Thoughts and Questions on Series Numbering

Okay this is probably a rather dull topic for some of you, but it’s been on my mind as the proper launch of To Get Me To You draws nigh.  It is the first book in the series and is, obviously, properly number 1.  This is a no brainer.  Chronologically, Be Careful, It’s My Heart follows it, and I have had a devil of a time trying to sort out how to number it.

The numbering scheme for such a thing in the traditional publishing world seems to be most often Novel #1, Novella #1.5, Novel #2, etc., because the novella is meant to tide you over between novels, right?  In some limited cases, I’ve seen a series numbered just straight sequentially 1, 2, 3, 4, no matter what length the stories were (The Gaslight Chronicles by Cindy Spenser Pape being foremost in my mind, followed by some of Donna Kauffman’s Scot series books).

For my Mirus stuff, I numbered Forsaken By Shadow 1.1, Devil’s Eye 1.2, and Blindsight 1.3 because all of them were collected in the omnibus edition Genesis, which was officially the first book in the series.  But that doesn’t much make sense for Wishful.

In investigating my options, I have discovered that Amazon allows you to list books as part of a series without specifying volume number at all, if you don’t want.  If you choose to use that feature, you can do #.#, but you only get a single decimal place (so no 1.25 or something).

Smashwords has their handy series manager tool, which allows you to set the chronological order, custom numbering scheme, and choose whether to show the volume number at all.  

Barnes and Noble requires a volume number if you go through Nookpress, and it has no decimals at all, so it won’t accept the convention of 1.5 for a novella.  Same for Draft2Digital.  I did notice that some traditionally published series are listed without numbers at all, so that requirement seems to just be on the self published side of BN.  I’m not sure what they do with titles distributed through Smashwords as I published almost everything except some short stories direct through NookPress, rather than go through the premium distribution.

I have two reasons for angsting over this.

1) I actually have another novella in Wishful that I want to write before the next full novel and since BC takes up the 1.5 slot…what would I number it?

2) If I were to use sequential numbering of just 1, 2, 3, etc., I wouldn’t want to tick off any readers who picked up one of the novellas expecting a full novel and don’t bother to read the description or the cover that blatantly SAYS novella and then get ticked off and feel cheated (which has certainly happened in the past).

One alternative I had considered was to update the product descriptions for everything in the series to include a list of all the books in the correct order, with notations by the side saying novel or novella (or short story, as I’ve got some of those too).

If I could do them without series numbers at all, I’d think that would be the best option.  It’s NOT the sort of series where it has to be read in order.  Each book is a standalone story and it’s not really a spoiler to know who got together in a different book because, hey, romance.

So, authors, readers, WEIGH IN.  What do you think makes the most sense?

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6 comments

  1. I think Cindy Pape’s stuff is clear about when you’re getting a novel vs. novella both by stating it clearly and also by price.
    Since you’re not sure what you’re doing, numbering incrementally with room to play makes sense. #1.5 gives you room for up to 4 novellas before and 4 after. Combined with a list of books in order in the descriptions, front matter, and your media places, that should be enough for people concerned about order to figure it out.
    I also like the idea of not numbering and letting readers go find out the order. Just remember that librarians on Goodreads and such WILL do the numbering for you if you don’t do it yourself, so you’d have to go check and update those as well if you insert new stories into the timeline.
    You could also number in order of publication and then be really clear about chronology in a separate list, but I think that’s confusing.
    Remember when Star Wars 1-3 became 4-6? And no one batted an eye because–MOAR Star Wars! (Okay, nevermind how that turned out.) (Even if they didn’t number them 1-3, they were 1-3 in my head.)
    No matter what you do, if you provide easily found lists of the reading order, you’ll have a leg up on most of what’s out there that frustrates us.

    1. It appears that since 2 of my vendors are going to force me into sequential numbering with no decimals, I will be forced to go with that. And honestly, it doesn’t bother me that much, I was just trying to avoid confusing people as much as possible. The people who get ticked off that it’s a novella rather than a novel are going to do that regardless because they will find a way to ignore the cover page, the product listing, and the price difference that all indicate it’s something shorter, so… They are, thankfully, in the minority, I think.

  2. I didn’t realize some of the retailers didn’t allow decimals since so many authors use them. (I’m kind of ticked at B & N anyway.) If readers get mad because something is short, that’s on them if they don’t read the description. The bad thing is, sometimes they will leave a bad review because of it. But you can’t do anything about that. If the price is less for the shorter ones, I really don’t understand why people get upset. Silly.

    1. As another friend pointed out, the kind of people who are gonna throw a hissy fit over that are just the kind of people who want to throw a hissy fit regardless and you really can’t do anything about them.

  3. Since standalones, just stating they take place in the same world is enough to me. A new reader who likes the premise of book 3 more than the others could be turned off if she thinks she has to read two books to get to the one she wants.

    I wouldn’t stress too much about how to go about listing novel vs novella. No matter what you do, it’ll go over someone’s head and you’ll be blamed. The majority of readers will get it.

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