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View Full Version : Is it too soon for a 3 book deal?



PeteDutcher
01-31-2012, 10:42 AM
I have been presented an offer on a novel that requires 2 additional novels as part of the deal. The story in the first book is self-contained, and the following books are based in different generations.

Here's my problem:
I originally wrote the first book for kicks. It's fantasy, which is what I like to write, but it is a concept I figured to take my time on writing the next 2 books as I focused on my other work.

(hope I'm explaining this clearly)

My current project is really, really going well. Taking this offer would delay my current novel by at least 1 1/2 years.

Am I insane for wanting to turn down the deal? This current project is going so well I believe it could be a huge success.

PLUS, 3 books is a big commitment with so little experience. I've only been writing full time since May 2010, and I write slow...like almost a year per book.

Just to provide some info...I grew up reading Louis L'Amour westerns. My favorites were the Sackets books. So this particular book I wrote with the intent of a fantasy following the bloodline of a certain family, who is inherently magic...generation to generation. Each book is meant to focus on a different person in the bloodline.

Again...I wrote it for kicks as something I could add to over time, between main projects. Now, I'm wondering if I should have just self published it in ebook form.

IceCreamEmpress
01-31-2012, 10:50 AM
If you don't want to commit to writing two more books in the series on the schedule specified in this deal, then it would be a huge mistake to take this deal. Huge mistake.

Terie
01-31-2012, 11:55 AM
What ICE said.

But I'm wondering...if you don't have the time right now to work on the rest of the trilogy, why did you query it?

Here is something else to consider:

How will you feel if, two years from now, you can't find a home for the current WIP and you also don't have a deal for the trilogy? Will you be kicking yourself for not taking the bird in hand while holding out for the two in the bush...who then flew away?

We always think our work has the potential to be a big success. Why else spend the time working on it? But there are no guarantees, especially if you're not an established author whose work is in demand. (And even they get rejections, you know.)

Still, what ICE said is true. If you really Really REALLY can't commit to the required schedule, then don't sign a contract to do so.

Polenth
01-31-2012, 01:01 PM
I'd also consider who is asking. If it's a major publisher, it could well be worth delaying your other project. Having a full trilogy out there will help you sell other things. But that's only going to work if you throw your enthusiasm behind it, so you get the work done.

If it's a small micropress with no distribution, which is likely to disappear in a couple of years because the owner got bored with it... you don't want to dedicate several years to that.

bearilou
01-31-2012, 06:56 PM
But I'm wondering...if you don't have the time right now to work on the rest of the trilogy, why did you query it?

Color me confused but from what I've read elsewhere on the boards, this kind of flies in the face of the standard advice given to new writers who 'write in trilogies'.

--The first book should be a stand alone. Query as such.

--When you put the book out to query, start a new book. It's not wise to start the second book in a trilogy in the event the first book doesn't sell. Putting all your eggs in one basket. Start a different book to try to sell.

*enter separate advice about learning how to outline (if the writer is not an outliner by nature) and how to write synopsis in the event the first book gets picked up. you are able to show the agent and/or publisher you have ideas for the continuation*


Here is something else to consider:

How will you feel if, two years from now, you can't find a home for the current WIP and you also don't have a deal for the trilogy? Will you be kicking yourself for not taking the bird in hand while holding out for the two in the bush...who then flew away?

Which is a good question. So what is a writer to do? Put all their hopes and dreams to ride on this one trilogy selling? Have different works not related to the series to show the agent that you have other things to offer?

I realize it's ultimately up to the individual how they approach it and they have to do what's best for themselves and their career.


Still, what ICE said is true. If you really Really REALLY can't commit to the required schedule, then don't sign a contract to do so.

Pretty much. I think it would be served by talking about it in more detail. Do you have ideas developed for a continuation, even if they're scribbled on napkins? Can you whip an outline or synopsis or something up for them to see? Are you being asked to do this for them? Is there a time frame they want to have the books published in succession? How much leeway do you have? If this is something you want bad enough, can you put the current project to the side to work on during the mind-refresh times while working on the series?

