Thursday, May 19, 2016

I intend to multiply; when do I break that news?

I’ve been querying agents and getting full requests (again — thanks to queryshark), but I’ve been conflicted about something. I intend to write a series, but I’m not sure when to bring that up. Everything I’ve read online says to NOT do it in the query letter, so I’ve avoided doing that. But I can’t find a solid answer on WHEN to say “hey, by the way, this is totes not a stand alone.”

Agents who read my book will know it is not a stand alone because it ends with a lot unresolved. But I’d rather them not get to the end and say: “Wait, what? Where’s the rest?”

So far, when an agent requests a full or a partial, I’ve been saying “By the way, this is meant to be the first in the series. I didn’t say that in the query letter because everything online told me not to. Hope I’ve acted appropriately.”

I’m just trying to be transparent with the agents I’m querying, and respectful of their time. I figured if they’re not interested in representing a series, they’ll say “pass” and won’t bother reading the full they requested. But I’m still not sure if I’m acting right? Is there a magic answer, or does it vary so much agent to agent? Or am I doing that thing authors do when they worry too much and lose all their hair?


No, you're not wrong to be worried, you're just worried about the wrong thing.

Here's the line that made me reach for the cluegun: Agents who read my book will know it is not a stand alone because it ends with a lot unresolved.

Do that to me, and you're getting a call when I finish reading the book (usually that's around 3am) and it's going to sound something like this:





Your book must complete the narrative arc of the book. It doesn't have to complete the narrative arc of the series, but at the end of the book I better not wonder if President Bartlett is dead or alive.

And the reason for this is not that I'm some sort of obsessive freak (although I am) it's because your readers will go batshit crazy if you leave them hanging.

There's a huge different between leaving things hanging, and laying in anticipation for the next book. You want the latter, not the former.

The reason you want the latter is:  there is no certitude about Book #2, even if Book #1 gets published.

So, what you say now to agents requesting your full is this: "I left some unresolved plot points, but I'm going to fix that."

And I'm not sure you've read all the QueryShark archives when I hear "Everything I’ve read online says to NOT do it in the query letter" because the correct way to say this book is part of a series is this: I envision this book as part of a X book series. It does however stand alone.

56 comments:

Lucie Witt said...

OP, long ago when I was querying a fantasy I would say "[Title] is a standalone with series potential."

I think I got my wording from one of the query shark posts. Back then, there were only 221 entries and I read every single one, taking notes as I went. I still have that notebook somewhere.

I really love Janet's explanation - leaving things hanging versus laying in anticipation for the next book. As a reader I definitely feel ripped off if the main issue of the first book in the series isn't resolved. I expect to know what's up with the sorcerer's stone by the end of book one, even though I know the Voldemort threat is still out there, unresolved.

Kitty said...

this is totes not a stand alone

What does totes mean?

Lucie Witt said...

Totally :)

Colin Smith said...

My initial thought was, if the agent is growling for answers, you've done a good job. Maybe she'll represent you, and you'll get a multi-book deal from a publisher, which will give at least some semblance of assurance you'll stay published for a few years.

But, of course, Janet's right. And Lucie's Potter example is spot on. Resolve the major plot points, but leave enough hanging for series potential.

Kitty: "Totes" is youth-speak for "totally." Though I'm not sure the kids say that anymore. But it's an adult's prerogative to use street language that's at least 10 years old. :D

On a SINGER FROM MEMPHIS note, can I just say... cats!! And you all know what I mean because you're all reading the book too, yes? YES? :)

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I would be bewildered and then hysterically laughing were I to receive a call like that. I'm a very sound sleeper, you see, and even expected calls are sometimes met with things like "Of course I can come get you....where are you?"

Janet's reply makes me happy with regards to how I ended book 1 to my intended trilogy, though. The books conflicts are brought to a close, but there are greater questions in the story arc. It feels nice to have perhaps done something right. Oh wait, it's a werewolf book. Nvm. (I should really get another novel finished so that when an agent asks me "what else do you have" I can say "this awesome werewolf trilogy that I love so very much and is different I promise" but also like, my girl Hamlet book or my exorcist bikers or my ghost whisperer with a service dog).

