The time has come to discuss quitting. Not quitting writing, but quitting reading. Specifically, feeling so ambivalent about a series that you can't possibly be bothered to buy the next book.
I almost wrote that I'm a tolerant reader, and we all know that's not true. I'm a very demanding reader. When I pay for a book I expect the author to put time and effort into making their book flawless. And while a picky reader can find a flaw in the sixth or seventh read through, no reader should find glaring errors in the first three chapters the first time they read a book.
If I'm reading a series, it's safe to assume that the author wrote book one and two so well that I didn't have any major complaints. I rarely drop a series at book three. Book four seems to be the breaking point.
There is a stack of unfinished Book Fours on my shelf. Series after series hits this crucial book four, the transition out of the land of Trilogy, and fails. Why? I'll give you a hint: it isn't about the book.
It's about the author.
During a book or series I expect to see a character arc, the natural growth of the characters as they change over time. Even if the book only spans a few days, there will be a character arc in a good book. Underlying that is a much more subtle Author Growth Arc.
The more an author write, the better the author becomes. The more finesse they have, the fewer mistakes they make, the surer their voice becomes... all of this is part of the Author Growth Arc. And this is possibly the strongest argument for not publishing the first book you write.
Book four is where the lack of Author Growth Arc becomes a glaring error. Book four should be better than book one, it should be richer, more layered, and simply a better book. After writing and editing four novels, the author should be well enough versed in their craft to improve. If book four is no better than book one there's every likelihood that book four will also sound like a dull repeat of the previous three books. As the author makes their routine mistakes, the characters will make the same mistakes and repeat the same tiresome plot.
Over the summer I gave up on two series, both on book four. One was a self-published series, the other was traditionally published. In both cases I felt the authors were coasting on previous successes. In both cases book five is coming out late this year or early next year, and I have no intention of buying the book.
What's your deal breaker? What makes you give up on a series?