Standalone or Series?

Posted March 13, 2017 / Discussions, Features / 19 Comments

I don’t think I’ve ever really had this classic discussion on my blog before. Maybe I’ve referenced it somewhere else, but nothing dedicated. So here we go – do you (or I) prefer reading books in a series or standalone books? I’m going to include companion novels in the “series” category here, FYI.

My Numbers

I was curious to see how my reading has broken down over the past few years, between series and standalones. I only started tracking my reading extensively in 2015, so I do have some series/standalone-related stats from both 2015 and 2016. Before that… I think I’d have to say I read mostly series? This is mostly because I was obsessed with super-long series about rich people or teens solving murder mysteries. Think: Gossip Girl, Private, Pretty Little Liars, The A-List… All of those had SO many books, so I can only imagine what the breakdown was back then. I don’t even know which standalones I liked at that point in my life.

2015

Books in a series: 89
Standalones: 94

2016

Books in a series: 87
Standalones: 79

Apparently my numbers are almost even. I read approximately 50% series and 50% standalones, give or take a percentage or two. I read more series than standalones in 2016 but read more standalones than series in 2015. I’m not sure if this has to do with my genre breakdown? But I feel like I read more duologies – which are counted as a series here – in 2016. I know that 2015 was also even more contemporary-oriented than 2016 was, so many of those books were standalones instead. That could have something to do with it. Either way, you can pretty much tell that my reading is consistently even between the two types.

Pros & Cons of Series

The good:
  • You get to keep enjoying the world for as long as possible. This is great if you love the characters, the setting, and the world-building. This sounds like it’s only fantasy books, but I love companion books for contemporary romance too. I love getting to know side characters and then exploring the friend group further in individual stories.
  • The world can also get expanded as the series rolls on. I love books where the map expands with each story! It’s so cool to think there’s even more out there to explore. I recently finished the Snow Like Ashes series and felt like the second book totally opened the world because they traveled to other lands. I like when there’s still so much more to learn throughout the rest of the series (and it doesn’t feel repetitive).
  • Binge reads are fun if you can do them. I like having all of the books in a series out so I can just read them alllll in a row. Or at the very least, you can read them close together and not have to deal with cliffhangers and open endings. I’ve done quite a few audio binge reads, but haven’t done as many regular series reads since I was younger. It’s something I’m aiming to do more of this year!
The bad:
  • Sometimes they just feel like they’re never going to end. I haven’t read many long series (most are trilogies or have four books), but I know the feeling when I read Pretty Little Liars. Sometimes authors don’t know when enough is enough, and us readers keep buying!
  • The wait between books is PAINFUL if they’re not all already published. This is especially true for book bloggers who read an early ARC of a series-starter and then have to wait more than a year (instead of the regular year) for the next installment.
  • Cliffhangers are only fun if you have the next book on deck. I love them if that’s the case, honestly. Otherwise? It’s a pain and so frustrating! How can you leave me literally hanging like that?? Like I said before, waiting between books is hard enough… but cliffhangers and lots of bombshells at the very end of the book can make it even worse.
  • “Surprise, it’s a series!” can be a total game-changer. I’ve seen so many bloggers reading a book on Goodreads, getting to the end, and then being like “ugh holy shit this is a series.” Or the author announces more books once its published and successful. Again, this can be great if you love it all and want to keep exploring! But it can also be annoying to set your expectations one way and then get something different.

Pros & Cons of Standalones

The good:
  • No cliffhangers or waiting. Like I said above, it can be really hard to sit around and wait for the next book in a series! The ending left you hanging, you’re dying to know what happens next, and you have to wait a year for the following book. The best thing about standalones is that when the book is over, it’s OVER.
  • If you didn’t like the book much, you don’t have to read the rest of the series. I have totally read a series-starter and thought it was MEH… then determined I wanted to keep reading just to satisfy my curiosity. Maybe the book got better toward the end and you want to see if that continues in the next book(s), or maybe the cliffhanger was there to make you just curious enough to keep going. Standalones? If you were feeling whatever about the book, there’s no pressure to push on because there are no more books to push on to!
  • There’s nothing to keep track of (or lose track of). I am constantly yelling at myself for not finishing series. I read one book and then push off the rest for really no good reason. Sometimes I blatantly forget and sometimes other commitments come up. The whole OMG-Lauren-finsh-the-series thing caused me to sign up for a series ender challenge this year, so I hope it helps. Standalones are nice because you don’t have to worry about that… ever. You read the book and wipe your hands of it.
The bad:
  • You’re left wondering what comes next for the characters. I think a HEA is my favorite aspect of contemporary romance, but there are always questions about the characteres and what they do next! I sometimes wish I could just catch a glimpse of them years later. (They better still be happy!) Leaving a world (fantasy or otherwise) can be really hard and sad if you felt connected to the story.
  • Some genres don’t have as many standalone options. It is a constant gripe by many of us that there are SO few fantasy standalones. I know that this comes down to world-building and wanting to flesh out magical systems, but sometimes I wish I could just read a quick fantasy book and move on. The long series can be hard to keep up with and I just have one fantasy itch to scratch!

