Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Querying for book two after book one is published

I have a novel coming out in May that has accidentally become a series. (The characters appeared in my dreams and made me write a second, and now a third. ) I obtained the publishing contract for book 1 without an agent, but if I want to find an agent for books 2 and 3, how much summary of book 1 do I need in my query?

None. You're actually querying for Book Two.

What you will need to tell the agent is whether this is the option book or not.  In other words, does the publisher for book 1 have the option to acquire this second book  before it can be shown to anyone else?


You should also undertake querying with realistic expectations. It's very hard to move a series to a new publisher; it's particularly hard if book #1 is with a small publisher and thus limited sales opportunities.




82 comments:

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

We all should have such problems.
I'm jealous. I think.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

If your focus is only on book 2 aren't the sales figures regarding book 1 of relevance? It would seem to me that Book 1 lays a pretty good foundation related to bolstering book 2's sales. I'm assuming sales are decent, if not, do you even mention book 1?
I'm also assuming OP has checked previous contract.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

What a great problem to have! OP has already broken through the gates. Do as the shark advises and remember the shark is not sushi.

That's all I got. I tried to be first but Carolynn is just too fast. Off to find coffee and then day job doldrums.

DLM said...

I don't envy other people's problems, because they're still problems. Maybe this publisher turned out to be a bad fit, and/or the success isn't there. Janet's pointed out the major issues with restarting in the middle (reasons I want an agent!). I hope OP can make a go of this and settle into the right relationships!

Amanda Capper said...

Who is this OP? It could be me, I'm in the exact same position. And no...it's not great. Not enviable at all.

I just deleted a whole essay on why I'm not to be envied. It depressed me. Suffice to say; get an agent. Get a good contract, not just any contract, and get an advance. Fortunately, my contract was for the one book only.

Now if I could just find out who OP is, we could start our own support group.

Donnaeve said...

Book 1 sold without an agent to a publisher and is being released in May. I'm repeating the short facts to myself.

Sounds to me like this is likely a small publisher and since Book 1 isn't out yet, there is no sales record to date. I'm also thinking the OP is perhaps thinking since Book 1 achieved enough favorability with a publisher willing to have a go at it, they figured why not make it a series and see if an agent is willing to offer rep because surely having a contract in hand and a publisher for Book 1 will count for something.

I'm trying to channel my "inner Janet" here or at least prove I've learned something. She's already answered, but if I intuit all of this correctly, this was the gist of the question, and if I also recall correctly from past answers, in plain simple language - Book 1 under contract with a small publisher muddies the water for a potential agent/other publisher. It's not impossible for the agent to manage, but seems like the only thing they could do for OP at this point would be to insure the contract is in order for Book 2, and 3,, and it seems lit a load of work without the chances of distrubution through larger channels of other publishing houses. Unless they read the query for Book 2 and suddenly believe they've landed on pure writing gold. Possible.

My inner Janet is telling me without sales records, contract already in hand with a publisher, and desire for rep on Books 2 and 3... invokes that ugly ten foot pole thought.

OFF TOPIC: Thank you to all who reached out via comments yesterday about David. It was a wonderful Resurrection service, and quite emotional for all. Your thoughts and virtual hugs were very much appreciated! XO to all.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I did not mean to sound envious. This OP is just outside my experience as I am unpublished. Even if this is a dilemma, being published is a milestone achievement I think.

I am holding out for an agent. There are just too many pitfalls to avoid on my own. I had an offer from a tiny publisher three years ago, but the book wasn't where I wanted. Also the publisher would not get my book on actual bookshelves. And now that publisher does not exist. So I want a well-established agent, one that will help guide me away from publishing my way into oblivion. If QOTKU will not be my agent (she doesn't represent my genre so she won't), I would at least want her to vet my agent. I wonder if she would do such a thing when the time comes? I wonder if it would be wrong to ask such a thing of an agent? I don't think agents can get exiled to Carkoon or beyond. I really need caffeine.

Colin Smith said...

This doesn't sound an enviable situation. If, like Donna, I try to channel my inner Janet, I'm thinking, "Okay, wonderful, book one is published. What's the contract like? How hard will it be for me to shop book 2 if book 1 is under contract to a publisher? How many publishers will pick up book 2 (and the rest of the series) if book 1 is under contract, and will continue to be under contract to that publisher until either a) the publisher goes out of business, or b) the book stops selling and goes out of print which, if the book's any good, could mean waiting for YEARS. Maybe the publisher will be willing to renegotiate the contract, but if it's a nice little earner for him, unlikely..."

