The mystery of the missing middle book …

I just got my royalty statements from HarperCollins Oz this week, and while chatting with another HC Voyager author on the same day, we both remarked that the third book of our trilogies had sold a whole lot better than the middle one. Huh?

So what we both want to know is:
Why on earth do so many of you skip the middle volume?
Is it that the middle book so often sucks, you decide to skip it on principle?
Is it that publishers have got it wrong – you don’t want trilogies, you want duologies instead?
Everyone gets the middle one from the library?
You buy one between you and pass it around?
Two is an unlucky number?

I really am intrigued. Especially as I thought that the middle book of mine, Gilfeather, was actually the best of the three. And I would have thought that it would be very difficult to understand book 3 without having read it.

So, can anyone tell me: what is it about middle books?

Originally posted in Glenda’s blog on Wednesday, 15 March 2006 (8 Comments).


The mystery of the missing middle book … — 3 Comments

  1. I know this post is from a few years ago, but it doesn’t look like anyone sent an answer, and it is a great question, so i thought “why not?” Also, since I generally LOVE to read just about any book I can get my hands on, I might actually know the answer to this one….

    Usually (not saying this is always true), the first book of any trilogy ends on a fairly positive note, because an author doesn’t know how well its going to do, or if they will get to expand on the story…same goes for the third book because it is the end, and everything has to get wrapped up with an ending that leaves everyone satisfied.

    The second book is generally where everything goes to hell in a hand basket, and tends to end on a cliffhanger. While in my personal case, there is no more beautiful thing in the world than “and then it got worse,” I think a lot of people just want to feel good, and don’t get that instant gratification from the second book in any given trilogy….even though it is necessary part of the story to make it feel like the characters really deserve whatever happens to them in the next book.

    And then it just comes down to laziness…. people say, “oh no, what’s gonna happen next? That was so (insert emotion here)…I think I’ll wait till the next book comes out, in 6-12 months, and then if the ending is good, I’ll buy them both!” And guess what. The next book comes out, they get excited, buy it, read it, and then never remember to pick up the second one. Silly, right?

    Or the other possibility, they’ve had their faith shattered in the past by series that were supposed to be a “trilogy”, that then drags out for 4,5,6,7+ books….and want to MAKE SURE there is only 3 before they start buying them all….and forget to pick up number two.

    They really just need to have a little more faith in their favorite authors, and buy the second book when it comes out.

    That said, your writing is just wonderful, particularly liked the Watergiver trilogy, its VERY high (in fact, at the top) of my list of books I think would make wonderful movies ….brilliant storytelling. Looking forward to “The Dagger’s Path” coming gout in January!

  2. That’s an interesting reply; thanks Pheonix. I think you could be right too.

    I also think — from personal experience — that publishers give a lot of publicity to the first and the third books, but because they have limited budgets for publicity, tend to neglect the middle one and put what they have left into Vol 3, making the assumption, perhaps, that no one will buy the last one if they haven’t also bought the middle one!

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