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I'm toying with the idea of writing a single standalone book and then later follow it with a series, in the same world with some of the same characters.

Are there any examples of this? I couldn't think of any.

Also, is this a good idea? Any major detractors to doing this?

  • a little unknown book and series hobbit, lord of the rings – Andrey Feb 2 '18 at 18:27
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It can be justified it is indeed a very good idea, if you want to publish it through a classic publishing house. This is because publishers prefer to try how well a book sells before committing to a full series, and finding, halfway through, it would be better (from a business point of view) to discontinue it.

I am currently doing this very technique, because I started with a standalone idea, and there are many things left to explain about the world and characters, but I am not a published author yet. A thing I learned and would be worth pointing is that it's better if you have at least an intuition of the direction and/or ending of the series, the most important pieces, so you can hide in your first book some Chekhov's guns for later use, allowing yourself the freedom to play with them and their relevance.

For example, in Harry Potter series, (SPOILER ALERT) concretely in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (the 2nd in the series), the plot centers on an object (Tom Riddle's diary) which turns out to be of pivotal importance in the series, but until the 6th book you won't suspect its story hasn't finished already.

Here's an article on ways to write a stand-alone book pilot to a series.

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Many series consist of books that conclude their respective plots and don't continue it in the next volume.

Examples:

  • Safe-Keepers series by Sharon Shinn
  • Twelve Houses series by Sharon Shinn, has an ongoing subplot, but this only comes to the foreground of the storytelling in the fourth volume which sort of wraps up everything that had been going on and appeared as separate events until then (pretty realistic story structure, actually, because in real life we often don't recognize the connections between different events, too)
  • The Saga of Recluce by L. E. Modesitt, Jr., the series tells the history of a fictional land in non-chronological order; some characters appear in several books, and then the earlier events are taken up and continue, but mostly there are several independent storylines that are connected only by the fact that some historical events lay the ground for some that follow
  • many of the series of SF authors that play in the same universe work like this, e.g. the Hainish cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin or the novels in the Alliance-Union universe of C. J. Cherryh

I don't know of any series that starts with a pilot and continues with a series, except the Rama novels by Clarke (who wrote the first volume alone and as a standalone) and Gentry Lee (who persuaded Clarke to turn this into a series and cowrite it) that Lauren Ipsum mentioned, but I have the feeling that some first volumes were originally conceived as standalone books and only continued as a series because of their success. You can see this in publication dates (long hiatus between first and following books) as well as in the closed structure of the first and the open structure of the following volumes. I've had this experience often, but can't at the moment think of any example besides Rama.

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The Rama series by Arthur Clarke would fit that bill. the first book was very hard scifi, basically a history book, and books 2 to 4 were a trilogy about a specific family and their travails.

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To expand on the idea that What presented that a wildly successful book sometimes draws sequels, after Jim Baen's death It was mentioned that David Weber's Honor books did not meet this pattern and that that was unusual.

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