In other words, if I was an agent (which, thank the Lord, I'm not--I'd be terrible!), unless this series grabbed my brain and my heart and wouldn't let go, I'd pass. Too much trouble. And there are plenty of first-time, unpublished writers in the slush pile with whom I can get in at ground zero.

Sorry, Opie! But this is why it's good to plan your career, decide from the get-go whether you're going to go it alone, or get an agent. I would say, don't go it alone unless that is your plan for your career. Don't do it because you're too impatient, even if Mr. Small Publisher is offering what seems like a nice deal.

Am I rambling? I might be. Rough night in Janet's slush pile. Kept dreaming about vampire kale monsters and sentient whatnots... *shudders* Shuttle for my post-Carkoon destination's supposed to leave this morning...

Julie.M.Weathers said...

I am returned!

Agent Laurie McLean and editor/author Eileen Cook send greetings to Miss Janet. Laurie gave a master class on pitch and query and highly recommended everyone scour the depths of Query Shark and even posted the address. She loves the shark, but who the heck doesn't?

To the original questioner, congratulations on having one sold and published (almost). I hope you'll be able to find an agent. I don't envy you on the predicament. Don't give up on the search. Persistence is the key to success.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Ah, duh, thank you Donna, book NOT OUT 'til May. Shows how thorough my reading skills before a second cup of house of Maxwell.

E.M. it's not that I'm fast it's just that I'm up, (when not already at work), and writing anyway.

I've got to admit that part of me IS envious. No matter the immediate problems, a writing credit is a writing credit. IMHO, that a publisher was interested enough to put up what it takes to get your book out there may give your (well written) query and first pages more weight in regard to how quickly it is read and considered.

Like life, all writing paths are convoluted. If that's a problem, just borrow a little 1 million dollar loan from daddy. Kind of Trumps the process doesn't it.

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Colin Smith said...

2Ns: Careful. There may be room for one more on the shuttle... :)

Tony Clavelli said...

I wonder if you could do a little bit of extra work to make book two stand on its own. Completely. If crossing over is nearly impossible, and you don't want to use this publisher for the second one, then how about make the first one not required reading. I've never written a series, so that could be the worst, most obvious advice ever. But also, shouldn't a sequel stand on its own anyway?
Just curious, but if this were possible, could the query just skip the mention of the previous book (assuming the previous contract doesn't have the "option book" going through them)?

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Oh Colin, didn't you know, I program the GPS on the shuttle.
I like what Tony said about book 2 standing on it's own. I wish I thought of that.

Megan V said...

I also like Tony's suggestion, but I also imagine there's at least one other potential contract issue that the QOTKU did not mention outright. Did OP retain the rights to his/her characters and settings? If I'm not mistaken, that's something that an agent would typically negotiate before their client signed the dotted line. OP did not have an agent to help them navigate those waters, so it's possible OP signed their characters over to the publisher. If OP did not retain the rights to his/her characters and settings, then OP faces a serious problem when it comes to books 2 and 3, whether or not OP writes books 2&3 in the way that Tony suggested (even if the publisher does not have an option contract).

Janice L. Grinyer said...

Im terrified of the outcome, but I wanted to add that I agree with what Colin said. ! (and sorry for my entry in the WC, Colin. I guess thats my version of what Hell would be like for me if I were to sin big time on Carkoon - having a great book but keep getting referred back to...well, you know how bad my entry was...) Anyhow I agree with Colin on this! -

Planning any career is what makes it successful along with proper execution of good advice. Being a writer is no different. Reading these query questions& answers on JR's blog reminds me on a weekly basis to be careful of the decision making process, from both sides.

Good luck OPIE!

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Tony,

Yes, the first book should stand alone, but the story isn't finished. If all the loose ends were tied up, there would be no need for a second book. Plus, there are different types of series.

It may be easier depending on what kind the original questioner has.

DLM said...

Megan V, a scarily good point. Eep.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Tony does have a good point as does Julie. If it's a series that runs like the Lawrence Block Burglar books - each of those do just fine on their own, then 2nd book can make it on its own depending on pesky contract on 1st.

If it is rather like David Eddings, The Belgariad or Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, that is an entirely different matter. Those series involve one long story told in installments which are each their own tales but dependent on each previous book.

I pray the OP ends up with an excellent agent that can steer him or her into navigable waters.

Julia said...

I HAVE A QUESTION!
(By the way, congratulations, everyone...)
Yes, I'm a day late and a dollar short. Or a couple and a few.
Big surprise.
Why, exactly, were we saying goodbye to Colin?

As for the book two and book one thing... Am I naive to assume that if I write book one with the intent of it becoming a series and then it gets picked up, the agent with the dirty fingers is the one I'm eyeing for the life of the series unless Something Goes Very Wrong?

