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Querying a Series


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#1 smithgirl

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Posted 23 January 2018 - 03:25 PM

My general understanding is that you should finish the first book of your series, but query only that one before you finish the rest. Do people agree with this? 

 

Some reasons I've seen for this strategy include:

 

1. If you get a publisher, they will likely request edits that can make your remaining books obsolete or will require major rewrites.

2. The max you can get is a three-book deal, so especially having more than 3 books completed before you query is a wash.

3. If the sales are poor on you first book, the rest of your books will not get published by the Big 5 or...anyone else? Could the remaining books get picked up by an indie press?

4. If your agent is unable to sell your first book, it's unlikely you'll be able to get a different agent to try again. So, series pretty much dead for Big 5.

5. If you query your first book unsuccessfully, it's unlikely you'll have more luck with a different book in the series. So once more, other books you've written are basically dead for Big 5.

6. Would anyone say it really is in your best interest to finish all your books before you query? For instance, in a trilogy?

 

I'm curious to learn if other people agree, if there are some important points/possibilities I'm missing. Just trying to become more informed on the issue.

 

Thanks!

 



#2 Kelz1990

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Posted 23 January 2018 - 06:58 PM

I'm curious about this too, but #5 scares me. I failed at querying the first book of my series. Granted, I only queried for a month before I quit so I could extensively revise (and unsurprisingly, my manuscript), but it's still a cause for concern. Number 3 is true from what I heard, though.



#3 lnloft

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Posted 23 January 2018 - 10:28 PM

Those are some interesting points that I hadn't thought about. I have written two full trilogies (still in need of revisions), and I'm currently working on the sequel to the project I'm querying, so this does pertain to me. However, I am going to defend writing the sequels, even if you're not published yet. For one, I write what I'm inspired to write. Generally I won't start writing the sequel straight away, but inevitably I will start getting the "itch", and I know that I need to let this next story out or I will explode. So that's one thing, at least for me, that while I am absolutely writing with the intention of getting published, I also write for me because that is what I need to do. I know neither of my trilogies are in a publishable state yet (although I hope to get there one day), but writing them also gave me invaluable experience to get to where I could write the project I'm querying. So if nothing else, writing sequels before publication is good practice.

 

Another defense I will offer is that it can often make the first book stronger. I'm one of those authors who has a general idea of where they want the story to go but don't have a strong outline to work with, which means I discover things as I go. So this means there have been times when I figured something out while writing a later book, and because the first book is not published yet, I have been able to go back and adjust the first book accordingly.

 

The final thing I will say is that while those two trilogies really need to all go together, the book I'm querying and the sequel I'm working on are much more isolated adventures rather than one long story line (think Jim Butcher's Dresden Files versus Lord of the Rings). So I feel that whatever adjustments agents/editors want on this project, there will be less rewrites required for the sequel, which makes it safer to spend time now.

 

Now, none of this eliminates a lot of the points you made above, namely that if, for instance, you get poor sales, you're seriously doubtful to get published with Big 5 for the sequels (I think that if I ever fell into this position, I would likely go ahead and self-publish the sequels). So ultimately it comes down to a bit of a gamble of what you want to do. For me, I think I'll likely just keep writing sequels, mostly for the first reason I outlined, which is that if I don't write the stories I'm inspired with, my head would probably explode. When it really comes down to it, my number one reason for writing is because that's what I want to do. And there are plenty of legitimate, published authors out there who have written books that they have never published. On his website, Brandon Sanderson will mention some of the books he wrote before he published his first one, which will likely never see the light of day, and I am starting to realize that this might end up being the fate of some of my earlier projects. If that's the case, then so be it, but I don't regret the time I spent writing them, because they are part of how I got to where I am today.

 

(Sorry, I think I got really ramble-y in this post.)


Nothing to reciprocate on right now; I'm off in the query trenches.


#4 smithgirl

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Posted 24 January 2018 - 12:38 PM

I completely understand the argument that finishing the series can make all the books stronger -- because you can go back to the previous books and add in clues, info, etc. related to later books that you didn't have when you started. I also understand that people write what they feel the need to write -- I do the same thing. I'm just thinking of how series writing fits/doesn't fit with the general publishing strategies of the Big 5. 



#5 smithgirl

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Posted 24 January 2018 - 12:41 PM

Kelz, one month is nothing, I've been querying for years. Keep going.



