1. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Some Questions on my Possible Publishing Path

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by TLK, Oct 31, 2013.

    I've gotten quite serious about this whole becoming-a-published-author thing, and I'm pretty set on doing it the "traditional way", i.e. I'm not looking to self-publish, or go through amazon or anything like that, at least not as my plan A.

    I've only really lurked this section of the forums, but now I come with some genuine questions about what I should do next. This is planning quite far ahead though. Any novel I have is far from being a publishable work, I just want to know where and how to concentrate my efforts over the coming years.

    Essentially, what I have my heart set on having published is my series of six (or possibly seven) YA Fantasy novels. I believe the concept is good enough and that the quality of writing will be too, I just have other issues. I've heard that first time authors, series and publishers don't mix very well, though I'm unsure on the details. I've heard people say that publishers will take on the first novel in the series, but only if the novel in question is a stand-alone one as well. I'm not sure if the first novel of my series is, so I'll include a brief summary below.

    Basically, our MC and two of his friends are magically transported to a place far from their home and in their possession a key wanted by some bad guys, bad guys who happen to not be very far away any more. Eventually, the three characters get picked up by some other good guys and they realise the enemy knows they are here and have the key. They are chased across the map for a bit until they arrive at one of the good guys' city. Then there's a big battle and, thanks to some timely reinforcements from the MC's own people, the bad guys are ousted. The MC, his friends, the people of his race then set off home, which is where the novel ends.

    Now, before you make the obvious suggestion, these guys never actually get home, not until the end of the series. They're sucked into a war and it becomes apparent that this war will affect their home as well, so they stay and fight. There's a lot of talk of said war being on the horizon and that "things are changing" in the first novel so, while I think the ending is alright, there might be too much foreboding of later events.

    So, my question is, would this novel, assuming it is of good enough quality, get published, with it having such an ending and being the first in a series?

    If not, what should I do? I have a few, truly stand-alone novel ideas in my head. Should I write on of these up? It would give me some good practice as well. And should this novel be of the same genre, YA Fantasy? Or should I just change the ending of this novel? This series is what I've really got my heart set on.

    Thanks in advance for any advice, guys. I'm happy to answer more questions if you need them answered! :)
     
  2. Dazen
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    Dazen Active Member

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    Well, the real question is, would you be satisfied reading that novel, spending all that time getting to know the characters, just for them to go home in the space of 1 book. If you feel that, yes, you would accept that if you were a reader, then it's a stand-alone novel.
     
  3. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    It seems to me that a lot of stories end with the characters 'headed home.' So I don't see a huge problem with that. But, to answer your question, yes, the novel needs to stand alone. A series only happens if people love the first book. That is, enough people have to have bought that first book to make a publisher think they've made enough money on it that it seems like a good bet that if they serve up more of that same story/characters/author, it will sell. But, in order to reach that point, you need to have written that first great novel, and who wants to read a book that ends abruptly with no resolution?
     
  4. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Thanks for the replies, guys.

    So do you think that publishers would consider "going home" as a 'discontinued' ending? It's not really abrupt I don't think. It's not as if, in the middle of the story, the characters are like "k guys, let's go home now". They've had to go through a lot, there's the problem of the enemy potentially getting this key, and the solution of them being routed after the battle. The going home is just them taking the key to a safe place. As far as the reader is aware, they take the key home no problem and that's the end of that, the author just didn't want to write about their journey home because all they do is get on their horses and ride home, no problems.
     
  5. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    What you need is a complete story arc for the first novel. That doesn't have to include going home, to their original world or reality. The reader just needs to have a satisfying read, the tale told, a man conflict overcome/dealt with, and not a cliff hanger. That doesn't mean openings for future stories can't be part of the first novel's storyline/plot.

    While it's not impossible to sell a series or trilogy (an author with my current publisher--a small press--just sold a trilogy to a major publishing house), it is more difficult to do, especially with no track record.
     
  6. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Thanks, TWErvin!
    I think I'll push ahead with the first novel in the series then, try and make it as best it can be before I submit it.

    One question though, would one sell such a novel as a first in a series or not? The way I see it, it is a good idea since, as long as the book can stand-alone as a single story, the Publishers would be fine with that and consider the fact there is potentially financial gain from any sequels instantly selling to fans or people who liked the first one. However, I've heard a lot of advice that says not to do this.

    To clarify, I would be trying to sell the series, I'd be trying to sell the first book, I would just say/imply something along the lines of "oh, by the way there's another 5/6 books planned after this, so this could be the start of something big and very profitable for you"
     
  7. Dazen
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    Dazen Active Member

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    Obviously I'm not an expert, but you could say somethings along the lines of:
    The intention of this novel was to be a series, and I am currently working on those manuscripts, although this book would work well as a stand-alone novel if that suits your needs.
     