Sorry if someone already brought this up.

Not to throw random personal-ness in here but I'm feeling really icky, so I'm writing and blog-hopping through belly ickyness.

On the other hand - some good news that I'll just say just quickly: the pancreatic enzymes are normal for the first time in years, so I told GI folks to back the heck off with the transplant stuff. They replied that now was the best time. I told them to Back. The. Heck. Off. So there we go.

Meanwhile, I'm writing a sequel and hoping that if I get an agent, the book two part will go with whatever agent might pick up book one, so today's question is very, very pertinent to me, not only for what I'm writing now, but for what I've already got sitting around but is - I hear - going to be harder to sell than what I'm writing currently.

So.

There it is.

Longest post in a while. Sorry.
Nemo

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Colin and Janice,

I agree a person should plan their career, but we really don't know what the story is behind the OP. I had considered one of the small publishers who are interested in FAR RIDER if I reached a certain point without an agent. That doesn't mean I haven't thought long and hard about my career. It means at some point a person may have to face the reality of no agent interest or at least none that they found.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Julia, Colin attempted to steal the letter E and has been sent to Beyond Carkoon. He is at the moment, I believe, in limbo or a holding pattern over Seattle. Not sure there's a difference.

Janice, I too had a terrible WC entry that sent Colin to Hell quite by accident. It didn't even get a mention and it didn't deserve one. I was too distracted with editing my WIP and football. I hang my head in shame.

Ah well, onward.

DLM said...

Julia, there's no agent here, OP contracted directly with a publisher. For whatever reason, they want an agent for the next installments, and so are looking to query now.

We say goodbye to Colin as he has sinned beyond the punishments of the virtual exile that is Carkoon, and been banished to a darker place in the outer void. He gets no Scooby snacks, he may not even get kale and butter beans, for he is uppity in the first degree. Poor Colin, we knew ye well.

You have discovered the situation in which the term "Vomment" was born - I'm so sorry, and hope you will feel better soon.

BJ Muntain said...

I'm curious. What if the book is an option, and the author does want to stay with the same author... but wants an agent to help with the legalities and future career decisions?

Will that make it easier or harder to attract an agent? I'm sure the size of the publisher might make a difference in this situation - if a happily large publisher that pays fair-sized advances, it would probably be easier than with a small publisher that might pay only royalties.

By the way, I completely understand how a standalone book's characters might entwine themselves so much in the writer's mind that they have to write more books. My original plan - many, many years ago - was to write one or two novels in a series, draft out a couple more, then move on while I tried to sell that one. But I hit a spot in my life where I had problems reading, let alone writing... and those characters stepped forward and grabbed me by the neck. I've now got the first book completed, the second book 80% written, and several further novels drafted out. Sometimes, you just gotta go with it.

2Ns: I'd assume that book one would be in the housekeeping section. Something along the lines of "This is book 2 in the BEST SERIES EVER. Book one will be published by BigPub in 2016, and book two is not optioned to them." Or something like that.

EM: Even if QOTKU doesn't rep your genre, still query her. You won't lose anything, and QOTKU just *might* decide that yours is THE book to start repping in that genre. (And she says that: query her even if she doesn't normally rep your genre.)

Welcome back, Julie, from your own version of BC (as in, not Beyond Carkoon... quite)!

Regarding Megan's point about owning characters: Even if the publisher owns the characters from the first book, the author would only have to change the characters enough to make them 'different' in the second book. So if book two is standalone, not requiring book one in order to understand it and follow it, then simply changing names and maybe one or two characteristics, and there's no longer any problem. It would be much harder farther into the series.

Hi Julia! We were saying goodbye to Colin because he did another no-no and wound up being exiled to a place even worse than Carkoon. Kind of like Carkoon++.

And I agree with Julie Weathers about "at some point a person may have to face the reality of no agent interest or at least none that they found." I've had some small publisher interest in my novel (first in a series), but not much more than that yet. I'm on the fence right now about going the publisher route, rather than the agent-first route. There may be many agents out there, but there are many, many *more* writers than all those agents can handle.

Craig said...

Definitely take a good look at your contract. If you can afford it have an attorney look at it. If you are still friendly with the publisher have their lawyer explain it. Many small publishers like to tack on options about the characters and the second book. You might be stuck.

On the writing side. I don't know what genre or category you are in so this is generic. Before querying it is a good idea to figure out where your book is going. Is it singular, part of a series, a serial or a trilogy. Knowing that will allow you to ask questions and clarify your contract when you get one.Because the voices say that your second book should be a series built on the first always leaves you behind the eight ball.

