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On Reading – Forgetting What You’ve Read

There’s a photo meme going around on Facebook that has a great deal of truth in it:

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I do this! I read something that’s part of an ongoing series, rave about it, profess that I can’t wait for the next book and then, by the time it comes out, I haven’t a clue who’s who or what’s going on. For example, about two and a half years or so ago, I read The Hanged Man: Book 1 in the Gabriel’s World Series by my author friend AR Fiano. It was a great book. I couldn’t wait for the next one. The second book in the series came out in September of 2013 but I was in a different life place at that time and I didn’t read it.

AR just released the third book in the series, The Book of Joel and I’m trying to jump into that. I have to say, the writing is tight and the premise is interesting but I’m really having a hard time following everything that’s going on. Though the overall plot is a completely new case for Gabriel and crew, there are multiple assumptions made about what the reader knows of the characters and their back stories. I think I’m really missing something by not having read these in order or by not re-reading the first book again before diving into this one.

Lots of authors write books in series format. To me, the word ‘series’ means a set of stand alone parts. For example, you could take any one of Sue Grafton’s mysteries involving Kinsey Milhone and get pleasure out of reading it cover to cover without losing much in the way of character development. Is it better to read them in order? Hell yes! Do you have to? No. You can follow the story easily without doing so you just don’t have much of the back story of Kinsey and crew. Other books in other series, like the one I referenced above, really should be labeled as sequels. The word ‘sequel’ lets the reader know that there’s important stuff that went on before this installment.

What’s the fear of calling something a sequel in genres outside of Fantasy, Sci-Fi and things labeled as sagas like historical romance? Do authors feel they’ll lose sales to new customers of a book appears that it doesn’t stand alone? Can’t they see that the opposite is true? Sequels and sagas hook readers on the works of an author.

Fellow authors; Let’s help our readers out. Let’s call a spade a spade and a sequel a sequel!