But when I first read the post title, I was all huffy "It isn't an agent's business if you decide you're going to have childr---oh. Of course."

AJ Blythe said...

Hah, I thought the post was going to be about this. I've always wanted another me so I can write all day. The copy can do all the drudgy stuff that gets in the way of writing.

I also put a line in my query letters letting agents know my work is the first of a planned series. But at the bottom end of the query (where title and word count are - I've read Query Shark).

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Well, this post landed right in my yard. I am one of the multitude of fantasy writers in the Reef. My book is also the first in a series. I have a total of seven books at various stages of completion. However, I made sure that my first book could stand alone because of exactly what Janet said. If the first book doesn’t sell, there is no chance for books b through z.

However, I do mention in my query that while my book, Shadowed Castles, can stand alone just fine, it is the first in a seven book series. This on the advice or two agents and a panel full of folks who may or may not know what they’re talking about at WDC. I don’t think it hurts to say you have a series planned as long as that first book can hold its own.

I don’t think Janet can emphasize enough: your debut novel must be able to stand alone. For me, I simply focused on one main story line that could be resolved in one book while leaving breadcrumbs that will be interesting in the rest of the series.

Look at the first Harry Potter book. That is a complete story with a full arc of conflict and resolution. The first Mistborn book by Brandon Sanderson resolved quite nicely even though it was the part of a trilogy which resulted in several more Mistborn books. He may still be writing more of these. Andre Norton’s Halfblood Chronicles are the same. The first book, Elvenbane, stood by itself, a full story with a central conflict resolved by the end. However, there is a tiny scene (maybe four paragraphs) in Elvenbane that sets up the central conflict in book 2, Elvenblood.

Do not look at books like The Lord of the Rings – that was written as one book and broken up into a trilogy (really six books) by the publisher, and Tolkien was, well, Tolkien. More established authors can get away with the unresolved endings of a book in a series because they have built an audience so later Harry Potter books could leave strands of conflict outstanding. The publisher knew 80 bazillion people would buy the next book in the series. Debut authors don’t have that assurance…not yet.

Colin Smith said...

AJ: I would think an agent would be glad if an author can clone him/herself. They would get more writing done. Theoretically. Though what would probably happen is all those character/plot arguments that happen in your head would become vocal:

Me: No don't kill him off. Your readers will love him by now, and they'll hate you for it.

Other Me: Sod the readers. This is my character, and his days are NUMBERED!

Me: How could you do that! After he just saved the day? Don't you want a happy ending?

Other Me: Happy endings are sooo last century. Let's make them cry, send me hate mail, and crave the next book like a shot of heroin.

Me: You're so mean!

Other Me: Shut up and go write your fluffy bunnies and unicorns.

Me: You mean the zombie mystery?

Other Me: Yeah, whatever...

And Jennifer, I'm trying not to be jealous. "Exorcist bikers" and "ghost whisperer with a service dog"--those almost query themselves. Like Julie's cowgirls. And be proud of your werewolf trilogy. If it's a great story, and you love it, don't apologize for it, or excuse it. Say, "It's a werewolf trilogy. It's what I wrote, and I think it's awesome. If you don't like it, Ms. Agent, I'm sorry, but oh well. Your loss!" Of course, you might be a little more tactful than that... maybe... ;)

SiSi said...

". . . there is no certitude about Book #2, even if Book #1 gets published."

This is what we learned yesterday! As a reader I agree completely with Janet. It's bad enough when TV shows end on a cliffhanger then get cancelled. It's even worse with books.

Lennon Faris said...

Hmm I had this very question. Unfortunately the answer doesn't make me feel great. If there is no book 2 after my book 1 is published, it will not feel completed to a reader at all. It does have *some* story arc closure but the mc's major goal is not met, and there might be more questions at the end than the beginning when she doesn't know what she doesn't know. Blah.

Anyway - AJ and Jennifer Donohue - haha! I've always wished for a 2nd me (that would do my every whim of course). Or a personal servant, either way.

nightsmusic said...

