I’ve written a lot of manuscripts, but before the two Allison Barton books (THE DARKEST FLOWER and THE DARKEST WEB), I’d never written a series. Writing a series has its own challenges—it ups the continuity difficulty exponentially because it requires having to keep all the little details constant through more than just one manuscript. A series requires each book to have a beginning, middle, and end while keeping in mind that the series needs also to have its own, separate, story arc. The main character has to have a complete character arc in each book, while continuing on a larger one over the series.
I honestly never thought about the biggest difficulty writing a series would present: staying in contract to finish it.
Back in the pre-streaming days, and even after to some extent, we’ve all had the rough moment when a beloved television series is cancelled after a cliffhanger season finale. The explanation is always simple: the ratings were bad. The network wanted to give another show a chance in that time-slot. Not enough people cared to watch, and those who were fans are left hanging. Usually, the showrunners and writers get enough notice of impending cancellation to hastily finish off the threads of the plot in the season finale, but not always. NBC cancelled Timeless, a favorite of mine and my children, without resolution. Enough fans complained that they made a two-hour movie wrap-up. I enjoyed it, but I would have liked to have seen another full season.
This happens to books, too. Publishing, like television, is a business. The powers that be can, and do, stop paying for more books in a series if not enough readers are reading the first ones. This can happen even to beloved series—YA readers, because they have disposable income issues, frequently can’t afford to buy hardcover books. They try to wait for the paperback versions, or read at the library. The publishers are looking at the total number of hardcover books sold, not the number of readers, and cancel planned third or fourth books for low sales.
Sometimes, publishers offer a one- or two-book contract for a series, to see if the readership is there to continue it. This is a very good option for the publishers, but not so great for the author or the reader. It means that if sales are lower than anticipated, a second contract may not be offered. The first book or two books are all there will ever be, and decision is made after the author has submitted final edits for what turns out to be the final book, too late to wrap up any loose threads. Readers who’ve enjoyed the series and want to continue reading have no options except to pester the author to disclose online or in a blog what would have happened. Other publishing houses are almost never interested in picking up a later book in an existing series.
I’m sad to report that for the time being, THE DARKEST FLOWER and THE DARKEST WEB will comprise the entirety of the Allison Barton Series. (I’m thrilled to report that I think you’ll be satisfied with where the characters’ arcs end up anyway.) I’m now working on a new, unrelated book about a woman who agrees to a surrogate pregnancy and finds it might be neither as temporary nor as voluntary as she thought, and I hope you’ll hear more about the prospects for that in 2022.
Thanks for reading!
the darkest web:
The Darkest Flower:
Lying Beneath the Oaks: