I 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!