I think it's decision points like this that really illustrate that publishing is a business and while writing is creative, when you get picked up for publication, the writer is expected to do some things from a business perspective. To be successful at it, the writer has to make some sacrifices, balancing the business with the creative.

Good luck!

Cyia
01-31-2012, 07:24 PM
Does the publisher specify that all 3 are in a series? If not, then talk to your agent (if you have one) and see what the constraints of the contract are. The publisher may be willing to take 3 single books. (I have a contract like this with my publisher in the UK. I can either give them 3 books in the series, or the original novel+1 sequel+1stand alone)

Also, I'm not sure why you'd have to "put off" your other project, even if you sign for a trilogy. You can have more than one contract at a time, so long as your agent is mindful of the non-compete clauses.

Terie
01-31-2012, 07:25 PM
But I'm wondering...if you don't have the time right now to work on the rest of the trilogy, why did you query it?

Color me confused but from what I've read elsewhere on the boards, this kind of flies in the face of the standard advice given to new writers who 'write in trilogies'.

--The first book should be a stand alone. Query as such.

--When you put the book out to query, start a new book. It's not wise to start the second book in a trilogy in the event the first book doesn't sell. Putting all your eggs in one basket. Start a different book to try to sell.

Berilou. There, is that colouring you confused enough? :D

Okay, but seriously, allow me to clarify.

I based my question on the first line of the OP:


]I have been presented an offer on a novel that requires 2 additional novels as part of the deal. The story in the first book is self-contained, and the following books are based in different generations.

If (or in this case, when) a book is self-contained/stand-alone, a publisher wouldn't know there are more potential volumes unless the writer tells them so.

This might just be me, but if I weren't prepared to drop a current WIP in favour of writing the rest of a series if offered a contract, I wouldn't mention that there was series potential. Telling a publisher this raises the expectation that the writer is prepared to actually write it.

bearilou
01-31-2012, 07:32 PM
Berilou. There, is that colouring you confused enough? :D

:hooray: I like being colorful!



This might just be me, but if I weren't prepared to drop a current WIP in favour of writing the rest of a series if offered a contract, I wouldn't mention that there was series potential. Telling a publisher this raises the expectation that the writer is prepared to actually write it.

Oooh. Gotcha and thanks! Yeah. I have to agree there and that is something I have already worked out for myself. I'm writing something that will be a standalone but I figure (once I'm done) I'll have some kind of treatment ready for the next book or two beyond that, with the full intent of dropping whatever else I'm doing to work on it in the event that it does sell.

Mind made up, I feel confident to finish the first book, shine it up, send it out and work on another unrelated project.

Drachen Jager
01-31-2012, 09:19 PM
I think it depends on where you see yourself as a writer and the $$$ involved.

If the three book deal is financially attractive and you want to be a career writer then you should take it, even if it means abandoning your side-projects for a while. Doing it for the money means you can't always dictate what you're working on, you are in a sense working for the publisher. That's not a bad thing, it's just the life of a commercial artist (which, like it or not, all career novelists are).

On the other hand, if writing is a hobby for you, do what you want. If the money for the book deal is not a driving factor, do what you want.

Filigree
01-31-2012, 10:13 PM
If the publisher is big enough and stable enough to justify the time spent on writing for them, take the money and get cracking on the sequels. A good series will help you sell your standalone novels. Two or three years isn't that much time, in publishing, and your ideas won't grow stale. Also, you can work on multiple projects if you manage your time wisely.

kaitie
01-31-2012, 11:50 PM
I would say it depends on the publisher and the deal as well, for me. This is just my own opinion and everyone is going to have different priorities.

My current book that is out on sub could easily be a trilogy. I've written (essentially) two books for it, and I'm in the planning stages for a different, unrelated book. I'd be more than willing to write a third for the series if I was offered a contract, even if it meant putting aside the book I'm outlining now, in spite of being excited to work on it. I know that I can always come back to it later, and to be honest waiting a year and a half doesn't seem like all that much to me. I'd just be sure to take really good notes so that I can come back to it and remember where it was going.

