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52greg
02-14-2014, 02:20 AM
I've written three-- possibly four, depending on how you define the series-- mystery novels in a projected series. All are complete, and all stand alone. Assuming they are all of publishing quality, would an agent in this genre be attracted to a series project that had the possibility of a fast start?

Thedrellum
02-14-2014, 08:45 AM
52greg, you should probably start a new thread since you're more likely to get specific responses that way.

That said, I'd say that you need to hook an agent with your first book, and that's the thing that matters most. If the agent likes your first book, and you have three more in the series ready to go, then bonus. But it's the first book that matters.

CaoPaux
02-14-2014, 09:27 PM
(Broken out from irrelevant thread. Carry on.)

heza
02-14-2014, 09:30 PM
I think it's acceptable to say, "X is a standalone novel with series potential."

52greg
02-14-2014, 10:20 PM
Thanks all. I meant to make this a new thread. I don't know what happened.

Aggy B.
02-14-2014, 11:07 PM
I queried my agent with a novel that had "series potential". As soon as he read the MS he called to ask me where I saw the overall arc of the series heading.

So, it can be an incentive for the right agent to have a series idea (or multiple books already written).

Filigree
02-15-2014, 06:32 AM
What Aggy said. The key here is to use the phrase 'series potential', not 'I have already written X number of books in this unpublished series'. Because the latter is a great way to make agents run away, at least until they know the quality of your work. Once you're signed and the first book seems likely to make waves, then the publicity department falls all over itself to promote your long-term planning and commitment.

That may sound a bit cynical, but it's what I watched in thirty-five years of following genre series.

Agents are like very skittish trout on a great flyfishing river: catch their eyes with something tasty-looking, hook them, and then reel them in carefully.

ETA: agents want series novels because those help build an author's career. But they want *good* series novels.

Charging Boar
02-15-2014, 11:13 PM
What Aggy said. The key here is to use the phrase 'series potential', not 'I have already written X number of books in this unpublished series'. Because the latter is a great way to make agents run away, at least until they know the quality of your work. Once you're signed and the first book seems likely to make waves, then the publicity department falls all over itself to promote your long-term planning and commitment.

That may sound a bit cynical, but it's what I watched in thirty-five years of following genre series.

Agents are like very skittish trout on a great flyfishing river: catch their eyes with something tasty-looking, hook them, and then reel them in carefully.

ETA: agents want series novels because those help build an author's career. But they want *good* series novels.

I believe Brandon Sanderson was asked if he had any series books after he submitted his first stand alone and got accepted. Thus began Mistborn.

alexaherself
02-16-2014, 12:10 AM
Agents like what they can sell.

To put that another way, agents like what publishers like.

Publishers want a writer and a career, not just a one-off book. Any "first fiction" publishing contract is probably going to include something (whether legally enforceable or not) about options regarding the writer's second, and maybe third, books.

I don't think "series potential" can be a disadvantage, in these circumstances.

benluby
02-16-2014, 12:18 AM
If the books are well written, after, as has been said ad nauseum, you pitch it as 'series potential', and the first one is out there, the publishers would love that. Nothing better than a book that has a following which means almost guaranteed sales, and not as much in advertising overhead.
Harry Potter made how many millions with the media pretty much covering all it's advertising costs?
Twilight, the Hunger Games, then you have Sherlock Holmes, John Carter, Warlord of Mars, and numerous other series.
Hercule Poirot and how many others?
Go for it. I personally like series books.

Jamesaritchie
02-16-2014, 03:03 AM
Of course, but for the most part, series are made through sales, not born all at once. From new writers it's best if the first book stands alone, even if it has strong series potential. If it doesn't sell well, there will probably be no second book.

If you have to tell an agent that your book has series potential, you really need to find a different agent. An agent's job depends on being able to spot series potential, and she knows a heck of a lot more that the writer about what will and won't sell, what has or lacks series potential.

Aggy B.
02-16-2014, 04:03 AM
Of course, but for the most part, series are made through sales, not born all at once. From new writers it's best if the first book stands alone, even if it has strong series potential. If it doesn't sell well, there will probably be no second book.

If you have to tell an agent that your book has series potential, you really need to find a different agent. An agent's job depends on being able to spot series potential, and she knows a heck of a lot more that the writer about what will and won't sell, what has or lacks series potential.

Actually, my agent's job depends on being able to sell books to publishers, whether it's one at a time or as a trilogy/series.

aus10phile
02-16-2014, 07:01 AM
If you have to tell an agent that your book has series potential, you really need to find a different agent. An agent's job depends on being able to spot series potential, and she knows a heck of a lot more that the writer about what will and won't sell, what has or lacks series potential.