Janice L. Grinyer said...

Thanks E.M. - I had another one submitted, but I deleted it. Having worked for the government, sometimes I take things too literally and when I reread Janet's line of "deciding the fate of Colin"...well, let's just say Im never doing that again; writing a new WC under a 100 words in a short amount of time is probably the worst thing I could have done. You had a WIP in edit (very important!) and Football (very mentally important! :) - I HAD NO EXCUSE... sigh.

Hence my post's message from above - "make good choices" LOL I am a WIP for sure!

Julie - The best laid plans can go awry, thats for certain! I wonder though how many agents the OPIE queried beforehand, and how long the process was for them before they signed with the publisher? And also, what was the latest trending at the time? But dang, once you "marry" your novel to someone, then its kind of a "have and to hold" thing, isnt it :) How was Surrey by the way? I envy you; it must have been wonderful!




Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Julia...glad to hear from you. Been thinkin' 'bout cha and wondering how you are doing.
Some days peanuts, some days shells. Hope today turns into a peanut day for you.

I think today's post, all the comments, and lesson learned, renders down to three words and three words only:
GET AN AGENT.

Colin Smith said...

Julie: Oh, I agree. And my point was to take Opie's experience here as a caution that if we decide to go agentless, that decision is not something we rush into, either out of dismay at the first handful of rejections, or because some fancy-shamncy small publisher shows an interest. I don't know that Opie's situation falls into either of these, and it's possible Opie's contract will allow Opie to get an agent for future books, and publish using those characters. However, the fact remains that in all probability, this wouldn't have been a question if an agent had been involved Day One.

And y'all stop with your apologizing for sending me to the Netherworld in your contest entries! I don't take it personally. It was a fun contest, and y'all had fun with it. Never apologize for your work. If you're going to write something you're only going to apologize for later, don't write it. There's a life lesson in there, I'm sure. :)

Karen McCoy said...

So sorry, Amanda Capper! Megan V's point is very sound, and I'm curious about publishers who contract one book only--wouldn't a series create incentive to sell more books? Or are the books expensive enough to produce that publishers want to see if they do well before committing to more?

Perhaps look at the sales of the first. If they're good, wouldn't the publisher want to sell more of the series? If so, would an agent be needed for that series, or would it be better to query an agent with another series come the time? Or is it better to have an agent for as many books as possible?

If the sales didn't do well, I'd definitely try to get rights back if possible. If not possible...I'm not sure what plan C would be.

More questions than answers makes for vommenting, I know. But I'm wondering how often this happens, and what the best course of action might be.

Colin Smith said...

... by the way... still no word on when the shuttle departs for wherever-the-heck-we're-going post-Carkoon. I am a little concerned by the look of the craft. It kinda reminds me of an old manual drive Dodge Omni my in-laws had in the mid-90s. It died on the highway when I was on my way to work one day...

Janice L. Grinyer said...

Colin - now I know where WC Rule #9 came from... :D

Colin Smith said...

Janice: ??? You think maybe QOTKU added it to make sure people will stand by what they write? I think that's a good reason. :)

Amanda Capper said...

Thanks, Karen, and I'm sure it was option 2 - waiting to see if sales were any good before offering publication of book 2 - that was the reason for the one book contract.

Apparently my sales were okay, but the only reason they were okay is because I sold most of them myself. I bought them (at a discount) from my publisher (except for five free ones), and then sold them to all to family, friends, friends of friends, and strangers who came to my book signings. I'm from a relatively small town in Northern Ontario. Not a big market.

I'm trying to stay optimistic about book 2, I sincerely believe it is better than 1, but oh boy it's hard to keep your head down and your hopes up when you know the competition, for the few really good agents, is fierce.

Janice L. Grinyer said...

*cradles face in hands*

What HAVE I DONE?!

Oh well Colin, let it go down in history that I wrote my personal hell as yours...LESSON LEARNED.

*mutters to herself "good choices, janice, make GOOD choices...*

Amanda Capper said...

Sorry, Karen, didn't try and answer all your questions.

I may be able to negotiate a better second contract with my publisher but, for all the marketing they did (publishing is not their main income), I'd be better off self-publishing. My last royalty cheque shows 27 books sold. I made $35.43.

Sigh.

You start worrying that maybe that's all they're worth.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Janice, don't fret. In my pathetic story, I tried to saddle Colin with a puss covered illiterate imp of Hell but ran out of words. So I just left him there in Hell's torture chamber. And I like Colin. I just thought it might be nice for him to have a minion in that nameless place beyond Carkoon. After all, Lynn has a blender. Colin should have something too. But I failed miserably and I am still behind on edits (prays for patient agent who is waiting and courting other writers while I edit). This business of writing is kind of hard.

