Series and Connected Books (Again)

Yeah, I know. You’re tired of hearing me talk about this one. Well, bear with me. I’m in a minor-crisis.

My agent sent my book out. It’s making the rounds. I’ll spare you the neurosis I’ve developed because of this and move on to the topic at hand: Connected Books.

I love connected books. I love series, but as an unpublished writer, I see nothing positive about pouring my heart and soul into a series that might never sell. I mean, if the first book doesn’t sell, you’re basically screwed, so why waste your time and effort writing subsequent books?

However, there’s a difference between series and connected books. A series builds, one book to the next. I think of Nora Roberts’s trilogies as a series. Sure, you could read book one and never read the other two, but the big plot question isn’t answered until the end of book three – defeating a warlock, finding a murderer, laying a ghost to rest. Each book “technically” could stand alone because each one has its own unique romantic plot, but if you read book two without reading book one, you’d be a little lost as to the over-arcing plot.

On the other side of the spectrum, you have connected books. I think of Cindy Gerard’s Bodyguard Series as connected books rather than a series. Each book IS stand alone. You don’t have to read book one to love book two or three. They’re connected by characters (siblings) and profession (they all work together). But (so far) there’s no overriding main plot question hanging that will all the sudden be answered in the last book.

As I sit here contemplating what I work on next, I’m more than a little stuck. I’ve started four books since August. (Which really isn’t like me at all. I’ve never started something and not finished it.) Two are connected to the book my agent is circulating, which is, at this very moment, probably collecting dust on some editor’s desk. However, they are connected books, not series. They’re connected by characters and one minor thread that will run through all three, but nothing like the over-arcing plot say, in JR Ward’s series. So my dilemma becomes, what do I work on next? I’m getting proposals ready for both connected books, just in case, but then what? Do I continue working on book two, thinking if the first doesn’t sell there’s still a chance with two and three? Or do I shelve both connected books until book one sells and go work on something else? The indecision is enough to make a person looney.

How do you feel about connected books vs. series books? Which do you prefer and why? And while you’re at it, what the hell would you do if you were me?