From a reader's POV, I have quit three 'first in a series' books because:

1. I didn't know until the end that it was a first in a...

B. Thee major plot point/romance/big blue hairy bear was left hanging with no resolve in sight

8. When I get to an ending like that, it's a wallbanger moment because I've lost all trust in the author to be able to bring things full circle in a reasonable manner.

Please, don't do that to your readers. Or your prospective agent. Just...don't.

Colin Smith said...

Oh, one more thing... the other side of having your first in the series resolve sufficiently to be stand-alone, is that your readers are happy with the ending and don't read more. I confess, this is what happened to me after reading THE GIVER by Lois Lowry. I really enjoyed that novel, and I kind of liked the way it ended. It was only later I discovered it's the first in a series. Now I'm wary to read the rest in case it spoils the ending of the first book.

Time for today's meeting. I should have bought SINGER FROM MEMPHIS in digital form. It would be easier to sneak reads of it on my phone, pretending I'm checking email or something... ;)

Keep up the great comments, all y'all! :D

Kae Ridwyn said...

Thank you Janet, for re-confirming what I had gleaned already from QueryShark and from your posts here. (Yay! Maybe I did something right with the ending of my book 1 in the series I'm writing!)

And chalk me in with those who feel miffed when the story finishes - but doesn't.

Thanks again, and best of luck, OP!

Colin Smith said...

I'm going, really, but...

Jason: Don't you mean an epilogue?

And if your second book in the series isn't picked up by the publisher, you can always self-publish it... :)

OK... really... I'm going now... :)

Rose Black said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought the title was about having babies! I was concerned about working that into my query...

Eric Steinberg said...

Does "stand alone with series potential" also work? When you know there can be more but aren't quite sure what the more is yet?

(And I am absolutely positive that a writer will hate an agent calling their house and asking, "where's the rest?")

RachelErin said...

Colin - I adored THE GIVER as a child, and read the other books a year or two ago. DO IT. Lois Lowry is a master. They are fairly loosely related - the side character in one will be the MC in another. They were not what I was expecting at all, in a good way.

Now I'm worried my first book doesn't wrap up enough. I resolve the romance (the split), and she finds out her initial question (parentage). The main emotional choice she has to make, however, is whether to stay and be 'happy' or quest and contribute to the good of society. She answers that question in such a way that the last scene is her setting off...

AJ Blythe said...

Colin, I have conversations like that with myself all the time. I think the family wish it was just in my head.

Quite a few of my son's MG books come with a code to get the e-book free. I've always thought that a brilliant idea because, like Colin, I often want to read my print books i̶n̶s̶t̶e̶a̶d̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶w̶o̶r̶k̶i̶n̶g̶ when on the go.

I find it odd they do this for MG books when they are probably the least likely to have an e-reader (although in my son's case he does, but he has a Mum who is the Imelda Marcos of the bookworld).

DeadSpiderEye said...

Ringing a writer at 3:00am, that's going to go one of two ways, a conversation over the clatter of the keyboard, with the phone on speaker and punctuated by intermittent caffeine consumption. Which is by far the least awkward contingency, because if you catch 'em on one of the three nights of the year they are asleep, you could have a mess on your hands. As a precaution, please check to see if they live in a high rise before you pick up the phone.

Dena Pawling said...


Janet, you can call me at 3am to talk about my book any damn time you want. And if you sound like Chewbacca, that might be an improvement over what *I* will sound like at that hour, if you can even hear me over my excited screaming.

Just saying..........

Julie Weathers said...

Boy do I understand this. I apparently couldn't write a single volume if it was instructions on how to pour water out of a boot.

Well, I take that back, Dancing Horses was a stand alone suspense, but everyone who read it fell in so much love with the Cajun cowboys they wanted some kind of book with them. A Cajun cowboys detective agency or something. God help us.

I realized very early on in playing with Cowgirls Wanted their stories couldn't be told in one book.

