I think the major contributer to the problem is the huge-sweeping-multi-book-single-story-epic just isn't a viable form. And I think a major contributer to that problem is, the writers who are inclined to pursue that form don't know when to stop. (Terry Brooks would call this a failure to outline, meaning if you don't know where you're going when you start, you'll just go on and on.)
Is anyone else hoping Rothfuss's 3rd book is the last one?
I'm not sure if the writers engaged in sweeping epics are megalomaniacs, or if it's a problem perpetuated by publishers wanting to indenture writers, or if stand-alone books don't sell as well, or if writers don't want to do them as much. But I'm really starting to not want to see any more series. At all. It's to the point where I cringe whenever I see something new and see it's "book 1 of who the hell knows." There's a reason Netflix originals are released whole seasons at once. They understand that's how people want to consume entertainment. Serialized entertainment is becoming obsolete.
More stand-alones, please. There's something to be said for being able to tell a *whole* story in just one book. (That something is *thank you!*)
You hit the nail on the head here. Stand-alones are much tougher to sell for publishers, even for successful authors. Sequels and series sell much more, are more bankable and result in a more predictable income stream for author and publisher. In terms of books serialised entertainment is still very much the most profitable road to take. The better path to take is to write stand-alones which are set in a common setting or world, like Pratchett or Guy Gavriel Kay, which seems to work well.
You can see it with GRRM. He has (or seems to have) a lot less diehard fans than he did when I first heard about him. Contrary-wise, authors like, I dunno, Terry Pratchett just get more and more popular as time passes.
GRRM has a lot more diehard fans that he used to, but now the entry way into his books is a lot more varied (divided between TV and readers-first). He's still a hugely popular author with a lot of hardcore fans, but they're now more likely to have come from the TV show than the books first.
Which would be a perfectly valid argument if other authors weren't doing a job that was both good AND timely.
There are two problems with this statement. The first is that whilst there is a lot of "pretty good" stuff out there, the amount of epoch-making, game-changing stuff is incredibly rare. ASoIaF is, like or not, in that bracket. Something like Ben Aaronovitch's RIVERS OF LONDON series, although hugely enjoyable, is not.
The second is the common one that GRRM's output is insanely or unprecedently slow. It isn't. In terms of how quickly he churns out the word count, he's actually faster than JK Rowling and vastly faster than Pat Rothfuss. The problem is more that his books are gigantic and his exacting writing method is not best-suited to producing those books quickly. If you asked most authors if it was unreasonable to take five years to write half a million words, they'd look at you like you were crazy. Some take two or three years to write just 100,000, but because the books are much shorter you see them more often.