Colin Smith said...

E.M.: I have these binoculars... well... okay, they're Lynn's too. Where is Lynn? Haven't seen her around. She's been very quiet this whole time. I'm beginning to think she was given a reprieve, and is making her way back to Fuzzy Print--or even back to Earth!

*sigh*

*listens to the silence*

*glances at the box labeled "More Slush from QOTKU"*


Where's that puss covered illiterate imp of Hell...?

DLM said...

Oh my stars, y'all are giving me such visions. I know it's preferred we not correct one another, but in this case I must because - AIEEEE!!

A puss is a cat. The stuff that oozes out of a wound has only one S. Puddies are not the horrors you are invoking!

http://meowgifs.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/kittens-attack.gif

Colin Smith said...

Diane: You assume E.M. needed correction. Maybe an imp from Hell covered with cantankerous cats is exactly what she had in mind! :)

DLM said...

Gossamer sez: "Cats are not to be found in hell. The condemned do not get to be purred on."

Colin Smith said...

And I had something not quite as cute as that in mind...

[Diane's link:
http://meowgifs.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/kittens-attack.gif
]

Colin Smith said...

Diane: Maybe that's why the imp is FROM Hell and not IN Hell. He was kicked out because of his kitty predilection.

And a new picture book is born. Where's Sean Ferrell when you need him?

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Colin,
Witless Wyrm, the minion in question was up until this weekend the minion of Clem, the Carkoon High Janitor and Hell’s Gatekeeper. You may know him from the slush pile there wherever it is you are. He has queried Janet over 100K times with a fiction novel, and he always attaches things to it including naked pictures of his minions.

In short, Witless Wyrm (Wit for short), planned to steal you from QOTKU in hopes of getting the Queen to blame Clem and remove him. It seems to have worked despite my story’s failure. There was screaming and then crunching near the Carkoon High, and no one has seen Clem since.

Our dear Queen’s issues with Clem go way back to 1047 when Clem poisoned Pope Clement II and took his name. However, as much as Wit wishes to be your minion, he can’t read even though his main task is to paint the sign that reads “Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch'entrate” (Abandon all hope you who enter here).

Witless Wyrm has that memorized but only in the Latin so he can’t follow the signs to Carkoon. And there are LOTS of signs leading from Hell to Carkoon and vice versa. If he could get to Carkoon, I am sure QOTKU would be willing to ship him to you so long as you teach the poor little imp to read. The slush pile might help.

And the gates to Hell are surrounded by cats coming and going at their leisure. As you may know, cats are excellent demon containers and will suck up a demon before it can possess you and carry it back to Hell. After all, Hell is a rat rich environment. Wit, is however, sad to say, allergic.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

And Diane I stand corrected, it is a pus, snot covered imp but only because he is allergic to cats and they are always hanging about.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

The exhortation by all to GET AN AGENT is sound, but as we all know, easier said than done.

This post hits particularly close to home for me because we (the Oracles writing crew plus my posse) have been discussing this. At what point do you yell calf rope and give up on an agent for this book?

To answer Janice's question about Surrey, it was great. Two agents asked me to submit, but we know about agents and woodland creatures at conferences.

I had a blue pencil session with Chris Humphreys who writes the Jack Absolute series and other historicals. I showed him some pages from THE RAIN CROW that was a scene from after the battle of Manassas even though RAIN CROW is still first draft and rough. He said it was beautiful writing and a lovely and perfect choice of words to set the scene, evoking the horror and exhaustion. He gave me some tips on historical research, since I asked him. In the end said he'd definitely read the book, so keep after it.

I had a second blue pencil with Eileen Cook who is an author and editor. I showed her my query and another section of RAIN CROW. She said the writing in the sample was lovely and her only complaint was she wanted to keep reading. Then commented I had dropped her in the middle of a scene and she knew exactly where she was and when just by the treatment and dialogue, which was subtle and not beating the reader over the head with "y'alls", which she appreciated. Then said she looked forward to seeing this on the shelf. It's definitely something she'd read.

The query comments are what apply here though the other comments do as well. The query did exactly what it was supposed to do in her opinion and quit screwing around with it. Just get it in the hands of the right agent. I told her I'd been getting requests, but I'm also getting rejections.

"Fifty to one hundred rejections is normal. That's where most writers fail. It isn't the story or the writing. They aren't persistent enough. Keep sending this out because it will land in the hands of the right agent and you'll have your book."

