Ok, so you’re an author and you’ve published a novel. Against all odds and expectations it was pretty successful. You have some fans, get great reviews and everyone is talking about what a fabulous writer you are.
What do you do next? Of course! You write a sequel to your successful novel. It was actually planned as a stand alone? Doesn’t matter. You and your publisher will find a way to milk that thing. Just take the same characters and change the setting to ten years later. Tada! Second successful novel in the making. Everyone will buy it cause they loved the first one.
And then… Everyone will realise they’ve been cheated. There is no recreating a successful novel like this.
I am one of those people who actually buy the second book. I want to know if the author is as good as the first novel promised. And I tend to feel cheated afterwards. Why do some authors do that? Is it just for the fame? Is it pressure to follow-up? Is it simply the publisher’s fault? Do they all just want to play it save?
Or do we need a sequel? Does every successful novel need to be turned into a trilogy? No! And I think that this trend of forcing a sequel rather hurts the author and their image more than doing any good. The most recent example of this is the coming release of a sequel to “Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea” – a book I really liked. I kept waiting for a new book by Callahan because I loved her style. The new book is – alas!- a sequel. Set ten years later and no longer a coming-of-age novel it deals with the married life of the former teenage protagonist. It’s called “Like a Wave of the Sea” and will be published in German translation first (just like its predecessor).
Another author who keeps milking his one great idea is Stephen Clarke. I loved “A Year in the Merde”! Even the second one was still kind off funny and interesting. The third was already a stretch and all these non-ficiton re-runs of his novels were simply ridiculous.
Let’s have a look at Clarke’s output.
Are these authors not capable of thinking up something else to write about?
Ok, sometimes a novel-turned-trilogy can add to the novels world and may even make sense. Example? Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy actually started out as a stand-alone dystopian novel. She claims she had the feeling she had more to tell and that is why she kept writing a second and third sequel. And with Atwood, I do believe that. The trilogy as a whole is a masterpiece and this author has no need to sell-out. She already is successful and well-acclaimed.
So, it might sometimes be a good idea to prolong your story into a trilogy. But more often than not warmed-up concepts are nothing more than that – been there, done that.
What about you? Does any trilogy or sequel come to mind that seemed forced and you could have done without?
Are there actually sequels you are grateful for?
Or is there a novel that you think should get a sequel?