The three fantasies? Hahahaha Yeah, right. No, they will never be stand alones. Nor will The Rain Crow

Pray I will live longer than my three score and ten.

In the Far Rider query I put in the housekeeping section, "FAR RIDER is a high fantasy complete at 139,000 words with series potential." and left it at that. It had complete arcs. The bad guys got away, but the reader was satisfied with the grand battle and the outcome for the mc.

I was careful to give a sense of completion because a fantasy I read years ago left off on a cliffhanger that made me want to throw it at a wall. It took the author five years to write the sequel and this was not a GRR Martin type book, it was fairly small and simple. The second book did exactly the same thing, another Perils of Pauline cliffhanger with no resolution. That was it. I have never bought another of her books nor will I ever. I don't even look to see if she's written anything else.

Julie Weathers said...

Ringing me at 3:00 am is going to merit a prayer. It is the witching hour after all. Yes, I have been known to pray for people who call me in the middle of the night. Crazy comes in all forms.

At the conferences I've been to most agents and editors will ask if the book has series potential. The agents I pitched at Surrey last year asked how many books I thought would be in the series. I said I thought three, but the stories always surprised me, so that was a guess.

I asked one agent why they ask that and she said, "Well, I always hope a book has series potential. If it's successful, it's nice to know we can continue it."

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I honestly can't think of that many books in my genre that aren't in a series - but that doesn't mean the first book doesn't tie up the immediate problem. I like it when at the end of a book, I'm satisfied, but I know more is definitely coming.

If nothing is left unfinished, I get nervous about sequels - just like Colin said earlier. What if it retcons the ending I loved? What if my favorite character dies right off the bat? I've been burned by this too many times.

In other news, I finally finished outlining the novel that's been kicking my butt for five (count 'em, five!) years. It's been through countless rewrites (not edits), and I think I've finally got the plan down right this time. This is only tangentially related to the topic, so I apologize, but I did try to wrap up the main struggle of the characters! :)

DLM said...

Eric, I'm no Janet (but then again, who is?) but standalone with series potential sounds good to me.

I had a bad headache deep in the night, and woke up swooning again (G-TEC gets a swelled head, he thinks I swoon for him), but I am happy today as it's fake Friday. I'm taking tomorrow off, and for the evening have an outing planned with a good friend. It will not be possible for me to indulge bourbon, still being a dizzy widgets, but fun shall be had. Here's hoping I'm contagious in the fun department!

Jason Magnason said...

Colin, Yes I meant Epilogue let me fix that.

Jason Magnason said...

EDITED AND RE-POSTED : "Thanks Colin"

Wait so Janet. Ehem, DoY will you please let your human go for a sec? I would like to ask her a question.

Okay, so If I have written a book that resolves the main arc, can I not also write a Epilogue that leaves the reader hanging?

Jason Magnason said...

ugg forgot the n in an. SMH.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

With certitude I love the word certitude.

Joseph Snoe said...

I’m being tripped up over labels here. Namely, what’s a series. Specifically, whether the “series” in the blog today applies to several books involving the same set of characters but are independent standalone stories (or with some continuing incidental tidbits - like the Alex Cross books); or whether the “series” means three or more books that must be read together to get the full big picture story.

Three years ago I lumped both types of books under “series.” Then someone educated me (or misled me) that a series must be one long story covering three or more books. I’m currently reading C.J. Box’s Endangered, the eighth Joe Pickett book, and Jeff Abbott’s Downfall, the third Sam Capra book. It’s the first book I’ve read of either character. Each makes reference to nonessential events in prior books but I assume both books will be self–contained standalone books.

Which brings up another question – What do we call books with the potential of using the same characters in multiple standalone books?

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Colin Smith: Honestly, I spend my life saying less-than-tactful things because it's what's fallen out of my head, or saying tactful enough things but with the wrong tone of voice/facial expression. It is what it is! I love my werewolves, and I feel frustrated when I read multitudes of agents saying "GOD ANOTHER WEREWOLF STORY REJECT". I can see where they're coming from, but I'm far more sympathetic to where I'm coming from ;) And thank you, I hadn't really thought about those two pieces querying themselves in a manner comparable to Julie freakin' Weathers! I was more thinking "I really need to write these to The End and then all aboard the editing train!"

