Writing a series of novels does not give an author the right to leave the reader dangling mid-plot at the end of any of the books in that series.
Whether a compilation of three or ten books is planned, every book should be written to stand alone. An author should always be mindful that a reader may not pick up book one first. Instead, book three in a series might grab the reader’s attention and send him looking for the first two books.
In the last year, I read two books written in a popular genre, which because of the genre’s very nature, has many similar plots and character names. The first book ended without any plot resolution. Unresolved plots are not the way to this reader’s heart—and I believe many readers would agree.
Almost a year later, I pick up another book by the same author, and the frustration began from the very first page. Characters walked on stage without introduction, plots seemed to have already started before I got into the author’s story world, and I found myself lost and flipping pages to see if I’d missed anything. Still, I continued on because I’m a glutton for punishment. Halfway through the book, I connected the dots and realized that the book in my hand was the second book in the series that had aggravated me previously. The good news: I finally got resolution to the plot. The bad news: I really didn’t much care. The author had two chances to win me over, and she failed.
Authors do not want their readers to complain about their books. So, when writing a series, it is important to self-edit with an eye toward giving each book legs of its own. In other words, even when a plot will resurface in another book in a series, there has to be a definitive end to each plot in the book at hand. A plot that ends with the hero riding off into the sunset while the heroine looks on in tears provides a resolution—albeit unhappy—but there is a promise of another story. Failure to resolve a plot causes a reader to feel cheated of both time and money.