1. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Do Publishers Accept Series From First-Time Authors?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by TLK, Apr 6, 2013.

    So, I heard that Publishers don't accept series if it's your first novel. I wasn't quite sure if this meant they wouldn't publish an entire series if you just plonked them all down on their desk (metaphorically speaking) or whether it meant they wouldn't accept a novel if it was the first book in a series.

    So which one, if any, is true?

    I hope it's not the latter, since I've just got into writing a long series of books and I find it very difficult to write a decent story that spans only a single novel.

    Thanks in advance :)
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    They won't accept an entire series all at once, but they will accept a book if it's the first novel in a series. However, if the book can't stand on its own (i.e., if it has a cliffhanger), you'll have a hard time selling it.
     
  3. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Thanks for the quick reply!

    But a cliffhanger to what extent? (I've always been a bit confused about the term).

    Obviously, the story won't be finished and there will be unanswered questions, but I presume this is fine. Are you saying that as long as I don't end it on something like "The monster closed in rapidly on Derek and then..." it should be fine?
     
  4. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The first book has to tell a complete story. In other words, a reader shouldn't feel cheated if you never write the second book, or if it's never published. The first book is complete in itself.

    Of course, the complete story it tells might only be the first part of a much grander story that plays out in the subsequent books. But if there's no satisfying conclusion at the end of the first book, you'll have an awfully hard time selling it.
     
  5. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Hmmm... That's interesting. I'm not really sure if that does happen in mine.

    I mean, basically, the characters in question successfully flee from their pursuers and there's a big battle at the end which the good guys win (yay!). So, I guess it does kind of end, but there are a lot of unanswered questions floating around and there are people throughout the book who go on about how "this is a build up" or words to that effect.
     
  6. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    I wouldn't even tell them that it's a series: but then get right to writing the next one anyway.
     
  7. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I am sure you have read multiple series in your day. Just think about those, each entry has a conflict of its own that gets solved at the end, while continuing the series conflict in someway. If you also go back and think about the first entries in all of those books, you will see that they tidy the story up and could stop there, but leave some open threads to expand upon if they write more.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I won't say it's impossible to sell a novel as the start of a series as a new writer, but it's damned nearly so.

    A first time novelist is too often a one-shot. Even if the writer follows through and submits a second novel, the quality often doesn't cut it. Or the writer may try for another publisher next time, looking for more money or a broader market. On top of the usual risk that the new writer simply won't appeal to readers, this makes the writer pushing a seies entry a very poor risk. And the publisher also doesn't want to be pressured into more of a series if it's going to be less than profitable, nor isi it a ggod idea to take all the risk amd allow a competitor cash in on the followups.

    Now, it's true that publishers want to see signs that the writer has more ideas than just the one novel, But a series isn't really more ideas, it's a dream of selling more of the same, stretching the coverage of one idea, What they prefer to see is that you have plans for multiple unrelated novels.

    It's also not good for you as a fledgling writer to aim for a series straight out of the gate. You should be putting all your effort int the first novel, holding nothing in reserve.
     
  9. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    This is true, should have thought of it really. I'll do that then, thanks for the advice.

    Thanks for the reply, Cogito, very informative! Though, sadly, it does seem like a single novel is the way forward for now.

    The only problem is that I'm 40,000 words into the first novel in the series and I've already planned out the first draft of the entire series as well as creating some supplementary stuff. Now, although, I do have ideas for another story, I'm not sure if I'll be able to condense it down into a single novel. But what should I do anyway? Should I just pause writing the series now, and start work on this single novel? Or finish the first novel in the series first? Or even just finish the entire series and save it for later?
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    So save it for after you're established. By then, you'll probably want to do a full rewrite anyway. At least, you should hope so, because your writing skills should be rapidly improving over the time that your first novels are developing.
     
  11. swhibs123
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    swhibs123 Active Member

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    Debut authors land series contracts all the time. Agents pick up authors for their first novels that are part of a series all the time. You can absolutely sell a series to a publisher without a track record. Don't give up before you try. But if you're done book one, now is the time to pitch to agents.

    Good luck


    ETA: My advice would be to write book one. Outline the rest in the series. Pitch book one to agents. While you're pitching, work on something new. Something unrelated.
     
