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This is a two-part question, and I hope that's okay.

1. Would it classify as a sequel

I've created a 'universe' in which one main story takes place so far. This will presumably be my first book. It would classify as a sci-fi universe and it is mostly ours (on earth) with a slight twist. The twist could in fact simply be unknown to most people on the planet.

While writing the first book - still underways as I write this - I've gotten an idea for another story in the same universe.

These two books would share the slight twist which makes the universe unique, but the stories share no characters, locations or plots, so far (The second book is only sketched out a bit), and I doubt they will. It would, in theory, be possible for some characters to reappear in the second, but there doesn't seem to be a need for it.

The second book would explore other sides of the universe and have the characters go through different quests, dilemmas and so on.

So, would the second book classify as a sequel from the description I've given so far, or would it be something else?


2. Would a shared title be appropriate

So far I'm counting on having a shared title and a sub-title like this

The Universe - Title of /the focus of book 1 -

The Universe - Title of /the focus of book 2 -

I'm unsure about whether this would be helpful or confusing to readers or fans of the works. If it makes it seem like a sequel even if it isn't, I would probably change that.

I guess an example comes to mind that is comparable; The Hobbit vs LOTR.

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    This would be what you call a Series. While it is using the same world, everything else is potentially different and/or unrelated. a Sequel always builds on the previous story, this does not seem to do so. The Hobbit is 1 book that was put into 3 movies. Lord of The Rings is an epic that tells 1 tale over 3 books. You would be looking more so in reference to something similar to Hunger Games though they still use the same character(s), each book/movie is a new plot. – ggiaquin16 Oct 11 '17 at 15:30
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    This would be called "Side story". It is often titled like "Title of /the focus of book 2 - the story of The Universe" – Alexander Oct 11 '17 at 17:16
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    I cannot believe none of you have mentioned Terry Pratchett's fantastic Discworld series as an example of exactly this. :o/ – Stephen Oct 12 '17 at 11:25
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Taking your question on its face, I'd say:

No, it's not a sequel, but a shared title would be appropriate.

What classifies as a sequel?

a published, broadcast, or recorded work that continues the story or develops the theme of an earlier one.

That's straight from the dictionary. In your question, you state:

the stories share no characters, locations or plots, so far

It certainly doesn't smell like a sequel, even though it's set in the same universe. Take the Star Wars universe, for example (except, obviously, The Phantom Menace). There's a ton of shoot-offs from the movies: books, films, guides, games, etc. If you watch, read, or play them, you'd classify very few as sequels, because the main plot and developing characters of each story are different.

So I think it comes down to development. Are you further developing a plot, theme, or characters from the previous book? It doesn't sound like you are. So I think it's safe to say it's in-universe (thus, safe to market it as part of the same universe via the title prefix), but not a sequel.

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You are overthinking this, and getting out ahead of yourself. If your first book is a hit, your publisher will like insist on marketing the second as a sequel if it has any relationship to the first at all.

If not, you'll be able to position it as you wish. However, there's some advantage to signalling the audience that this is a shared world --audiences like the familiar, and it gives them the sense that their investment in your universe is worth something.

Just a few examples of books with widely different settings, characters and moods, and sometimes even historical eras, that were successfully linked largely just via a shared universe include Andre Norton's Witch World books, Diana Wynne Jones' Dalemark Quartet, Robin McKinley's Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown, and Susan Coopers' Dark is Rising sequence.

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    +1 for noting the publisher's preference in all this. I would also add that if you strongly object to making the book a sequel (which is what I would do), you might be able to convince the publisher to advertise it based on a similar title. That said, a similar title still suggests a sequel, so I wouldn't do that either, but some level of connection would be good. So for example if the first title is 'The world: xxx', the second title could perhaps follow the lines of 'The Other Side of the World: xxx'. Just to illustrate the connection and still emphasize the difference. – Thomas Myron Oct 11 '17 at 16:03
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    Another flavor of example: Anne McCaffery wrote three (I think) different series in the same world -- they're all Pern books, but the first three form a distinct trilogy, and then later she developed other story threads into their own series. – Monica Cellio Oct 11 '17 at 21:33
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Currently doing this as well, and I have certain cues that are incidental to the stories but are shared. For example, the two current works I have use the same (fictional) President of the United States, who is referred to at different points in the narrative. There are also a few plot devices that work the same way and are shared between verses that drive the plot (scifi as well) and there may be passing references to major events in other books.

When considering the shared universe, I'd show you two uses that worked. First, at it's height in the 90s, Star Trek had two separate Television shows and a movie franchise in various production. If you nerd out enough, you can find a link between the three different series (An episode of DS9 makes reference to the recent Borg activity in one movie and the change in uniform style. A later episode would also refer to the enemy action of the villains in the next movie and their alliance with the current villains of the series. Voyager would also feature a reference to the uniform change and the villains of the TV series and set their Borg episode to coincide with the use of the Borg in one of the movies).

In another example, the Marvel Cinimatic Universe, in it's initial beginnings, would often include related footage from other movies to establish it's timeline. If you watch closely enough, you can determine that the events of "The Incredible Hulk", "Iron Man 2", "Thor", and the opening and ending sequences of "Captain America: The First Avenger" all take place within a week of each other in universe. Again, if you are not looking for these events, it's missed and just a little flavor for the viewers willing to look for it. These were done at a time where the interconnection of the movies was something new to the film industry and a critical and financial failure of any of them would cause the whole thing to crumble... the movies couldn't support having the actors meet in big scenes for long, but could show them in other areas doing their own thing.

Basically, start small and give enough of the connection that readers of both books can say "ooh, they exist together" but don't force the issue right away.

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