Monday, April 16, 2012

Sequels and Lack Thereof

I love getting notes from readers. It is one of the best parts of being an author!

Just this weekend, I got a very sweet e-mail from a girl named Sarah, 15

"I just finished reading The Day Before and I absolutely loved it!! It was beautifully written and moved me to tears. Now I'm begging you to write a sequel. I desperately need to know how Amber and Cade's story turns out. Please continue writing your amazing stories."

Some readers, like Sarah, are like curious kittens. They want to know more!

But this kind of e-mail, the one that asks for a sequel, is one of the hardest for me to respond to.

You see, I know what it's like to love a book so much, you don't want it to end. To fall in love with the characters and to want to continue living through their eyes. And as an author, one of the highest compliments you can pay me is to tell me you'd love another book featuring the same character(s). But then, I feel like I have to break your heart in my reply, and tell you that no, there is no sequel planned at this time.

Today, I thought I'd share with you why I haven't written any sequels to my YA novels that are out now, and talk about sequels a little bit in general.

Each one of my four YA novels that are out now were written with a clear beginning, middle and end in mind. Each one was meant to stand on its own. And if you were to compare the endings of the four books, I think you would see they all have one big thing in common.

They end in a place of hope.

The character has made it through the hard stuff. She doesn't really know what lies ahead, but she feels much more hopeful about it than she did at the beginning.

When readers ask for a sequel, I *think*, like Sarah, they want to know what happens to the boy/girl relationships. In I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME, does Lyric go out with Cali, or does he keep pursuing Ava, and if so, does she finally give in? In CHASING BROOKLYN, what happens with Nico and Brooklyn? Do they grow closer? Does she come to love him the way she loved Lucca? And in THE DAY BEFORE, do Amber and Cade meet up in six months, when she comes home from Texas? Do they fall in love?

Writing a sequel means coming up with a new plot, unless the author has written the story line so the arc is set up over two or, in the case of a trilogy, three books. But I wrote each of my YA novels as stand-alones. If I were to write a new book, with the same characters, I would need a new problem for those characters to overcome. Some kind of conflict.

Because remember, plot = conflict.

Although you may think you might want to read 300 pages of Amber and Cade walking around the zoo, having fun, after being away from each other for 6 months, it would just not be very interesting if there weren't problems. How do the characters grow over the course of a story is an important one to ask when writing YA. In order to grow, you need to have obstacles to overcome.

In real life relationships, there usually is conflict. Couples get in fights. They break up. One wants to get back together but the other moves on. And I'm not quite sure that readers really want to see the characters having conflict like that. And to be honest, I'm not sure I want to write it.

I like to imagine Cade and Amber happily ever after. And the thing is, so can you!!

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the business side of publishing in this discussion as well. None of my books have been big sellers. I am very much a mid-list author. So, why should my publisher invest in a sequel for a book that hasn't sold all that well? For illustration purposes, let's say only 3,000 people bought the first book. Well, a year goes by, lots of those people forget about the book, so when the sequel comes out, there may only be 1,500 people getting the second one. It doesn't make much business sense to invest a lot of money in a book that won't appeal to many readers. Now, if we were talking 100,000 people who bought the first book, then yeah, the publisher could probably get behind a sequel. And I would probably be very motivated to write one, if a third of those people were writing to me, asking for one!!

But as it is now, I get that question maybe once every couple of weeks. And while I love my readers, and am so thankful for them, there just isn't a good enough reason to write any sequels at this point.

So... I encourage you to answer your own questions. What happens to Cade and Amber? Whatever it is you WANT for them can happen!!!


  1. Personally? I love that your books are standalones because I have over X amount of books on my TBR shelf and 110 of that is books starting a series or in a series or some kind of to be continued and its nice to pick up one of your books and know its one I can sit back and relax with and only have to focus on reading not how many are in the series.

    The YA world needs more stand alones

    1. Thanks Kate! I personally love stand-alones too, and feel the same way. :)

  2. When I was younger, I used to desperately want sequels to my favorite books (I dreamed that Judy Blume would write a sequel to Tiger Eyes in which Davey and Wolf would reunite and live happily ever after). Now that I'm supposedly a grown up person, I love stand-alones that let me imagine what happened to the characters after their story ends, which is actually a big reason why I seek out stand-alone novels in both adult and YA fiction.

  3. I love standalones for the fact it allows me to write countless "after"-the-book stories in my head. Sometimes, I typed them up as a kid (fan fiction!) but I never do anymore. I know too much about the publishing world to want to do such a thing to an author!
    I also think it is so hard to end one book and start another, which is why I like Sarah Dessen's books- they let us glimpse into the lives of other characters from her other books (i.e. Remy & Dexter from THIS LULLABY show up in JUST LISTEN, Scarlett from SOMEONE LIKE YOU shows up in THIS LULLABY). :)

  4. So well said! This is exactly why I love reading (and writing) stand alone novels.

  5. Thank you for this. I'm a ya writer and everything I've done has been standalone. I understand that some stories need multiple books to complete the full arc, but sometimes I think sequels are driven more by market forces than anything else.

  6. When I wrote THE HEALING SPELL it was a stand-alone "The End" book - in my mind. And then I started getting tons of emails after it was published from kids asking for a sequel. That really surprised me, although it was true that not all the threads in the story were tied up all pretty with a bow so I could see where they were coming from.

    When I was playing around with new ideas (and I did write a whole book that had to be shelved by my publisher for various reasons although I hope to come back to it some day) my next book, CIRCLE OF SECRETS, ended up being about a new character and a completely new story, but set in the same "world" as Healing Spell, and with some fun "connections". It took me completely by surprise, I had never thought of it at all until it came to me. The same thing happened with my 2013 book WHEN THE BUTTERFLIES CAME. And while the new books are not sequels, the do satisfy some of those sequel-demanding readers.

    You never know where your Muse is gonna take you!