Granted, it would also potentially depend on the offer. A major offer by a major publisher would no doubt be enough for me. Financially it would be worth it, but honestly I'd also want the commitment to multiple books. However, if I thought the one I was working on was highly commercially viable, and the offer was a non-advance paying epublisher, for instance, I'd turn down the contract.

Do you have an agent? This is something worth discussing if you do. Perhaps your agent could let you know what he thinks of your current book and its prospects. Something else to consider is how close you are to being finished with this book. If you're a month or two away, it might be worth finishing it and then working your ass off on the sequels.

Also, can you negotiate the time you have to write them?

Anne Lyle
02-01-2012, 12:04 AM
If (or in this case, when) a book is self-contained/stand-alone, a publisher wouldn't know there are more potential volumes unless the writer tells them so.

Not so. When I queried my ms, I didn't breathe a word about having a sequel roughed out, but the agent asked anyway. The old "don't pitch a series" chestnut really doesn't seem to apply any more, particularly in fantasy - a lot of publishers want series, and if they like your standalone fantasy they will ask for more of the same.

To the OP - how different from the offered ms is your WiP? Do you want to write in two very different genres, perhaps under pseudonyms (a la Nora Roberts/J D Robb)?

If you have an agent, I think you need to have a serious talk with him/her about the direction you want to take your career, because he/she is evidently pitching this fantasy to editors on the (perfectly natural) assumption that you're happy to write more of the same to order - because that's what pro writers do.

If you don't have an agent, you have to ask yourself how much you want a commercial book deal. Publishing's a tough business, and if you can't stand the heat...

Me, I jumped at a similar deal, but then I didn't have a conflicting project under way. Yes, it's been a tough learning curve, increasing my productivity so that I can put books out at roughly 10-month intervals, but I signed on the dotted line and I'm not going to let this opportunity get away from me!

Calla Lily
02-01-2012, 12:18 AM
Not so. When I queried my ms, I didn't breathe a word about having a sequel roughed out, but the agent asked anyway. The old "don't pitch a series" chestnut really doesn't seem to apply any more, particularly in fantasy - a lot of publishers want series, and if they like your standalone fantasy they will ask for more of the same.

This (although my series is mystery).



Me, I jumped at a similar deal, but then I didn't have a conflicting project under way. Yes, it's been a tough learning curve, increasing my productivity so that I can put books out at roughly 10-month intervals, but I signed on the dotted line and I'm not going to let this opportunity get away from me!

And this. A thousand times. I've always said I was a publication whore. I did have another book in the works, which I didn't hesitate to drop when offered a 3-book deal. My dropped book is still there, waiting patiently for when I have time.

YMMV.

Terie
02-01-2012, 12:50 AM
Not so. When I queried my ms, I didn't breathe a word about having a sequel roughed out, but the agent asked anyway. The old "don't pitch a series" chestnut really doesn't seem to apply any more, particularly in fantasy - a lot of publishers want series, and if they like your standalone fantasy they will ask for more of the same.

I see what you're saying, but my point is that the OP was offered a contract, not merely asked if there was more. Unless the contract for the trilogy came without any previous discussion about other books. I suppose some small presses might do that, but not any of the big or medium-sized guys.

If the OP didn't want to write the other books pretty much right away, he probably shouldn't have said there were other possible books. That's my point, really. If you don't want to do the work, don't volunteer the information. It would have been just as easy to say, 'No, that's all I have in mind right now,' or something like that, if he wasn't prepared to drop the current WIP.

Cyia
02-01-2012, 12:57 AM
Not so. When I queried my ms, I didn't breathe a word about having a sequel roughed out, but the agent asked anyway.

Ditto. In fact, the agents who read mine all assumed it was a stand alone, when I'd planned to make it a series. The editor who made the first offer asked if I wanted to do prequels or sequels, but it wasn't part of the pitch AFAIK.

I tend to work on several things at once, so it's never occured to me to drop one in favor of another.