  8. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I would advise against this. Most publishers, if they really like the first book, will ask what else you're working on, and at that point it would be wholly appropriate to tell of your series plans, built on the first novel. But to try to sell it as a series up front is to increase your chances of rejection. They key for any first-time novelist is to get the agent and then the publisher to want to see the whole ms, and once they've seen it, to want to go forward with it.
     
  9. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Advice I've seen on other forums (and probably here if I could remember the threads) is to use "standalone novel with potential for a series" - or words to that effect. That way you're not trying to sell the series, but add enticement to the agent/publisher who already likes your standalone book.
     
  10. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Ok, thanks for the advice, Ed.

    But, to clarify, I wouldn't be trying to sell the series, I'd actually be saying pretty much what @shadowwalker said: "This is a novel that stands alone, but has potential for sequels". That way, I would imagine the publishers would view it as a sort of win-win situation: if the book is not well received, no-one is expecting more and if it is well received we can make even more money.

    Of course, I can see why it would be bad to try and tempt fate in such a way. I know the priority is to sell your first novel, and I can see why it would be wise to focus only on that. I'm still new to this though, and theorizing, I'm unsure what publishers think like and what it's best to do.
     
  11. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    @TLK - I knew what you meant. My point is that if they aren't sold on the first novel, telling them it's part of the series won't sell them. Their interest in a series will come after they decide they like the first one.
     
  12. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Ah ok, and good point. I'll bear that in mind. Thanks again for the advice! :)

    Just as an aside, bearing in mind this is a YA Fantasy Novel, what length would the publishers expect/want? My novel clocks in at just over 70,000 (as in 70,600 or something). I feel this is a little too short, though the editing process may add another few thousand to it.
     
  13. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Disclaimer - YA Fantasy is not my thing. But my understanding is that YA novels typically clock in at anywhere from 50,000 to 80,000 words, so it looks like you're in good shape.

    I will leave it to @mammamaia, who is wise in such matters, to correct me if I'm wrong.
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    And I would guess--I say this as someone with no experience whatsoever with the publishing industry--that the word "series", no matter how much you discount it, might raise doubts about whether the first novel is a complete story. They can't absolutely confirm whether it is or not until they read the whole thing, and that reading is a big investment. That little bit of doubt might encourage them to drop it on the Reject pile and go on to the next one.

    Yes, of course *any* manuscript can turn out to be an incomplete story. But I'm thinking that there's no value in raising doubts.
     
  15. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Really there is no 100% answer as to how to approach every publisher. Each one is a bit different, just as one might be intrigued by the story you wrote and another may not.

    The cover letter I wrote for the first novel in my first series (fantasy) did not mention a series. It got out of the slush pile 3 times, and found a home--third time's a charm.

    A short while ago I sold a SF novel to my current publisher, but I have positive track record with them...but before submitting to them, it (the SF novel) made it out of the slush pile with two major publishers (Tor/Baen) and I didn't mention it was the first in an intended series. The final big house, it was read by 3 editors, passed in the end (obviously).

    The point is that my experience has demonstrated not to mention the series aspect. Those, however, constitute a limited number of data points.

    In truth, I think many readers prefer a series, and publishers have a notion that if one novel works in a created world/set of characters, the reader may want more. But I also think an unknown writer that is trying to sell a set of novels, the default position of the agent/editor would be that it's a series where the novels don't stand alone, making them far more likely to pass without delving too deeply. See, publishers/agents gets tons of slush/queries. They tend to look for reasons to pass on a project than they focus on trying to find reasons to keep reading a piece...if that makes sense.

    The first novel in a series is pretty easy to write as a stand alone. The second and subsequent novels in a series...it takes a lot more skill and effort to pull it off successfully.
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you're doing just fine, ed! [as usual] :D
     
  17. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Thanks for all the help and advice guys, it's been very helpful! I think then, that I will leave the series aspect out of it for now.

    Wait, are you saying that all of the subsequent novels in a series have to stand alone? Because I highly doubt the story I have in mind would allow that.

    I'd assume that after the series has gotten off its feet, the publishers wouldn't really mind. After all, the risk with publishing the first in a series is that the next set could never come and the readers could be wanting more. In a subsequent novel, you know there's a series and you know whether it's finished or not.
     
  18. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    No, they don't. I believe he's simply saying that making subsequent novels stand alone is hard to do (in terms of the writing process).
     
  19. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Ah, ok, fair enough. The way I interpreted it was as if he was saying that "oh the first book is the easy part" sort of thing.
     
  20. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sorry, TLK. Thirdwind is correct. I was just commenting on another aspect of writing sequels.

