I may have left this one off the list originally because it wasn’t one I had planned to go to. However, it was a really interesting panel: authors Lauren Myracle, Jonathan Stroud, Dan Gutman, and author/editor David Levithan. Of these, I had only heard of David Levithan previously (he wrote The Lover’s Dictionary, which I thought was unique and poetic and just generally wonderful. Read it!) He has also, it turns out, written a whole bunch of young adult (YA) novels, and has edited over 300 YA series books, including many of the Babysitters’ Club books. (“I was the 19-year-old male reading The Babysitters’ Club on the subway…with a highlighter.”)
One explanation for the popularity of series books among teens, Levithan said, was “the love of story, the love of wanting to know what happens next, wanting the story to continue.” When kids – and adults, I would contest – find a book they like, they want more of it. However, speaking as an author rather than as an editor, Levithan said that sometimes, “There’s a reason I ended the book there – the story’s over.”
Other bits of wisdom from the panel:
Lauren Myracle: “Middle school is painful. Writing is painful. But writing about middle school…surprisingly cathartic!”
“Every book must be a game-changer.” I forget who said this – Stroud or Gutman, I think – but they were emphasizing the need for something to happen in each book in the series that caused the character to grow. The story may have its arc, but each book must have an arc of its own as well as be part of the larger story.
Jonathan Stroud talked about the importance of building a brand, which is easier with series books than with stand-alone novels.
Lauren Myracle: “Series are born in different ways.” Sometimes a story might be conceived as a series from the beginning; other times reader response might prompt a second book, and then a third.
Though there may not be the proliferation of series fiction for adults as there is for the YA group, adults are likely – speaking solely from experience here and not from any particular data – to develop loyalty to certain authors. The characters may not be the same from book to book, but one can have confidence in the quality of writing, character, and story.