#6 Springfield

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Posted 26 January 2018 - 10:43 AM

Those points are all true in my experience sgirl. The one caveat I'd offer is to say I've known plenty of people whose primary agent for a book with obvious sequel possibilities asked for an outline/synopsis of the potential sequel or series fairly immediately upon signing,  as agents want to sign people who will have ongoing careers not single books to sell.

 

That doesn't though, negate any of the points in your OP -- those sequels may never see the light of day for all those reasons, so having written them doesn't help more than having thought about them enough to have a page or so of synopsis, if you see what I'm saying. I've known people who got multi deals too, and for the most part they were based on incomplete sequential works, so again, your OP stands. 

 

The one deal I'm familiar with for a spate of written works is a friend who actually self-pubbed and did well enough (but not too well) to get attention and recently went through the wringer with offers that hinged on scrapping and redoing the entire thing, until one offer wanted the series, but heavily rejiggered. Good deal, but ....



#7 smithgirl

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Posted 26 January 2018 - 10:52 AM

Those points are all true in my experience sgirl. The one caveat I'd offer is to say I've known plenty of people whose primary agent for a book with obvious sequel possibilities asked for an outline/synopsis of the potential sequel or series fairly immediately upon signing,  as agents want to sign people who will have ongoing careers not single books to sell.

 

That doesn't though, negate any of the points in your OP -- those sequels may never see the light of day for all those reasons, so having written them doesn't help more than having thought about them enough to have a page or so of synopsis, if you see what I'm saying. I've known people who got multi deals too, and for the most part they were based on incomplete sequential works, so again, your OP stands. 

 

The one deal I'm familiar with for a spate of written works is a friend who actually self-pubbed and did well enough (but not too well) to get attention and recently went through the wringer with offers that hinged on scrapping and redoing the entire thing, until one offer wanted the series, but heavily rejiggered. Good deal, but ....

Thanks for your input. I don't write series, but I'll be talking about querying with our local writers group, and two of those people are engaged in long series (5 books or more).  I'm worried they're not doing themselves any favors.

 

I have read about agents requesting synopses for potential series books, when the rest aren't finished.

 

It's true that agents/publishers will approach authors with especially good sales, and offer representation. But as you said, they don't want to pick up an existing series but something new. 

 

If you get your first book traditionally published, but the sales are too low for the publisher to take the rest, then you can self publish the rest but likely will not be able to get rights back for your first book, so you'd have to self pub just from the second book on.

 

I wanted to get some feedback re how many of my concerns are justified. 



#8 Nessa

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Posted 26 January 2018 - 02:09 PM

My general understanding is that you should finish the first book of your series, but query only that one before you finish the rest. Do people agree with this? ​[This is also my strategy. Only standalones.]

 

Some reasons I've seen for this strategy include:

 

1. If you get a publisher, they will likely request edits that can make your remaining books obsolete or will require major rewrites.​[Agreed. I've thought about the direction a sequel would take, but the feedback I've received in the partial/full stage guided me in a substantial revision that would heavily impact a potential sequel.]

2. The max you can get is a three-book deal, so especially having more than 3 books completed before you query is a wash.​[I've never thought of going beyond a trilogy, but this is interesting.]

3. If the sales are poor on you first book, the rest of your books will not get published by the Big 5 or...anyone else? Could the remaining books get picked up by an indie press?​[I've heard of one author who published through a strong indie, but had poor sales on his first and second book (I think this was a two-book deal), so he self-pubbed the final book. His next book came out through another strong indie, but he's been quiet since then.]

4. If your agent is unable to sell your first book, it's unlikely you'll be able to get a different agent to try again. So, series pretty much dead for Big 5.​[Yeah, this is also what I've heard.]

5. If you query your first book unsuccessfully, it's unlikely you'll have more luck with a different book in the series. So once more, other books you've written are basically dead for Big 5.

6. Would anyone say it really is in your best interest to finish all your books before you query? For instance, in a trilogy?​[Ehhhhhhhhh. There are always benefits, but I think they're very heavily outweighed by the cons.]

 

I'm curious to learn if other people agree, if there are some important points/possibilities I'm missing. Just trying to become more informed on the issue.​[Everything you've listed above aligns with what I've heard. I strongly agree. Unless I get a multi-book deal, I'm sticking to standalones.]

 

Thanks!


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