I don't know what OP's story is, but I know from hanging around writers the tendency to give up on agents after twenty or thirty rejections is strong.

That seemed to be the theme of the keynote speakers at Surrey. Don't give up.

I'll blog further on this and a conversation with Jack Whyte that ended with him yelling "Write the damned book!" across the room. We shall not go into which book. Criminy.

Anyway, to the OP. Keep querying. You don't know what your book is going to do sales wise, but keep writing and keep querying and put it out of your mind. If you put off doing something for six months or a year, you accomplish nothing except grow older. You're going to be a year older whether you work on something or not. You might as well work on it.

Donnaeve said...

Note to self. Do not eat while reading comments, otherwise subject to vomment.

Donnaeve said...

Sigh. Another note to self.

Do not type comment into comment box, walk away, and then realize "Publish" wasn't hit, and then hit "Publish" only to discover a very encouraging post by another is followed by mine, which not only seems totally irrelevant, but rude.

Well said, Julie - and sounds like Surrey was a success!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Julie, great stuff. At a conference I attended the keynote said most authors who fail do so because they quit one query, draft, or rejection too soon. Persistence does indeed seem to be an essential element. Good reminder. Thank you. Looking forward to your blog post.

Colin Smith said...

Good words, Julie. Good reminders. Thanks. :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I said it before, I'll say it again Colin, you're exiled to the scariest land of beasts and malintopes, the place of platitudes, the land of lost words and promises...Mr. Smith goes to Washington.

Janice L. Grinyer said...

Oh Julie - You wrote perfect, absolutely perfect words for this post especially. Thank you for the great update, and I also need to check your blog for a lengthy update, yes?

And,

did he yell "LADY BRONC RIDERS!" across the room perchance?

;)

Colin Smith said...

The more this gets discussed, the more it seems to me that the whole question of getting an agent is not a "book" question, but a "career" question. In other words, you shouldn't ask "Do I want an agent for this book?" but, "Is an agent right for my career?" The reason I say this is because if your going to (essentially) represent yourself, you really need to know what you're doing. You need to be able to understand and negotiate a contract, deal with the business side of your writing, AND still write books. That takes a lot of work and study. Some people can do this, no problem. But it seems too many get into the agentless waters and, sooner or later, find themselves in a lot deeper than they expected.

As a yet-unagented woodland creature, that's what I'm hearing. Am I way off?

Colin Smith said...

... of course, that doesn't mean if you've decided on an agentless career, and suddenly find yourself with an offer of representation, you turn it down. You might. But I'm saying it sounds like the bad choice is to go agentless with a view to getting an agent later. You can't plan for later. I think you get my drift. :)

Terri Lynn Coop said...

I don't remember the exact terminology, but I think it would also matter if it was a trues series, as in book 2 is dependent on book 1, or a recurring character.

Jack Reacher is a recurring character. While there is some canon in the collection, you don't need to read them in order to enjoy (oh yes . . . enjoy . . . ) Each book stands alone.

Others, and, of course can't think of one right now, if you don't read the books in order, you can be rendered clueless.

Yes, agents will likely be wary, but it seems like they would be more conducive to a recurring character.

Good luck on the hunt, get out there and do it! Terri

John Frain said...

Some really good comments here.

I'm wondering, OP, about the upside to writing all three books with this publisher and then seeking an agent. Yeah, yeah, time keeps running. But then you've got three books under your belt, we're two more years down the road and you're starting fresh.

It's kinda like a stint in the minor leagues and then you're getting called up to the majors.

From my ridiculously small amount of knowledge, it sounds like that would be a winning formula for an agent since book #4 would then be a standalone or -- even better -- the first in a new series.

It could be a winning formula for you because now you're hitting the ground running with book #4.

Julie, I hear ya, and I'm gonna retain that lesson on persistence.

Jennifer Delozier said...

I read this with interest as I am in the exact same situation (whoever said we need a support group is dead on!) After 60 agent rejections for my debut thriller (3 of those on full requests), I queried a handful of small presses - and got an 80% request rate with 2 offers. Type and Cross will be out in the spring, and I'm halfway through book 2. I've debated every aspect of the above comments prior to signing. I soooo wanted an agent, but I'm looking at this as a long term career arc and a learning experience, so I wanted the experience of working with an editor etc. I most likely won't make a dime, but I've learned so much. My contract does specifically indicate a 1st look at anything with a returning character, so I do plan to write the 3 book series, then start querying afresh with my 4th stand alone - unless the planets align and book 1 does a "Hunt for Red October" and takes off.
The bottom line - too many writers for too few agents, so you have to look at your long term plan. Maybe I wasn't patient enough. Time with tell. But either way, I'm ok with it 'cause I've learned a lot. No self-flagellation - there's always someone else who will do it for you!

