try to second guess what readers want or only follow what the 'experts' say, your writing loses something.

So, if a stand alone is screaming at you to be written - then go ahead and write it.

Oh, and yes, Morning Glory - brilliant book!

Dalton Diaz said...

I do like a good series, but I prefer to come into them late in the game, when I don't have to wait a year for the next book!

The bottom line is, I'm happy to read a good book, period. Whether there are more in the series, or more singles from that author, I'll buy them.

Virginia E said...

Standalone books aren't dead, but I understand the reason why a lot of people want you to think that way. Publishers like series books because they help sell themselves. Readers who like one book in a series are more likely to hunt down stories they missed and auto-buy future stories. Agents like them because the publishers like them - easier to market. Authors like the idea that there is a release spot (with royalties) waiting for their hard work. A stand alone books can sell on the hook that you have a reader base, but you have to work harder and wait longer for that return.
For what it's worth, I know more than one series that started out as a single stand alone book.

joye said...

Don't especially like those in a series because I often can't find all of them. I like stand alones.

Natasha Moore said...

Thanks everyone for chiming in!

Gwyn Brodie said...

I love reading both stand alone books and books in a series.

Unknown said...

I don't mind series books what I really don't like is this tendency lately to write a 30-60 page scene and publish it as part 1 of a book. I adore series that I can read a whole book and not be turning my reader over looking for the other pages. I do love a good stand alone with no cliff hangers that I have to wait two years to find out what happens ... lol. Not that I don't mind those too