Last week, Damien Walter wrote an article for the Guardian in which he discusses serial novels in genre fiction, particularly Fantasy. He pointed to Sci-Fi author Eric Flint and a recent essay where he coined the term ‘mega-novel’ to better describe Fantasy series such as A Song Of Ice And Fire, otherwise known as Game of Thrones to the mainstream public, where multiple books of huge size are serialised and must be read together to make sense.
Walter was arguing that the mega-novel is over-saturating the Fantasy market. Author John Gwynne has received a six-figure deal for the next three books in his series, The Faithful and the Fallen. I haven’t read Gwynne’s original trilogy and so this news is met with indifference in my mind. But, I do know that I am reluctant to begin a series such as his if I know that the story will not be complete in three books’ time, and I have to wait for the next three to have closure.
These mega-novels take more writing craft than the ordinary trilogy or standalone book, which usually means that a writer who chooses to write only a single novel may well write a much better book than if she had tried to create a nine-book epic from the word go. Fantasy books should not rely upon such devices as multi-book spanning plot arcs to tell a good story. It is more than possible to write a compelling novel and fit it into one volume. The problem for publishing houses is that this means their income is less secure.
A series such as ASoIF has sold upwards of 60 million copies worldwide; and with seven titles across five volumes you can spend anywhere from £28–£63 for the lot. Take from that what you will, but there’s little chance traditional publishing will change any time soon.