Ask Daphne! About a Second Book in a Series

November 25th, 2008 • Kate

A whole series of shoes for Andrea, who writes in:

I’ve completed the first novel in what I’ve anticipated to be a mystery series. I have the second book in the series fully plotted and a few chapters completed.

Here’s the thing: I’ve submitted the first novel to a pretty broad selection of agents and, while I’ve gotten pretty far with a few of them (requests for fulls, even an in-person meeting with one), no one has offered representation. While the positive feedback has been consistent (strong writing, intriging mystery, good characters), the reasons for declining have been vague and, in my opinion, not very constructive.

Do you think it makes sense to continue writing the second book in the series without securing representation on the first? Or should I interpret these rejections as a lack of interest in the overall idea and try my hand at something else?

Well, first of all, since you’ve gotten pretty far with the first book, I wouldn’t advise you to give up on it, unless you’ve queried every single agent in the proverbial book. I mean, wow — an in-person meeting! I still haven’t met half of my clients!!

Anyway, so that’s a really good sign. Don’t give up on the idea. Keep querying book one, and while you’re doing that, I think you should absolutely work on book two. You should be writing something anyway, while you’re querying — that’s something I tell everyone.

But here’s what I advise: as much as possible when you’re writing it, though you intend it to be part of a series, make sure it stands on its own. Reintroduce the characters, the setting, the concept, and find new ways to do it. If it’s original enough, it may just end up being something you can take back to the agents who said no on the first one, and you might be able to change their minds with something new (even though it’s only new-ish). But make absolutely sure it is original. I read a published book once, the second in a very popular series, and was amazed to see the EXACT SAME words and phrases used to introduce the characters in Book Two as the author had used in Book One. Now, granted, I’d only read Book One the day before, so it was fresh in my mind, but don’t plagiarize yourself.

Strive for a series that a reader could pick up at any point, and you may find yourself with many more options than a strictly linear series may provide. Rock on!

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3 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About a Second Book in a Series”

  1. yellowbrick08 Says:

    Great advice, Daphne. In a related question, a friend of mine is in a similar boat (book one written and being revised, and book two roughed up), but she had heard that series are difficult to sell nowadays. She has written the first book so that it can be a stand-alone if necessary. But my question is, is it true that publishers are being cautious about taking on new series? And if so, is it best for an author submitting to agents and editors to mention the series in a query letter or stick to the first novel with the idea of saying, "Hey, I've got a second in mind if this one does well," after they're hooked? Thanks for your insight.

  2. lotusloquax Says:

    Thanks for the great info on this. I'm working on this sort of issue right now and blogged today about whether I should split up my current ms. into 2 shorter books. I've read about the need to have the first in the series be a stand alone. I'd be interested to hear what you have to say to yellowbrick08's question too.

  3. Kiersten Says:

    This is interesting, because most of what I've read says don't ever write a sequel to a book you haven't sold. Instead, work on something entirely new in case your first book doesn't snag an agent or a publisher.
    Very interesting…