Who here likes to pay 3+ dollars for a book and have the first quarter of it seemingly dedicated to what happened in the last book(s)? One of my harshest criticisms for some of the series I’ve read is when the author spends the first third of the next book rehashing old material. I understand the compulsion and yes, in a series, it’s important to know backstory. However, I’d like to think that readers of a series aren’t going to just come in mid-series and not bother reading the first books. I know when I find a series I think I’ll enjoy, I always want to start at the beginning. I doubt I am alone.
Now don’t get me wrong, I know that recaps are important. Most readers read more than one series at a time and with half a year or more between books, it’s easy to forget a lot of important plot lines/characters. This happens to me all the time on the Destroyermen series I’ve been reading for the last 4-5 years. However, if I get lost in the Destroyermen series, I can always go to a wiki or forum or even reread the last book to get back into the series. (By the way, if you happen to be an alternate reality fan, the first book, Into The Storm, is certainly worth picking up and be sure to get past the first couple chapters. I remember reading them and thinking, “What the heck, this is historical fiction, not science fiction!” But wow, what a great series.)
Back to the topic though. So, recaps are important but nobody wants to reread stuff they’ve already read from the previous book. With this in mind, I’m trying very hard to use prologues, and make them worth reading but also skippable if the reader doesn’t need the catch-up, so to speak. The prologue in Book Two (No Way to Start a War) has some interesting Easter eggs for the reader who already remembers the details of my first book (and it also fleshes out some of the aftermath of those events), but it also serves as something one could read and have the bare bones knowledge of what’s important to know for the start of the second book.
I’m excited about reading the future feedback I’ll get about NWTSAW’s prologue. Hopefully, it is a relatively original way to give the crucial background information without “taking up space” in the main story.