That's interesting. I've wondered about that myself.

Even from the brief time I've spent in QLH on this site, I've seen "series potential" so many times in query letters that I wonder if it has any meaning to agents. It seems like at least half of writers want to write a series these days.

My WIP that is nearing submission readiness has some groundwork laid for a series (though it is a standalone novel), but I've opted not to talk about it in a query.

For one thing, my beta readers have seen the series possibility from reading the book, so surely an agent will, too. Second of all, I'm more concerned about selling ONE book, my first one. I'll worry about other books when I get through this hurdle.

Wormwood
02-16-2014, 09:10 AM
I think that you could picture a series for just about any book, barring a book where the MC or multiple MC's die at the end. I don't think that it's a great idea to write a novel saying "this is going to be a series."

I think the way to do a series is like the OP said and that's to write the story see where it goes and then decide at the end if books fit together or if it has another story waiting to be told.

As far as agents I think they are looking for anything they can sell, whether it's a series or not. I can't see an agent being turned off by more potential books to sell unless A. Book one flopped or B. Book one was great, but the following books weren't at the same standard.

What I've always wondered is if sometimes a second or third book in a series isn't the place where the author should have started and had it standalone. But that's my personal opinion and some series' have been great.

Micah

micahackerman.weebly.com

Filigree
02-16-2014, 10:38 AM
I seem to recall fantasy author Scott Lynch mentioning in interviews that his 'Gentlemen Bastards' series actually started with a mms set later in the story arc. But he had to write a couple of books to set the stage, show the worldbuilding, and build up the true conflict.

He was probably right; a standalone novel might not have had the depth the story merited.

Jamesaritchie
02-16-2014, 10:28 PM
The thing to remember is that probably 98% of genre novels have series potential, it just depends on what you mean by "series".

The word "series" is too often used as a catch all phrase. If you mean a trilogy type series, where several books tell one story, such as Harry Potter, that's one thing. But "series" is any number of standalone novels using the same characters.


In either case, a new writer is better off writing the first novel so that it can, if it must, standalone. Publishers like teh option of giving readers one book that can standalone because teh alternative is to give them one book that doesn't, and if that book flops, then what do you do? Do you leave readers hanging? Do you publishes the rest of the books, even though you're losing money with each?

Series potential is great, but being a standalone novel does not, in any way, mean a book doesn't have strong series potential.

Jamesaritchie
02-16-2014, 10:29 PM
I seem to recall fantasy author Scott Lynch mentioning in interviews that his 'Gentlemen Bastards' series actually started with a mms set later in the story arc. But he had to write a couple of books to set the stage, show the worldbuilding, and build up the true conflict.

He was probably right; a standalone novel might not have had the depth the story merited.

A standalone novel has as much depth as any other book. Often more. Writing prequels and sequels doesn't mean a standalone lacks depth, it just means you want to tell story that happened before or after the standalone.

ARoyce
02-17-2014, 12:48 AM
Well, as others have said, it depends. Even if you're planning a series, the first book should work as a standalone.

Will agents be more interested in a querying author because there's series potential? Not necessarily. They care most about a compelling and sell-able story. Even if writer who doesn't mention series potential, an enthusiastic agent could then suggest it, if they believe in the project and think it can be built on.

But I doubt agents are inherently more interested in a query that mentions series potential...they're interested in good writers with strong books.

52greg
02-17-2014, 01:04 AM
Thanks, all, for your insights.

Barbara R.
02-17-2014, 01:09 AM
A year or so ago, I'd have said not to mention the series until you'd hooked an agent on the first book, but the market has changed. I still wouldn't stress the fact that it's a series--it's more important to hook them into reading the first book on its own account--but nowadays I'd definitely mention it in the query letter. Editors are hungry for series, so agents are changing their attitudes.

quicklime
02-18-2014, 12:29 AM
...
Even from the brief time I've spent in QLH on this site, I've seen "series potential" so many times in query letters that I wonder if it has any meaning to agents. It seems like at least half of writers want to write a series these days.

....


to be honest, as just a guy who spends lots of time in QLH, at least half of the time all it means when I read it is "I'm trying to sell three books right away instead of concentrating on one, Gazillionaire life here I come!!!" or "Buy ALL my books, they're awesome!" or "I wrote 300K, and in the end decided I'd split it and make 3X the riches instead of editing it to 100K and parting with any of my darlings" or a thousand other less-than-flattering things. By now I kinda cringe a bit on seeing it sometimes, although I am no agent.