Sage
02-01-2012, 01:12 AM
Does the publisher specify that all 3 are in a series? If not, then talk to your agent (if you have one) and see what the constraints of the contract are. The publisher may be willing to take 3 single books. (I have a contract like this with my publisher in the UK. I can either give them 3 books in the series, or the original novel+1 sequel+1stand alone)

Also, I'm not sure why you'd have to "put off" your other project, even if you sign for a trilogy. You can have more than one contract at a time, so long as your agent is mindful of the non-compete clauses.
Yep, this is what I was going to say. Signing a 3-book deal does not necessarily mean that you're signing up for a trilogy. I've seen many authors with multi-book deals whose second book was unrelated to the first. And I also agree that if you do end up with a trilogy, you can still work on your other book.

IceCreamEmpress
02-01-2012, 03:21 AM
Several people have made the very good point that maybe this isn't a three-book-series deal! Pete, can we get more information?

Bottom line, if it is, is that it's really hard to keep to deadlines even on a series you're totally committed to. If you'd rather be doing something else, you're taking a bigger risk of crashing and burning in a really unpleasant way.

PeteDutcher
02-13-2012, 06:47 PM
I turned it down for a couple of reasons:

1) When I consider the work in question, which is my early work, I just don't care for the quality as compared to now.Not sure I want to be defined by the work in its current form, and a rewrite might change it entirely.

2) Timing. I have to give my current project priority. It's a decision I've weighed carefully.

To answer some questions though, it was a 3 book series deal. When I finished the book I sent queries to every agent/publisher I could find. Being so new at this stuff, I was without a true sense of direction and anxious to get published.

Thank you for the advice, everyone!
I know, some might think me insane for turning down a deal. I am serious about my writing, and I do plan to make a living at it.

And I know there comes a point where being overcritical of my own work can hamper my advancement. However, sometimes I think wisdom and an eye to the future plays a big role as well.

I believe my current works are much better...a difference of night and day.

Even though I've rejected the publishers offer...
...they agreed to give my more recent work a serious look, so it might work out after all.

It is a small publisher...well, small to mid sized. Exposure might be an issue.

Jamesaritchie
02-13-2012, 09:25 PM
Berilou.



If (or in this case, when) a book is self-contained/stand-alone, a publisher wouldn't know there are more potential volumes unless the writer tells them so.

.

Not true. Publishers very often want a three book deal based on a stand alone novel, and the writer doesn't have to tell them anything.

When dealing with a trilogy, one or three isn't an option. It takes three books to tell one story, so one deal for all three books is automatic, and non-negotiable.

Publishers ask for a three book deal with a stand alone because they believe the first book is going to sell well. If it does, they have the writer sewed up for the next two books.
A writer can always deliver two more books, if he wants to, and a publisher can always tell whether two more books using the same setting is possible, once they read the first book.

But a three book deal very often means two more books in the same genre, not automatically two more books that are part of a series.

triceretops
02-13-2012, 09:49 PM
This is just me, but I would not, under any circumstances, write a trilogy for a publisher who does not offer an advance (of some type), does not have book store placement or solid distribution in place. It just too much work for so little. I can't think of a better waste of three years of my life and talent, if I were to accept such a contract with a questionable publisher.

Tri

BethS
02-14-2012, 02:40 AM
Do you have an agent? If not, start querying immediately (phone queries are acceptable when you have an offer in hand, and that offer is always a good incentive to an agent to give you a serious look) and find one. Have him or her look over the contract. He or she could advise you on this.

You may be crazy for turning it down. You may not be. It depends on a lot of factors.

Jamesaritchie
02-14-2012, 08:16 PM
This is just me, but I would not, under any circumstances, write a trilogy for a publisher who does not offer an advance (of some type), does not have book store placement or solid distribution in place. It just too much work for so little. I can't think of a better waste of three years of my life and talent, if I were to accept such a contract with a questionable publisher.

Tri

It's not just you.

ironmikezero
02-14-2012, 10:47 PM
If financial constraints are not compelling you to do otherwise, following your heart is hardly ever a poor choice.

PeteDutcher
02-21-2012, 02:34 AM
This is just me, but I would not, under any circumstances, write a trilogy for a publisher who does not offer an advance (of some type), does not have book store placement or solid distribution in place. It just too much work for so little. I can't think of a better waste of three years of my life and talent, if I were to accept such a contract with a questionable publisher.

Tri

An advance was offered.