I read a lot of mystery series. A lot! Many of the ones I love are still going strong after the fifteen and twentieth book, while others are on life-support and should be put out of their misery. But just when and why does an author decide to end a series? Sometimes your publisher makes the decision for you. Declining sales, an editor that leaves the company, or a publisher going out of business can stop a series in its tracks.
Fortunately, the rise of ebooks and self-publishing has put the control back into the hands of an author not ready to end their series after being dropped.
Some authors have a preset number of books in mind when they start writing a series. But often the very nature of the series dictates how many books will be written. In author Daniel Handler’s case, his series of unfortunate events, written under the name Lemony Snicket, tells the tale of the luckless Baudelaire orphans, and logically ended with unlucky number thirteen. And I’m assuming SueGrafton’s Kinsey Millhone series, which are titled after the alphabet, will end at book twenty-six.
Boredom can also be a deciding factor. Many authors just get sick to death of their main character and can’t bear to write another word about him/her. So they end it. That’s what one author confided to me when she ended her series after only four books. “I’m just so tired of _______. I want to write about someone else,” she told me. I guess that said it all.
My fifth Kendra Clayton mystery, Sly, Slick & Wicked, was released recently. But who knows what the future holds. I’m currently exploring other genres and have a middle grade fantasy on submission as well as an adult urban fantasy in the works. And while I’m not ready to stop writing my series, I don’t know how I’ll feel a few more books down the line. But I suspect I’m going to keep writing about Kendra Clayton as long as people want to keep reading about her.