Ask Daphne! About Querying a Series

December 14th, 2009 • Kate

rowofshoesI know I’ve used this image before, but it’s one of my favorites, and so apt for this question about series. L.K. asks:

I have only begun the process of developing a query letter. And in doing so, I couldn’t decide between querying my first YA novel alone or the whole series. One agent I spoke to said only query the first novel because series are a hard sell. So, I’m seeking another opinion. If you have info on your blog, I’m sure I’ll find it, but, like I said, I have only just begun.

I have answered questions like this before (in fact, here’s the last time I used this shoe image!), but since your question is slightly different, I’ll answer it here.

The short answer? Query one book at a time. It’s not entirely that series are a hard sell, but I firmly believe you have to hook an agent with a strong, single book — with a beginning, middle, and end — and that book needs to stand alone. You want the agent-as-reader to want to read MORE, certainly, but not if you have to leave questions unanswered to keep them guessing.

I’ve seen queries from authors on one book, who also tell me they’ve plotted out five more books in the series, written three of them, and have outlines for a further twenty. Yikes!

Look, agents don’t just represent books. We work with authors, and in an ideal situation, we want to work with writers for their entire career. So, yes, if we love your first book in your series, we may want to know when happens ten titles down the line — but that first book is still the most important tool you have in your arsenal. To take that metaphor to the extreme edge — make it the sharpest, pointiest, most killer tool possible.

When I shared this question on Twitter, fellow Colorado literary agent Rachelle Gardner agreed, “If it’s a series, I want to know, and it’s not a bad thing.” She continued, “But authors must sell me on that first book.”

Hope that helps!

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3 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About Querying a Series”

  1. Kimber An Says:

    That's pretty much the consensus among agents, I think.

    My book (not yet submission-ready) is the first in a series, but it stands alone. The rest of the books are just vague ideas. From my point of view as an aspiring author, I want the agent and/or editor's feedback on how best to develope them.

    Because I'm also a book reviewer.

    I can reeeeally tell when a series was thrown out there just 'cause the first book did well.

    A series reeeally needs to be well planned, I think. It's tough to get characters and overall plot to arc convincingly over several books and hold the readers attention.

    Few do it well.

  2. Stina Says:

    I definitely agree with Kimber An. I'm seeing more and more series being stretched out lately, but it's not always a good thing. I've stopped buying one YA paranormal series because it was getting just plain ridiculous. There are two others with several more books to go, and I'm sitting on the fence with them. Fortunately, I'm still leaning towards buying them, as long as the remaining books in the series are there for a reason, and not just because the series is a best seller.

  3. lorettajo kapinos Says:

    Thanks so much for the input. Now I have a direction for my query and that makes me happy, very happy. And as the comments said above, I too have been finding at least one book that drags in a series…dating back all the way to my fav series of (Okay, I'm aging myself…ready?) VC Andrews: Flowers in the Attic.