Julie Weathers said...

Joe,

I believe there are two types of series. The true series, like Game of Thrones continues the story where the last book left off.

Episode series, like Gary Corby's books or James Lee Burke, will pick up the same characters and possibly locations, but they will have new stories. Each is a standalone book and you don't need to read a previous book to understand what's going on.

Joseph Snoe said...

Julie
Re-reading Janet Reid's blog entry, it's clear to me she's discussing the "true series" type of series. And I agree with her. I go out out of my way not to mislead people.

Lucie Witt said...

Joe,
In the romance genre we call those companion novels, and they're quite popular. Unlike series it doesn't really matter what order you read them in. Usually the first book focuses on a MC, and the second book is about a secondary character in the first book who is now the MC.

Julie Weathers said...

I don't get many middle of the night calls any more, but I used to.

Will from Iraq at 2:00 a.m. "Mom, can't talk now, but I'm all right. Will call tomorrow."

Well, you know you're not getting any more sleep that night. Then you get the email with pictures of the bombed convoy.

2:00 a.m call. "Julie? This is Marge, Kyle's mother. Brandon's bareback horse stepped on him and broke his leg. He wouldn't let us take him to the hospital. I just finally wrangled your number from him. He's going to stay with us tonight at the ranch and drive home tomorrow. Be sure and take him to the doctor when he gets in."

Jennifer, I'm of the opinion if you write a unique and compelling story, it's going to find a home. No one was looking for vampire stories when Meyer wrote Twilight.

At Surrey, I was at a master class on queries and I explained to the agent who I came up with the idea for FR. It was loosely inspired by some teenage resistance fighters in WWII. She perked up and asked me more about them, so I told her their story. Then she said, I want that book. You should write it. Well, yeah, but I have this fantasy I'm trying to get out the door right now. I've followed this agent for a while and she's expressed no interest in WWII stories.

Not to say you shouldn't work on the other ideas, which sound awesome, but don't give up. There's nothing to say your books might not start the next werewolf trend.

Joseph Snoe said...

Jennifer and Julie
My head almost blew off its top and spun completely around three times. Ya'll just gave me a great idea for a novel for a new character I'm developing. It may even be the first book of his "episode series" and not the second. No, it's not about werewolves. I better write down my initial thoughts while they're still there.

Craig said...

That is like telling a joke and neglecting the punch line.

Even though I have heard that synopsis is to make sure aliens don't show up in Chapter fourteen of non sci-fi books( and do show up in sci-fi books) I think it has more to do with making sure the writer knows how to end a book.

Paying particular attention to finishing you plot in the synopsis might help keep grease in the gears.

Panda in Chief said...

Completely OT:
Janet, just checked out your new website. It looks lovely. One thing though, when I clicked on the link for this blog, it took me to a post from 2004, not the most recent one. Being that my ability to fix technological glitches is pretty much non existent (it relies on naps, sugar laden snacks and pushing random buttons in the hope that I will accidentally fix what ever is wrong) I have no idea how one fixes that, but I'm sure your tech person does.

Donnaeve said...

"Your book must complete the narrative arc of the book." So, yep, if there are unresolved plot points sure to make a reader frustrated, that's not a good thing.

You could have the conflicts resolved, patched up relationships, etc. in Book 1, but the way to (IMO, like I know anything about a series) end the book is to hint at a new idea/question/potential conflict that didn't happen in this book.


And this from OP: "Or am I doing that thing authors do when they worry too much and lose all their hair?"

I'm glad I'm not the only one. (having channeled OP in a blog post today)

roadkills-r-us said...

SiSi noted: "...It's bad enough when TV shows end on a cliffhanger then get cancelled. It's even worse with books."

As a teenager I was infuriated when Gilligan's Island was cancelled with no warning. While I'd have preferred them to be rescued, even a shot of a patched Minnow on the ocean bottom, or six crude, wooden crosses on the island with a skeleton next to them, would have been preferable to limbo. For the record, I think the skeleton would have had shreds of Maryanne's clothes; as a young, midwestern farm girl she'd have outlasted the rest.

roadkills-r-us said...

