Friday, January 12, 2007

Series vs. One-Off

Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.

I started this blog vowing to write in the morning, but my mornings have gotten away from me all week, which is something writers have to learn about agents. We have lives. And the older we are - the more complicated those lives are.

I lost my writing time on Wednesday because I gave that hour to a good friend who is about half-way through her mid-life crisis. The next day, I had breakfast (which was supposed to take place before work) with another friend who is also knee-deep in mid-life crisis (and she was an hour late, which meant I lost most of the morning). Lucky for you, I am done with my mid-life crisis (got rid of the first husband, ended an unequal business partnership, learned to drive, started teaching and wrote 4 books), but that's why so many of my friends are calling me for advice.

This post is not the promised Day in the Life. I'll do that soon, when I'm feeling that my days are more on track.

But I do want to anwser your questions, so I'm going to address the one about book series.

"I came over here via Jenny's blog and I hope you'll be answering some questions on your posts because this comment caught my eye: ... If they see it as a chance to get in on a wonderful once-in-a-decade series... As a reader and writer I love series books and I'm wondering is it harder for a newer or non "brand name" author to get series interest especially when looking for an agent? How would you respond when you show interest in a project (not necessarily an offer of representation but say a request for a full) and the author says "As it happens I have W, X and Y, related books completed and I'm working on book Z now." Does it come across that the author is stuck in their own ficitonal universe or does it show that they're thinking ahead and will be ready should the initial project interest you enough to take it on?"

First and foremost, the novel has to stand on its own. So you had better make that first novel (or the first one you send me) the absolute tightest, well-written thing you have ever created.

Only if it is wonderful will I care if there are other books in the series.

So, worrying about other books in the series, or writing them, is definitely putting the horse before the cart. With that said, there are certain genres that do lend themselves to series (fantasy, mysteries, young adult fiction, some science fiction, even some nonfiction - I represent a series that evolved from the idea of THE SCIENCE OF....} You and I, and any agent worth their commission, will know whether or not there's series possibilitly in your work.

If I get a query letter telling me you have a 10 book series about the erotic life of biomorphic plants (don't laugh - I met this author at the Maui Writers conference, and there's a great story about authors being blind to possibility that goes with this, so remind me to share it at some point), I will tell you that a) it's not for me (I don't do plants - sorry) and b)sell the first one and see if there's enough interest in the sexlife of biomorphic plants to warrant 9 more volumes.

If you are lucky enough to find an agent who does plants and s/he loves your work, your agent and editor should be able to help you develop the series and make it even stronger, so having another 9 novels in the trunk is certainly an exercise in self-entertainment. Although Anne Rice had all the characters from her vampire universe in her head from her adolescence, she didn't write the books until she had an audience, and contracts.

As far as first novelists versus established writers are concerned, no agent gives a damn about your status if the work is great. The novelist I just took on is a newbie. I read the first novel and asked if there was more. She had a second manuscript, which was great (which is why I'm asking for a 2 book deal), but we've come up with what I sincerely hope will be the third novel in the series together, the plot of which could change according to the editor.

Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I am off. I hope you are too, and I sincerely hope you can take a minute out of your day to remember why we have this holiday.

Those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.

3 comments:

S. W. Vaughn said...

The erotic life of bimorphic plants.

Oh, dear...

This is a great explanation about series. Thank you!

Barbara Sheridan said...

Thank you for pickingkoichi & answering my question.

Anonymous said...

Very informative -
Thanks!