BJ Muntain said...

Colin: Don't worry. I won't apologize for sending you to limbo. I don't feel bad about it at all. You should have seen where my muse really wanted to send you. Because my muse is fun like that.

Re one-book contracts:I don't think one-book contracts are rare. For one thing, it sounds like at the time there was only one book in the series. Two and three didn't come along until after OP got a publisher for #1. For another thing, I doubt it's uncommon for a publisher to only accept book 1 -- that's what 'options' are for. The publisher gets first choice of publishing book 2. That way, they're not tied to publishing book 2 if they don't think it has the same quality of book 1, or if it doesn't fit their list.

Colin (again, sorry. I'm behind. Was out all afternoon.): I know several people who are successfully published despite not having an agent. There are resources for an agent-less author to get legal advice on publishing contracts. And while an agent can help with some of the 'business side of writing', the author will probably still be doing a fair amount.

I'm not saying an agent isn't worth her weight in plutonium - she definitely is. And I know I would much prefer to have an agent than not. But I don't think that not having an agent is quite the quagmire you paint. Yes, it's harder to get published by a humongous publishing house without an agent. Yes, there is more work the author has to do business-wise. But it's not a dead end run for the author - nor does it mean they'll never get an agent. It doesn't even mean that they'll never get an agent or another publisher for that particular series. It may be harder... but then again, it may be easier, depending on market, the agent, the publisher, and just how well the first book does. And the second. And...

Nothing in life - and especially the publishing industry - is that cut and dried.

Colin Smith said...

BJ: I don't mean to suggest going agentless is signing your death warrant, just that it's something you shouldn't do lightly. It's a career decision, not a "for-now" decision, at least given the amount you need to invest to do it right. That's my understanding, anyway.

Colin Smith said...

"amount you need to invest"--time and energy wise, not necessarily financially.

Colin Smith said...

And actually, from what Janet has said, my understanding that it's nigh-on impossible to get published by the Big Five/Six--however many are left--without an agent. But there are plenty of good small publishers who will take on clients without agents. Just depends what you want out of your publishing career.

John Frain said...

Jennifer,

Great story. Love to read success stories like that, because those are the ones that aren't told as frequently. There are as many paths to success as there are authors marching down those paths. As long as you keep marching, you'll arrive.

And, as Theo Geisel will tell ya: wherever you go, there you are.

number1texgirl@gmail.com said...

Anybody thought about writing the final chapter to the Cartoom Saga?
Just asking.

Janet Reid said...

number1textgirl@gmail.com

That's a terrific idea for flash fiction contest!
Where are Colin and Lynn now?

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Terry Fallis was one of the keynote speakers at Surrey. He, if I remember the number correctly, queried seventy agents and got nine rejections. He got nine rejections because the others didn't even send a form response rejection.

So, he decided to self publish. He had exactly ten books left in the bunch he had bought to go around to stores and ask if they would sell it on consignment. Ten books was precisely the number needed to enter the Leacock contest. So, he sent off the entry fee and the books. He started thinking about it and decided not to enter and went after the package, which was on the secretary's desk downstairs. The elevator was malfunctioning and it took him forever to get to the secretary. The postman had just picked it up. Out the door he races after the postman, but he gets there in time to see the truck drive around the corner. Alas, he was in the contest.

He got shortlisted for the award, but had no illusions of winning it. By this time he'd secured an agent. The agent told him not to get his hopes up because he wasn't going to win it. He didn't even bother to write an acceptance speech because he'd been told he would never win it and he was in tough competition.

He wound up jotting down a few ideas on a business card just in case.

He won.

The book received such critical acclaim McClellan and Stewart bought the rights and republished it.

So, yes, it's good to have an agent, but not having one doesn't mean you're doomed either.

Jennifer Delozier said...

John Frain,
Thank you!
I would never argue with the logic of Dr. Seuss...he's my hero!

Julie.M.Weathers said...

It sounds to me like the cartoom saga might be the cartomb saga as has probably been suggested.

BJ Muntain said...

Colin: As I said, "Yes, it's harder to get published by a humongous publishing house without an agent." It's much harder. But - as you said - there are smaller houses, and there are even some large houses that accept unagented submissions. In science fiction and fantasy, Tor and Baen are pretty big. Harlequin is one of the biggest - in any genre, really.

Again, I'd much rather have an agent, but - as Julie says - "So, yes, it's good to have an agent, but not having one doesn't mean you're doomed either."

Bingo.