TL;DR

I’ts pretty obvious that I love both types of book. I think I PREFER standalones just because I don’t have to worry about keeping up with a series or leaving it unfinished. I like knowing there are more books out there, but it can be hard to follow through on finishing them. This is especially true if the books are all published already and there’s no major deadline on reading the next ones. I just… forget about them. I feel like my reading will always be split 50/50 though because I genuinely enjoy reading both, depending on the experience and the world that’s created. I think that my statistics and breakdowns accurately reflect the desire to enjoy both types of books too. How about you? Do you prefer one over the other? Do your stats reflect that?

19 responses to “Standalone or Series?

  1. Interesting topic! I think I would have to difficult of a time choosing which I prefer… I like reading standalones for the same reasons as you, but overall, most of my favorite books are series books because I have longer to fall in love with the characters for. But as you said, the wait between books usually kills me!

  2. I love series, but I’m super picky about which ones I start– because if I start a series, I usually always feel the need to finish them even if I’m not loving it (except PLL– that mess went on for WAYY too long. I bailed out after book 12 I think). I read mostly standalones and then mix in a series here or there. I don’t think I read one single series ender or sequel in 2016– which is NUTS. This year, I’m going to try to start and finish a few more. I’m a slow reader though so…..

  3. I think I prefer stand alones. As much as I want more from those worlds sometimes I like that it is done. I like series that aren’t too many books. Otherwise, they seem too daunting. And I hate when I read a book and find out it is a series when I didn’t think it was. THE WORST!!

    • I know what you mean! I think fantasy novels lend themselves well to series because it takes a while to build up the world and magic system. With standalones, it can get almost boring to be in the same world for too long.

  4. Rowena

    My reading and my desire tell two different tales because right now, I read a lot more series books than I do standalones but I really want to read more standalone books. I need to get my life together. Ha! Great post though.

  5. Series are tricky They can start off great and then get worse with each instalment, leaving you feeling like multiple books weren’t worth it. Or, you might not be interested enough to see where things go after book one, but then you have no closure for these characters you’ve just spent time investing into.

    But then standalones have the opposite problem – sometimes you need more!

    I don’t know that I’ve ever thought about my preference before, but based on the books on my shelf I definitely read more series.

  6. Great question! I prefer standalones but read a lot of series too. I really try to avoid series that are 20+ long because I have OCD about reading every single one!

  7. I read mostly fantasy, so it goes without question that I read mostly series. That said, I’m starting to be more deliberate about reading FINITE series (trilogies, quartets, sextets, etc) rather than the neverending series that I used to binge on in high school. One of the things that I LOVE about series is that the plot can really get DEEP and complicated and twisty turny in a way that’s just not conducive to most standalone formats. That said, there’s something utterly satisfying about finishing a book and knowing that it is DONE.

  8. So I think I prefer series, BUT I also agree with you completely about the downfalls of them. Especially if you think it’s going to be a trilogy and then it’s like “just kidding, here’s 7 more books and 24 novellas from every character from the janitor to the queen”. UGH that is the worst! But then… I am always drawn to series! And I have this awful habit, like you said, of forcing myself to read even “meh” series just because I feel like I *have* to. Which is so silly! But then I have known series to get MUCH better so I hate to write them off? Idkkk.

    And then there is the other series worry- that the sequel(s) won’t be as good as the original. And there is, for me, nothing more disappointing than that. OR reading an entire series only to be left with a completely open ending. What even!? So while I like series more, I am MUCH more forgiving to standalones it seems 😉 Love this post!

    • Exactly!! LOL I laughed out loud about the janitor to the queen. You’re so right though. I think this stuff keeps happening because everyone keeps reading and wants to hang on too long haha. I can see why publishers do it! I refuse to quit series unless I reaaaally hate it for some reason!

  9. This is a fabulous discussion post! I think I read more standalones than series, especially of late. I seem to never end up continuing on in a series all the way to the end. I don’t know if it’s that I get bored (from waiting, or what?), or what the main reason for this is. I like reading the story, and when I’m finished, that’s it. I don’t have to wait till the next book comes out or anything. I’m just a standalone kinda gal. 🙂

  10. sam

    You pretty much touched upon all my feelings regarding standalones vs series. I think I read about equal numbers of both, but I am the worst at finishing series. Sometimes, it’s simply that I don’t have the book. Other times, it’s because I don’t want it to end. I think that is why I love companion books so much. There is this ending to the story, but we get little updates on these past characters and get to stay in the world.
    Sam @ WLABB

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