  12. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    This is no problem, and keep going with this book. As long as it's a stand-alone story, with no cliff-hangers, no foreshadowing of future books, and no secrets withheld, then it's fine to try to publish this one. Pitch it as a stand-alone book with potential for sequels, rather than the first book in a series. You've put a lot of work into this one, you might as well see it to the end.
     
  13. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Thanks for the replies, guys.

    So, I will keep working on this book, but I'm don't think it will be the one I will first pitch to a publisher. It sort of has an end, i.e. the battle is won and everyone's fine, but there is a lot of talk about how there is a lot of change going on and all that jazz. I think it strongly eludes to follow-ups, despite itself having a sort-of ending.

    But I still find it hard to condense a decent story down into a single novel...
     
  14. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    My advice if you want to pitch a series as an unpublished writer, complete the series. As someone said earlier, it does happen often, especially in the fantasy genres, and major publishers do pick up series from debut authors, but there's a trend now to release the books in quick succession while the series is still fresh, instead of waiting two years for the author to write the next one. So if you've written a stellar first novel and have the rest of the series nearing completion, you might just be a tempting prospect for a publisher. On the other hand, pitching book one of a series you haven't come anywhere close to completing, could be too much of a gamble for the publisher or agent. So here's the risk. Write multiple books with the chance the entire thing might be mediocre and unpublishable, and therefore with little reward, or write one independent book, and risk less for a similar reward.
     
  15. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Thanks for the advice, its very helpful! :)

    I think I'll finish this first novel in the series (as posters have said, it probably would be silly to stop it halfway through), but after that I'll leave the rest of the series to rest for a while and work on a new, singular novel. Like you said, it's less risk and, as Cogito said, it will only improve my writing skills, so hopefully I could come back to the series and nail it.
     
  16. Yotam
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    Yotam Member

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    Then if I, for example, submit book one to an agent, instead of working on book two I should work on a new different novel?
     
  17. swhibs123
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    swhibs123 Active Member

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    Yes. Here's the thing: the agent is going to pitch your series concept. The publisher is going to base their decision on book one, and the outlines for books two, three ... etc etc. BUT if the agent does not manage to sell the series, and you've just spent another six months writing another book in the series, then what? The agent can't pitch book two, so either you self publish, or you trunk two novels. Far better for you to write something unrelated so that if the agent can not sell the series, your next book is ready so they can start pitching that one.

    If a publisher picks you up for a series, you will have time to write the other books in the series. Your first book will likely go to market 18-24 months after contract.

    Cheers
     
  18. Yotam
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    Yotam Member

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    Kinda make me feel, and every other writer I believe, bad for that one book that will not make it to the shelfs, but if that is what you meant, I guess I will be fine.
    There are so many great stories in my mind that I want to write! Two in particular that I put on hold and Know that they can make it! And if book one will not get publish I'll be just as glad to create a blog for it and see people enjoy reading it for free while I'll still right the next in the series.
     
  19. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not going to say much different than has been indicated above:

    If it has a complete story arc and can stand alone, then it won't be an issue. It has worked for myself and several authors I know.

    It's much more difficult to sell a trilogy, as a first-time author, than the first novel in a potential series.
     
  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    'all the time'?... such as...???

    so, what percentage of all the queries for series new writers have sent have landed contracts and been picked up by agents?

    apologies for my 'old age' denseness...
     
  21. swhibs123
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    swhibs123 Active Member

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    Mammamaia, I'm sure you have a subscription to Publishers Marketplace, if you search the deals, you'll see that series contracts for debut authors are announced, quite literately, every single day.
     
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    no, i don't... and my question still stands...

    i doubt the percentage is significant enough to = 'all the time'... but i could be wrong... so do you care to back up your claim with stats?
     
  23. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I have to agree with you. I just looked at the the last two months of debut author deals, and there was 4-5 two-book deals, but nothing bigger than that. Unless, two-book deals means they are doing a trial run for a series?
     
  24. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    4-5 out of how many total?
     
  25. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Hundreds.

    It seems to be about 1-2 debut authors getting a series a week, but not everyday.

    Also, most of them are pre-empts.
     

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