Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Discussion: Standalone vs. Companion vs. Series

A lot of books now seem to be part of a series, particularly books that are being made into TV shows and paranormal books - standalone paranormal books seem so hard to find now. Basically, this discussion is going to be about whether or not a series is a good or bad thing.


I’m a firm believer that you can have too much of a good thing. I’m okay with trilogies, three books is kind of just right for me - I’m cool with four in a series, but that’s starting to push it. I love The Vampire Academy series but when it went from being four/five books to six, I kind of groaned in annoyance.

When there is too many books in a series, it can make me stop reading a series all together or not even both starting.  Examples:

The Private series by Kate Brian…I started this series a few years ago when there was only about two or three books out in the series. But the series kept getting longer and longer - I think it ended at like 14 books or something and there was two prequel books and a spin off series that is currently about 6 books long and it was just…too much. So I gave up on the series all together even though I own at least half of the books, some of them aren’t even read.

Pretty Little Liars? I own the first four books and if they had ended there, I would’ve been fine reading them but they keep adding more and more. The Lying Game series is probably going to be the same so I won’t even bother going beyond the first book. Same goes for the Vampire Diaries even though I own the first two bind ups.

The Sookie Stackhouse series…I like the TV show True Blood and kind of want to read the books but the series seems never ending so I’m not even going to bother reading them.

The Mortal Instruments series was perfect as a trilogy, it ended just right and I was totally satisfied with how it ended…but then it was announced that the series was going to continue - I bought the fourth book but I’m not sure if I’ll even bother reading it, I might just pretend it ended with City of Glass because it seems like the series is being dragged out because it’s popular. I may continue the prequel series, but - TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING! Gah!

So I’m really not a fan of long series. Between two and four books is perfect, but more than that then I probably will not read the books at all and there aren’t many exceptions to that rule for me - my to be read pile is massive as it is without adding loads of book series that end up being more than ten books long.

Some of the exceptions: The Harry Potter series, because I was young when I started those books and the books were so good that I had to continue and J K Rowling seemed to have them perfectly planned from the very first book…it wasn’t like she was milking the series for all she could and dragging it out longer than she had to - seven books was perfect for that series.

Other exceptions: the Jessica Darling series. I read and loved the first book so I bought the rest of the five book series…haven’t gotten to the others yet, but I will eventually because the books are really good. The Mediator series by Meg Cabot was another except but those books are quite small and short so the entire series can be read in like a day.


I love standalone novels. The majority of my favourite books are standalones, because they only have one book to make a lasting impression so the ones that achieve that are usually very brilliant, it never seems like they’re setting up for a sequel or that they’re just filler books.

It’s mostly contemporary books that tend to be standalones. I really can’t think of any paranormal standalone books (I know there will be some, I just can't think of any right now)…if you know of any that are good, let me know in the comments?


Companion novels…have not read a lot of these but I think they’re great - books that you can read that are like part of a series but they can be read in any order without having to read the other books in the series. So companion novels are a yay.

To sum up my rule (although, as I’ve mentioned, there are rare exceptions) in pictures:

One book:
Two books:
Three books:
Four books:
Five books:
Six books:
More than six books:

Discussion questions (feel free to disagree with me - opinions are subjective afterall):
1. Do you like books to be a series?
2. Do you like companion novels?
3. Standalone novels vs. series?
4. How many books is your limit?
5. Will a series being too long put you off reading them?
6. What are some of your favourite series?
7. Do you know of any paranormal standalone novels (yes, this question is me fishing for book recommendations)?



  1. I'm definitely getting overwhelmed with series -- some series are just beating a dead horse with a stick. The ones that have like 15 books in them? Gah! There need to be more standalones out there -- it seems every book is part of a series these days. The classics were all standalones! I think that says something. I'm not sure about companions though. It's hard for me to be in the same world with different characters -- I miss them =) Great post!

  2. I like series and for me it just depends on the series as to how long they are - if that makes sense! I do tend to get behind though and kind of prefer coming to them late so I don't have to wait in between.

    But lol to your photo sum up at the end. Brilliant!

  3. Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey is a paranormal standalone.

    But besides that, it's incredibly disappointing to me when I find out certain books aren't standalone.

    I do enjoy companion novels, though.

  4. Ha! I just finished Die For Me, which had a standalone plot, but feels open-ended enough for a sequel.

    I've gotten so sick of all these books that are "Book 1 in the amazing new series by some author who had a really long first novel that we had to split into three parts in order to properly capitalize on it..." that I started to seek out stand alones.

    So it's refreshing to read something that just ENDS. Anyway, glad to know I'm not the only one who feels this way.