BJ Muntain said...

As for the cartomb saga: I think Colin is already in the place I sent him in my last contest entry.

Would be cool to figure out how I could make that even worse...

Colin Smith said...

Janet: I think you're having too much fun with this... ;)

Donnaeve said...

It's past my bedtime which might be the issue here, but:

Cartoom Saga???

Cartomb?

Do ya'll mean Carkoon??? I sure hope so, b/c I have no idea what "cartoom" or "cartomb" is, and neither does Google.

Colin Smith said...

Donna: Haven't you heard of the puss-filled tombs of Cartoom? Death by cuteness... :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Just got home from work, sitting and reading comments I couldn't read earlier- what a nice, smart and wacky group of writers we are. I love you guys.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

OP, you've sold a book, you'll be published. Congratulations. The nitty gritty can be worked out. If anything you'll have publishing credits.

I hope OP's fretting doesn't block his/her creative flow. Janet put on her FB page : write like it doesn't matter if you'll ever be published. This sings to me. I'd add and don't worry if your mother reads it...

It may seem unrelated but I'm stuck on the literary discussion from a few days ago. I was force fed literary, I'm still stumbling, it could be reverse culture shock as I'm temporarily in the US. Ouf! Post

Post Carkoon has to be some kind of limbo with permanent jet lag, and cockroach ganglions. Good luck finding your niche Colin and Lynn!

Julie, Surrey sounds fantastic...

I need sleep.

Karen McCoy said...

Oh, Amanda, I'm sure they're worth more than that! Your contests entries are proof.

And thanks for sharing your experience--and I hope the next books you write have better luck--they deserve to.

Craig said...

How about an act of community fiction?

Tattoine was allowed to be a rogue planet because that worked as the second layer of the prison pit, Carkoon. Sarlaac's wife had put him on a diet so he kept many of those thrown into prison as slaves. Or so the prisoners wished for the QOTKU to know.

On a slow day post this and let everyone add their part to it.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Craig, I think we are already headed in the community fiction direction. And Colin, I believe it's not just QOTKU having fun with this. I do think I was wrong about Colin and Lynn being in limbo though. I think you are actually in the infinite slush pile which is right next to the same place half of all our socks disappear to. Just a theory. Good night all

John Frain said...

If Colin rises from Cartomb after three days, I'm gonna get in my car and drive to North Carolina.

Janet Reid said...

I'll be right there in the sidecar with you John Frain.

When people play that "where would you go in time if you had a time machine game" I always pick hanging out with the Lord when He was here on earth.

Now, if it does turn out that Colin is the Risen (again) Lord, I'm going to feel pretty stupid for not recognizing that when I met him three weeks ago.

In fact, that's one of my big fears: if Christ returned, would I have enough faith to recognize Him.

I'm in big BIG Trouble if Colin is indeed the Risen Lord Part 2 (Revenge of the Exiles)

Colin Smith said...

Ummm... well, if I was the Risen Lord, I'd have a heck of a lot more people in my Sunday School class. And I think the lessons would have a slightly different tenor--especially since I'm teaching through Revelation at the moment. Let's face it, if I was the Second Coming, I wouldn't be teaching Revelation--Revelation would be over with, and we wouldn't be worrying about getting agents and negotiating book contracts. :)

Now, back to Janet's slush pile, AKA my bed for the night again! I've been given a ticket with a seat number for the shuttle tomorrow. Seat number 9. The shuttle doesn't look like it holds that many seats. I guess we'll find out tomorrow.

Where did Lynn get to?

AJ Blythe said...

Wowzers, what a lot of comments. Too many to read sadly so have skimmed and I'm sure missed a lot. Pretty sure anything I have to say about Opie's situation has been covered so I'll just be quiet....

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Cartomb, everlasting resting place.
Carbloom, the local greenhouse.
Carzum-ba, exercise class.
Carboom, TNT factory.
Carbroom, Janet' s newest vehicle.
Cargroom, beauty parlor, for people and pets.
Okay guys what else?

LynnRodz said...

Carumba, where am I???!!!

DLM said...

2Ns: *gigglesnort!*

Dear Janet, I have a sequel I'd like to see if you would represent, it's called Colin II, the Electric Boogaloo - the tale of the Risen Lord rising from his cartomb to bring puddies and cartoons so that we may live in the abundance of His love. It's gonna change the world ... http://slushpilehell.tumblr.com/post/108920733120

Julie MW, reports indicate that you have an agent right here waiting pretty dang eagerly for your work, so it may not be so hard for you!

And finally: Khartoum. Because completist neuroses and rhymes in my brain, my wee and paltry brain.