I'm with Dena on 3AM Chewie calls. I've had much worse 3AM calls, the stuff that thrillers and mysteries are made of. Seriously. Some day some of that will show up in a book or three.

As to concerns about readers not knowing a book is part of a series, that's why YEAR OF THE DRAGON LORD has "Vol I" on the spine. 8^) OTOH, I'm asking myself why it doesn't say, "Dragon Lord Chronicles" anywhere on the cover. Back to the drawing board on that bit!

I did wrap things up in volume one, but the larger story arc looms much in the way it does in the Potter books. I anticipate 4 books to resolve this arc, but there are more that come after related to these characters, directly or indirectly.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Go, go, Joseph Snoe! Happy to be of help ^^

Oh, I'm not giving up! I'm not sure I've ever actually "given up" on a .....no, that's not true, I have given up on a novel. But it was my first novel, the fantasy novel I hand wrote in high school. 1000 pages of recently absorbed fantasy tropes, character archetypes, and assorted cultural things I thought were interesting but, that's how teenagers are.

But anyway. I'd actually considered querying the werewolves first and I'm glad I didn't, as I've had some pretty good epiphanies in their resting time, which I think will make the books far better.

Ugh, two TV shows I'm still rather miffed about the "endings" of were Deadwood and Carnivale. Rome had closure, at least.

Dena Pawling said...


Roadkills - I know, right? An agent wants to call me and talk about my book? Bring it on! I don't care what time. I'll take compliments, constructive criticism, fan girl moments, offers of rep, anything.

I can dream, can't I?

=)

Colin Smith said...

Dena: I'm with you. I'll take an agent call just about any time, day or night. Well... okay... caveat. It has to be an agent I've at least heard of. I don't want Brian Schwarz calling me in the middle of the night claiming to be Ron Numbur, literary agent with DampQuill Literary Agency, saying he has a publisher willing to pay a million dollars for my flash fiction. Not that Brian would do such a thing... ;)

Janet Reid said...

Panda in chief, thank you!
Somehow I managed to insert the link to QueryLetter Diagnostics rather than the overall blog.
It was pretty easy to fix, but if you see it when you go to the site, refresh and it should go away.

Thank you for the heads up! I really do appreciate all your eagle eyes helping me keep this place tidy. Now if we could just get the kale stains off the rug.

Where There's A Quill said...

I live in fear of middle-of-the-night phone calls. Nothing like getting a call at 2am from frantic clients who have been denied boarding because their passports don't have enough validity/they opted to organise visas themselves and WHOOPS we screwed it/we forgot our kid's birth certificate and South Africa dun' want us!

Apologies in advance to any agents who might call me at 2am one day if I answer the phone with "Let me put on my pants and I'll meet you at the airport".

BJ Muntain said...

As with everyone else, when I read, "Agents who read my book will know it is not a stand alone because it ends with a lot unresolved. But I’d rather them not get to the end and say: “Wait, what? Where’s the rest?”", I cringed.

Every novel should have one main plot that gets resolved satisfactorily. It should also have a few subplots that get resolved, at least temporarily. The permanent resolution of a subplot can occur later in the series, even at the end. Yes, you can leave some subplots open in anticipation for the next book, but the main story plot MUST resolve.

I know. There are published novels that don't do this. Sometimes by high-selling authors. That doesn't make it right.

Reader trust is HUGE. The reader has to trust you enough to suspend their disbelief, and if you're writing fantasy or science fiction, that's even more important. The reader has to trust you enough to spend hours of their time reading your novel. Reader trust starts with the story question for the entire novel. The reader assumes that you're going to resolve that story question somehow by the end of the novel. If you betray your reader's trust, they're not going to pick up your next book.

