Writing a series is a huge undertaking: so much so that, for some authors, it can take decades to finish them. But writing a series is also very rewarding; with a series, you have loyal readers for the same amount of time. Series books also allow you to expand your characters and your world without having to worry about running out of space in the course of a single novel. Some things are just too good to leave on the cutting room floor!
However, a standalone novel can be of great help to a series. Ever feel like you wanted to explore a different character, plot, or place within your series? Writing a standalone can allow you to do just that, while offering further support for your ongoing series in the form of new readership gains and marketing opportunities.
First of all, what is a standalone novel?
A standalone novel differs from a typical novel in that it features characters or is set in a world that is part of a longer series, but it does not have anything (or very little) to do with the storyline from said longer series. They can also function as prequels or epilogues, telling entire stories outside of the main plot of a series, but featuring the same characters.
As a baseline, a standalone, most importantly, does not need the reader to have read any of the other books in a series to enjoy it. The standalone will hint at the larger world in the longer series, but it also contains enough context and world-building in and of itself to be fully enjoyed without confusion.
Standalone novels can certainly drive success to your series. Some readers feel intimidated by a series – even one they are interested in – especially if it has a lot of books in the backlist already. A standalone set in the same universe as your longer series can get those hesitant readers interested and hooked on the world you have built and the characters within it. Consider how a standalone could fit into your series – will it be a prequel, and epilogue, or a separate story entirely?
There are lots to consider before writing a standalone – but here are all the ways writing a standalone is more than worth your time and effort:
- New readers can start with the standalones – as mentioned, those readers who want to start your series but aren’t sure they can commit quite yet can pick up a standalone. This standalone novel will introduce them to your world and get them invested in your characters without intimidating them!
- Standalone novels can be releases between main series releases – often, standalones are shorter, more compact stories. You can release these between main series releases, especially if there are longer stretches of time between each release. This is a great way to garner both new readers and to keep your current series fans engaged as they wait for the next book.
- Stretch your creative muscles with standalones – if you feel like there are certain limitations in your series (not enough space for another plotline, a character not getting enough love, a separate part of your world that hasn’t been visited often, and so on), a standalone is a great way to explore these ideas and inspirations! Since standalones literally stand alone, you don’t have to commit to writing a whole other series or even an incredibly lengthy book. Have fun and get a little silly – allow yourself the freedom to work outside of the series rules you have set for yourself!
- Spark a new series within those standalones – speaking of series… Sometimes standalones can spark a whole new series. Use a standalone to gauge if your readers would be interested in a certain protagonist, romantic pairing, or part of your world. If there is a lot of interest in a particular standalone, there might be potential for a series there, adding another way to expand your readership!
- Allow your readers to rekindle their love for your worlds – exploring a different side of your ongoing story can be a great way for your readers to reconnect with a world they love. One thing series readers love is more, more, more – having new characters with new POVs (maybe you could write a villain-focused story, or turn your eye to the main character’s best friend – the possibilities are endless) bring new perspectives to your already immersive world! Your loyal fans will appreciate the opportunity to see a fictional world they love in a different light.
Have you considered writing a standalone novel? Did you find success with a standalone connected to a longer series? We hope that you explore the opportunities for great additions to your series that are out there, and happy writing from the KWL team!