Fiction Series vs. Standalone Novels – Which Sell Better?

So, as a self-published author, you have an idea for a fiction book, but you’ve seen people saying that series books sell better than standalones? Or maybe you have an idea for a fiction book, that you could turn into a series but you’re not sure if that’s a good idea?

The debate around whether standalones or series are better from a sales perspective is an ongoing one in the self-publishing world. Let’s investigate the two options a little further.

Fiction Series

A series is normally three or more books, with a common linking theme. Usually the same characters and an overarching plot theme that carries on across the series, as well as smaller plots that make up the majority of each book. The structure can vary depending on how many books are in a series, and sometimes a series can run in excess of twenty books!

Certain genres and sub-genres tend to be more series-heavy. Sci-fi and fantasy books are often part of a series, and there are very few urban fantasy standalones. Crime thriller writers often have popular long-running series based around one police detective.  Readers who love series tend to ‘binge read’ them, in the same way that they might consume a TV show on Netflix.

The common consensus among self-published authors is that a series has the ability to hook readers into buying multiple books from one author, instead of just buying one standalone.

Self-published series authors will often also use the first book in the series – or a prequal novella – as a lead magnet at a low price to hook readers into the series. It’s a common marketing tactic, and can work very well to get your series in the hand of readers who might never have discovered you otherwise.

Another of the potential reasons that indie authors who write series tend to do well, is that they already have several books planned out before writing and publishing book one. Writing and publishing the next few books is easier, and they are less likely to lose momentum and more likely to be prolific.

Series aren’t right for every indie author, however. The danger with series is dragging them on for too long after the characters and plots have run out of steam.  Trying to drag out a story that was only worthy of one book across multiple novels will only turn readers off. Your series idea needs to be strong enough to carry it across several books.

If you have an idea for a series, they can be a great way to drive sales and build your self-publishing career. However, be wary of trying to create a series simply for the sake of it – let the story idea dictate whether it’s a series or not.

Standalone Novels

Not all stories are suitable for creating a series around. It’s always better to write one really great story as a standalone book than to try and drag an unsuitable story arc out across a series. Certain genres also lend themselves well to standalones. There are very few series in literary fiction, and thrillers can do very well in either series or standalone format.

The beauty of writing a standalone novel is that you don’t have to think ahead about how to keep the series going or stretch out your character development across several books.

We’ve established that readers love series, but they also love standalones. In the same way that people love watching TV shows, they also enjoy watching movies, and most people happily consume both types of content.

Lots of readers want a completely satisfying conclusion of the book, instead of needing to grab the next in the series to find out what happens next. Plus, reading a standalone takes away the risk of experiencing that awful moment when they realize that they’ve mistakenly read a series book out of order.

Once your standalone is written and published, very few self-published authors will experience the kind of overnight success that brings in enough sales to quit the day job. You’ll probably need to write, self-publish, and repeat as fast as you are able to produce quality novels.

In the same way that readers will finish a series novel and often immediately read the next, readers of your standalone novel who loved your writing will look and see what else you have available. Having a large backlist of novels they can enjoy will boost your profits, and provides multiple entry points for readers to discover you.

There are hundreds of very successful standalone books that dispel the myth that series are the only way to go if you want to make money. A quick glance at the top 100 overall eBooks at Amazon will confirm that there are plenty of readers buying standalone works.

Fiction Series vs. Standalone Novels – Which is the Winner?

While it is definitely possible to get great sales with standalones, writing a series can really boost your earning potential – especially in genres that are traditionally series-heavy. If, however, you don’t want to write a series you can rest assured that standalone books can sell well in any genre. There are even readers who are looking specifically for standalone books.

If you don’t have a great story idea that would be suitable for a series, but you’re looking to tap into the kind of sales that series authors enjoy, there is another option. You can still create a series without a huge, Game of Thrones-esque story arc that spans all of your books.

Setting your standalones in the same location, fictional world, or giving them another linking feature, allows you to brand them as a series. The beauty of this is that you can make it clear in your book description that they can also be read as a standalone and in any order. This way, you potentially reap the best of both worlds.

This type of series is pretty common in the romance genre, but the technique works well with almost any genre you choose to write in.

Whether you choose to write series or standalone novels, one great way to boost your sales is to have your books translated into other languages. Many self-published authors have used Babelcube’s services to build a global following of readers. All without any of the upfront costs normally associated with having your self-published books translated.


Babelcube offers authors and publishers the opportunity to sell their books in additional languages with a simple process and no upfront cost or financial risk.

Most books are only in one language due to the upfront cost of translation, struggles to find a translator, and complexities of working with retailers in different countries. Babelcube removes these barriers. Translators are paid via a share of royalties—creating a true partnership.

Babelcube is the easiest way to translate and sell a book in multiple languages. Book publishers and self-published authors team up with translators. The translated books are sold through 100s of retailers.

Check it out at Babelcube.

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