The sequel game…how soon?


Sequels are a tough bag, no question. Readers tend to equally love and hate them, constantly comparing the sequel to the original. It’s unavoidable. I do have multiple thoughts about sequels not living up to the originals but that’s not the post I want to do today. Maybe another day…

For today I want to talk about the length of time between the first book and any sequels.

In a perfect world as soon as you finish one book you’ll have the next instantly to read, and so on until you want a break.
However as it usually happens the author has to, yanno, actually write the second book or third or fourth or whatever. Sadly that doesn’t happen instantaneously even if all parties would probably like that.

So what is an acceptable time between books?

I see a year or thereabouts frequently and that’s pretty standard. However, what about books that take two, three, four, or even five years between sequels.

I’ve read four books in the past month that have had years (three+) between the first and second books. This sends me into a quandary. As much as I may have loved the first book, after three years or more, I can guarantee I remember little to nothing about that book and am ambivalent about continuing on in the series.

This doesn’t even get into when sequels pick off where the original book ends with no added details. Readers are expected to have read the first book, recently, and recall all those important details easily.

But truly, just going by the time between books alone – if it’s over a year it stretches my recall ability too much to likely continue. I may anyway but I know I won’t love it as much as I could have otherwise.

Anyone agree?
What’s your deal breaker on time between books?

14 thoughts on “The sequel game…how soon?

  1. Tam says:

    I agree. I may or may not pick up a sequel that is more than a year in the waiting. I have to have REALLY been anticipating it, not just “yeah, that would be nice to know what happens next”. I don’t have a hard limit of course, but I’d think more than a year does lower your odds of me buying the book. Unless of course you are prepared to wait until it’s done and then gorge on a back-list, and I know some people do that purposely, but usually by then I’ve forgotten I was interested completely.

    As for the comparing, if I have a book I ADORED, sometimes I hesitate on the sequel (unless it’s a continuation type thing that I NEED to know the end) because I’m always afraid it will somehow ruin it for me. Maybe I’ll realize I didn’t love it after all and that I misremembered somehow. Better to just leave it in my brain. Weird, but hey, that’s me.

    • I do that too with sequels. In fact I’ve found that I rarely enjoy the second book as much as I remember enjoying the first one. It might be a trick of memory but reading tastes can change quickly in a year or more.

  2. Not too long is good but what is too long? Thinking about this I feel myself making a difference between novels and novella’s. For novels 10 to 12 months seems fine. Novella’s should be shorter.

    Even so people change, me as a reader and the writers too. Who says that the book I loved 12 months ago will have the same impact now that it did then. And will the writer be able to re-create that same feel in his/her book that made me love it? Things happen in everyone’s live that changes you.

    • Exactly. I think you’re absolutely right and that makes waiting for sequels even more tricky. All of those things happen and you’re left wondering if you should continue with the series or not.

      I know I’ve seen some novellas come out after 3 years or something. Makes me think the author never intended a sequel but offers fans the novella instead.

  3. helenajustina says:

    I always re-read the earlier book(s) before reading the new one in a series, as I know I won’t remember well enough. So for me the deal breaker is not that aspect, but whether I still care enough to even buy the sequel. And from that point of view, unless it’s so amazing that I’ll buy it whatever (can only think of about six series I’ve felt like that about), about a year is as much as I can hold my interest.

    I’ve got to the point now where I don’t even buy earlier books in a series until I know it’s complete, and then I buy them altogether and and read them one after the other. I like the approach which some authors and publishers are taking, of publishing them in consecutive months. Even I can manage that gap! It requires a lot of work from authors, but I suspect they may get higher sales overall that way.

    • That’s a great idea and I really like that idea. I guess I’m not reading the right series because I haven’t found that much in what I am reading but it’s a worthwhile concept. Sometimes I think authors just throw out the first book and hope it takes off, if/when it does then worry about a sequel.

      I envy you reading the prior books before the new one. I can’t seem to find the time or energy enough. I’m leaning more towards waiting and getting in a small clump.

  4. I’m reading a series at the moment that has seven books so far but the time between each book was about 5 years. I’m currently happy cos I’m about to start book five but I won’t be so happy when I read the latest book and know I’ll have four years til the next one! I’m no going to want to re-read the entire series before I start the next book so I’m not sure how I’ll feel when another book is published.

    A year between books is fine for me, but I still often have to skim the previous book to remember what happened!

    • George RR Martin’s? If so, then yea I can’t really complain because sure he takes -forever- between books. Sometimes I think it’s almost worth it for him because of their length. Though the complexity means you’re totally lost if you haven’t read the other books pretty recently.

      Sometimes I look for what I said in the review to try to remember. Makes me wish I’d review every book I read.

  5. My memory is terrible, so I generally end up rereading the earlier books if there’s more than a couple months between the books. Hmm. Maybe that’s why I get annoyed when a series just goes and goes and goes like the Energizer bunny…

    • Well that and the time. You have time to reread ALL those books prior to the next one? I remember with the early JD Robb stuff I re-read the books until I hit book 4 then I gave up (smart too, considering it’s the death series that will.not.die).

      • Depends on the series. Before I gave up on the JD Robb series, I definitely did NOT need to reread prior books. Heck, since I think I read the first 10+ all in a row, I’m not sure I’ve reread any of those. And I don’t tend to reread any of the non-m/m paranormal/UF series I’m still following.

        It does help that I read really fast. 🙂

  6. A well written book tends to stick with me over time, and I would certainly wait however long is necessary to see the story continued (yes, Martin’s in that category). I generally remember the major plot points and relationships, but will often reread (or quickly skim) the previous book(s) before diving into a subsequent title to get a refresher on where and how things left off.

    On the other hand I see a lot of sequels/series that get tagged as such, but aren’t truly dependent on the previous titles. At most they exist in the same ‘verse and the current protagonist had a cameo in the preceding book. For this type of themed series I don’t care about the length of time between titles because either the author is one I enjoyed and will read again or they aren’t.

  7. Wel…I’m still waiting for a fantasy author to finish a trilogy, and I’ve been waiting for over a decade 😦 A year is good, but more than that… The trilogy in question I’m just being stubborn over 🙂

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