    There are some authors who have a series that can be picked up at enjoyed with starting with novels other than the first one in the series. Others are not written that way. I studied how to do it, so that the first two novels in my series were standalone, so that someone wouldn't have to read the first novel before reading the 2nd and enjoy it. Yet, I wanted readers who enjoyed the first and went to read the 2nd novel, not to feel that there was a lot of redundant information or descriptions. It took me about a year of reading and re-reading and studying how other authors did it--when and how they wove pertinent information from the 1st novel (or earlier) into the 2nd (and subsequent) novel, especially where it was necessary for the plot and characters.

    I can say that with my 3rd novel in the series, I am not working as hard at it, as it would be far more difficult for the storyline. I have also learned from books signings and observations from sales, that people almost always want to start with the first novel in a series anyway--again, that's my experience and others may vary in what they've observed and learned.

    Good luck as you move forward, TLK.
     
  21. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    You've just answered your own question. If it's of good enough quality it will be published.

    Any story, at its heart is a problem that needs solving so badly that the protagonist can focus on nothing else. And as you described it, the problem facing the protagonist isn't that he's been transported to another world, it's the war he finds himself. embroiled in. The climax is where he wins, and the denouement is where learns the prize he gets for being steadfast and heroic when good sense said, "Get the hell out o here!" It could be a woman, money, fame, or the satisfaction of what he's accomplished. But he's grown and changed, making him a better person. It won't do him any good, of course, because as in a video game where we make a level, they give us both more ability and harder to beat enemies. Once the denouement has taken place he and his friends start off to go home and the story is over.

    The reader will have been fed their dose of poetic justice and excitement, so they're happy. And the ending will tell them there's more to come. What's to not like?

    So the story as a whole is okay. Now you need to work on the "If it's of good enough quality" part. ;)
     
  22. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Why, thank you. :D
     
  23. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Thanks a lot, and thanks for the advice as well. I'd wish you luck as well, but it sounds like you're doing just fine ;)

    A very good point, again, thanks for the advice! :)

    -----------

    Oh, and, while I'm on the subject of publishing, rather than make a new thread, I've got another quick question.

    As this is the first novel I've written and worked on, it's likely to be not very good at first. Will I be able to get it to a sufficient quality without getting tired of it, or do you recommend (or think it's a good idea if) I write another novel as a sort of "practice" before I tackle the current novel? Bearing in mind the current novel is the one I really want to see published.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2013
  24. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Good question. Something I've wondered about a little myself. One I'd be interested in seeing peoples answers on. I suspect different approaches work better for different people.

    My current opinion is that if the idea you're currently working is the one you most want to see published, then stick with it. It takes a lot of discipline to even get yourself to finish one novel. Many people don't ever even manage that. I think once you've managed that first hurdle of completing something that long, it'll give you a certain strength of knowing you can do it.

    I know the first novel you write is likely to end up being a practice novel, but I try to forget that while I'm writing and instead dream of it being in the bookshops, because that's the way to motivate myself to make it the best that I can. It's easier to get myself into that mentality, if I'm working on my favorite idea.

    At the end of it, there would seem to be a number of choices.

    a)Edit it and edit it until it's good enough. It'll probably involve some pretty savage rewrites. Ripping out huge chunks and replacing it with better material. You'll probably not have a lot left of your first draft by the time your manuscript is ready to submit. I gather this isn't a very common route to publication, but some people who feel they "have just one story they need to tell" do things this way.

    b)Start something new. You may very well find in the process of writing novel one that you've come up with lots of other ideas. Once you start on a new idea, you may find you can fall in love with it, just as much as you did with idea one, especially with idea number one out of your system, by having been written.

    c)Write a new better story, which has your favorite themes or basic story-line, characters or settings from your first story. Just because they've been written in an unpublished practice novel doesn't mean they've been used up.
    You now have a better idea of which bits work and don't work. This option can be taken after option b if desired, so that you can distance yourself from the original work.

    d)Something else I've not thought of.
     
  25. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Thanks for the reply, plothog.

    Touching upon point a), I'm actually planning to re-write the whole novel completely. This probably isn't the best way of doing things, but, a few re-written chapters aside, I've not edited the first novel at all and gone straight onto the first draft of the second novel, which is 40,000 words in as of this morning. I want to make sure my story is cohesive, so I'm writing a novel or two ahead, to make sure everything fits and to see if I think of better ways of doing things etc.

    Already, even I can tell that my writing now is far better than it was when I started the first novel, and I've changed the way a lot of the characters speak in the second novel, so I'll be rewriting the whole novel completely to make that fit, and to make it better written overall. I'll probably start a proper editing process after that.

    My concern is that this series/novel will become my practice ones and that this story won't ever get read.

    On point b), I do actually have an idea of another novel that came to me during the writing of this one. I was thinking of moving over to this one, and making that my practice novel. I'm not sure if that's a waste of time though. If I can get my series to publication just through editing, that would be what I would choose.
     

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