  5. I am weary of series but I still understand the importance of them. All of your examples are the exact ones that come to mind to me. Series like Vampire Academy, Harry potter, Mortal Instrument, Morganville all stress the importance of series, but Vampire Academy many be one of the instances where I excuse a series going on a tad too long just because I adore it that much and stay curious about characters I love. Private series is a good example. I think I read four and then lost count and since then I don't even want to think about how many more there are. That series just went in overdrive. Way too much for me. Five/ six book is the limit for me in a series to be honest. Any more, and for the most part I'm basically out.

    I've grown much more fond of standalone books recently. There's something brave - on the authors part and comforting for me to know that there will be a conclusion at the end of the book. There's a sense of respect for the author because you know the author is staying true to themselves and isn't just turning the book into a baseless series just for the money.

    Oh and Lanna I wouldn't bother reading City of fallen angels if I wee you. Jace is a shadow of his former self and there's no plot. The whole book was pointless. Stick with the great happy ending you have right now with COG. I really feel that it should have stayed as a trilogy. Shame.

    Great discussion post as always ;)

  6. @Aly - yeah, I love the Vampire Academy series so that isn't one of the ones I will quit reading because it got so long (if I hadn't started the series when the first book came out and just found out about it now, I probably wouldn't even give it a chance).

    And considering the way it ended, I'm okay with the story being longer for more closure of Adrian's part of the story...I just wish she could have wrapped it up in five books (I'm sure at one point it was meant to be five - I used to read Richelle's livejournal and I remember when she announced it would be six books instead).

    I've heard a few people say that about City of Fallen Angels. I'll just bump it way, way down in my TBR pile for now. =P

  7. I wish there were more standalones. I hate waiting years to find out how a series ends only to be disappointed.

    I also can't think of many paranormal standalones. Fateful by Claudia Gray is one, it's a historical paranormal.

  8. Bwa-ha-ha! I love your pictorial sum-up.

    I think I feel the same way as you -- love the stand alones, because sometimes it's okay to just have one of something.

    I frequently enjoy a series, but many of them go on too long. (Not all, though. If the story arc is planned out over 7 books from the beginning, it can be done.)

    Companion books often leave me cold, though. What? You're going to take me back to the same world but NOT give me the characters I loved? It seems like a tease. I usually avoid these.

  9. I agree with you 100% on just about all your points. I just hate it when authors feel the need to make their series last FOREVER. That's why I can't read manga. Some manga series go on for like nearly 100 volumes. :P Plus if I know a book belongs to a long series I probably won't pick it up even if it comes highly recommended. I just don't want to devote a ton of time to it you know? Oh and I absolutely loved the ending of this post with all the Tumblr GIFs. TOO FUNNY. XD

  10. I like both. I love to spend a long time with characters so I don't mind series at all. However, I hate it when the first book is a cliffhanger, that's cheating to me. I always want the first book to be able to stand on it's own. It's okay that there's unresolved issues, or a really big bad still out there, but the major plot points must be resolved in book #1. I don't mind longer running series, but 5 is really the limit for most story lines. There are a few exceptions, however, those tend to me more serials and less series - think Morganville Vampire - same characters, lots and lots of different bad guys and story lines.

    That being said, there aren't enough really great stand alones out there anymore - especially in paranormal and fantasy. I'd like to see more standalone in this genre - like The Replacements by Brenna Yovanoff. I think it's tough to do in this genre because they tend to lend themselves to major conspiracies and lots of world building. We'd end up with a lot longer books if they were all standalone books.

    I do love companion novels though. Sadly, they usually only happen in contemporary. Ink Exchange is the only example in Paranormal/Fantasy that I can think of.

    Megan @ Read It, See It

  11. I had the same problem with PLL. I read up to book 6, and it was about then that I heard news that the series would be getting 4 MORE BOOKS. I loved the first 4 books, so I might have to buy the box set and that'll be it.

    I love standalones but there are some series that aren't for the full intention to gain more cash. I have not read many series books beyond the first book, actually. One series which I've read on is the DIVINE series (is there an actual name?) by Bree Despain. Love that, and that's going to end in a trilogy with THE SAVAGE GRACE.

    I think trilogies work really well. It's so much better when there's a pre-planned END to a series. No way am I going to follow something for much longer..

    Also, what I love about standalones. You don't need to be reminded of what happened in the last book because that's it. And everything ends at the end of the book. :P Love your post!

  12. I Have the same issue with The Mortal Instruments series. It's still one of my favorites, but the fourth book was unneeded. However, I did read it, and it was quite good. Just unnecessary.

    As a rule I tend to like standalone books more, or series that are already complete. That way I don't have to wait a year in between books to find out what happens.

    I've never actually read a companion novel. However, it sounds like a freaking ingenious idea!



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