Unless you’ve been deep down underground or far off in cosmic space, you’ve probably noticed that the book publishing world is undergoing a myriad of changes. Aside from the fact that traditional publishing is making a revolutionary transition to e-books and self-publishing, books themselves are no longer being penned like they once were.
Nowadays, books are commonly released in three connected titles, as opposed to one solid, resolved storyline. Indeed, for the past few years book trilogies have been in full fashion, and readers can’t seem to get enough of them.
I personally never paid much attention to book trilogies until my friends introduced me to a post-apocalyptic, enthralling series called “The Hunger Games.” From the moment I picked up this well-written series, I lost all self-control; I simply couldn’t put the three books down.
I’d wake up early in the morning to read as much as I could squeeze in before work; take up my lunch break skimming pages and stay up half the night in order to finish the last pages of these three books. I was addicted to literacy, and the only way to satisfy my trilogy craving was to keep reading word after word, sentence after sentence, page after page.
I’m not the only one who feels this way about book trilogies. Titles like “The Hunger Games,” “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and countless others have completely turned the publishing world on its head. So, why are readers, publishers and authors so taken with book trilogies?
According to Erin Reel, literary consultant and director of Bozell Books, book trilogies first became popular about ten to twelve years ago. “Back in the early 2000s, if you had the possibility of a trilogy you would approach publishers with the whole trilogy already written. At that time, publishers were excited to work with authors that pitched well-written trilogies.”
Many of the current book trilogies on the market today have a lot of commonalities, and Reel says that that is often the case in trilogy writing. “When it comes to selling trilogies, publishers know what works. I don’t like to say there is a formula when it comes to writing trilogies since that implies there is no imagination, but you do have a basic structure,” she says. “The characters need to grow and be challenged throughout the whole series, and we need to see them evolve completely by the time we reach book three.”
As to whether or not the trilogy trend will play out much longer, Reel says she thinks trilogies may be taking a back seat in publishing very soon. “We’re seeing trilogies like ‘The Hunger Games’ outsell the entire ‘Harry Potter’ series, but once something that momentous happens, the trend has already passed,” she says. “Publishers are definitely becoming more conservative with book deals. Because of the major changes in publishing over the past three years, publishers are pulling back on trilogies. Instead, they would rather see one strong title with the possibility that it could turn into a trilogy.”
In terms of what future trends we should expect see in publishing, Reel says that consumers will likely see a rise in self-publishing, interactive e-readers and.. zombies. “Zombies are hanging in there,” she says. “I can’t figure out, but they don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.”
When Rachael Herron wrote her book “How to Knit a Love Song,” she didn’t intend for it to become a trilogy, but her publishers and editor loved her first book so much that they asked her if she could extend the story into two more books. “The editor wanted to know if I could expand it to a trilogy, [so] I thought about it and decided I could,” Herron says.
Herron’s three books cover the lives of a number of heroines and their personal struggles and journeys in the fictional town of Cypress Hollow. She admits that it was a struggle to take her first title and turn it into a complete trilogy. “When my editor requested the stand-alone book be made into a trilogy, I went into the [first] book to see if any of my secondary characters could prop up their own book. My problem was that I’d been too thorough — my secondary characters ended up with satisfying love stories. So, I focused on Eliza Carpenter, the knitting matriarch that the town reveres,” she says.
As to why trilogies have become so popular in the reading world, Herron says she believes it is a combination of the demands of publishers and the interests of readers. “Publishers request them because readers love them, [and] readers get the chance to have a new adventure in a setting they already care about. Everyone wins,” she admits.
Blythe Gifford is also a trilogy author. She wrote her three books – “Return of the Border Warrior,” “Captive of the Border Lord” and “Taken by the Border Rebel” – in a period of 18 months. The first book of the trilogy comes out in November 2012, and the other two will follow within four months. Gifford says she is very excited with how all the books turned out, but admits she wasn’t always thrilled with the idea of writing a trilogy.
“I had resisted trilogies for quite some time, and this decision was partially market driven,” she says. “Readers love connected books, and I thought it would be a good way to build readership for my historical romances…The challenge was to keep the overarching story connected and moving forward, while making certain that each book could stand on its own and satisfy the reader.”
Gifford’s books are about a close-knit family called the Brunson family and what happens to them during the turbulent era of Border Reivers. The trilogy primarily focuses on the Brunson siblings – two brothers and a sister – the family’s conflict with the King of Scotland, their individual romantic relationships and their relationships with each other.
Gifford also agrees with Herron’s assertion that it’s the readers love for familiar characters that makes trilogies so popular in the literary marketplace. “I’ve found this is even truer with the characters readers have come to love. They want to see more of them,” she says. “They become like friends. So when you get a chance to read about a dear friend again, what could be better?”