I do have a bit of an anxiety problem. If I get a phone call between 11 pm and 5 am, the first thing I'm going to think of is that someone died. That's how we found out my grandmother passed away. We got the call about my father at 4:30 am. Once I answer the phone at that time, scared to death, anything besides bad news is going to be a pleasure. Wrong number? Butt dial? No problem! Just don't be dead! You'd be surprised how happy I might sound answering a call at that hour...

(I know it's long. I've waited all day to comment, cuz I had a busy morning, so it just kind built...)

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

By all means, your 3am is an ideal time for you to call: that's my 3pm.

Donnaeve said...

Where There's A Quill - ya know, we have a thing about pants around here.

Like, I'm not wearing any as I type this comment.

Where There's A Quill said...

Donnaeve - I prefer to think of them as leg shackles. Go forth, my pantsless friend; you are an inspiration to us all.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Lately all my 4am phone calls have been wrong numbers from the East Coast (of Australia) Because Keith doesn't know his own phone number and has been giving out mine instead. Keith, that is no way to run a business and if you don't figure out what your own phone number is, I'm gonna start collecting these credit card numbers your clients keep throwing at me.

Ahem, back on topic:

The news just gets better and better.

Reasons Why My Query Letter Might Be Rejected

#4: Your Book 1 can't act as a standalone.

sighI fear I've pulled a Tolkien. My current WUS is a Fantasy trilogy, those big juicy ones I love to read. Yes, the narrative arc in book 1 is complete. But I can't have a denouement in the way that a standalone would. That would ruin Book 2.

The whole trilogy is completely written, and I've been pitching it like that ("The first novel of a completed trilogy"). I thought it might have been okay, even desirable, as I've been watching all my commercially published Fantasy peeps get 2-book deals, 3-book deals for their debut novels.

It's pretty much mandatory for Romance novels to have the entire story arc complete in one novel, even if it is the first or fifth in an episodic series. But for the fantasy I read and enjoy, it's as if series are almost mandatory. Some say it's the worldbuilding that pads out Fantasy, but I think it might be the beautifully complex storylines. I adore them.

Am wondering if I should put "Of The Dark" aside for now and focus instead on querying my singleton "Let Sleeping Gods Lie" instead?

P.S.: for those who missed it yesterday: Her Endearing Young Charms ebook paperback

Craig said...

You can call all you want at 0300. I will not be answering.

I still get cold sweats from one of those calls. It was right at about two years ago. It went like this:

"European Championships are coming up."

"I hope you guys have been practicing."

"You build us special boats. We need them faster."

"I think you need to practice more."

"You build us boats or we send people to visit."

"I build you boats and your neighbors will send people to visit. Practice harder. I am going back to sleep."

Two days later I went to Miami and bought some things. I will not tell you what those things are. Plausible deniability is a lovely thing.

BJ Muntain said...

Duchess: I think that, as long as you answer the main reader question and resolve the plot satisfactorily, you're fine. Of course, I'd have to read the novel to tell you for sure, and I'm afraid I can't commit to that right now. Which also means I can't offer advice whether to leave it or not.

I don't see any reason not to query two different books at the same time, though that would take a lot of record-keeping to make sure you don't query the same agent with the second too quickly after the first.

Colin Smith said...

Hey, don't touch the kale stains... that's my midnight snack. :D

Panda in Chief said...

Most of my 0:dark hundred hour calls are from my mother's assisted living place on the east coast, not bothering to remember I'm on the west coast. Solution? Turn off the damn ringer, since whatever has happened to her (nothing serious thus far, they just have to notify me of every little hangnail) will still be wrong in the morning, when I have two brain cells to rub together.

Call away! I won't hear or answer.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

To compare books and paintings. Think: you want collectors. People who buy more than one and tell all their friends about it.

Client buys a painting and invites a friend over.

"Do you like it?"
"No."
"Why?"
"It makes me feel uneasy."
"Why?"
"It's not finished."
"Oh, I paid in advance." Client dials phone.



DeadSpiderEye said...

I thought I'd pipe up in defence of the ambiguously concluded narrative, it's not such a bad idea to my mind. You can use it to allow readers to project, that is select their own conclusion, or to prompt them to work through the clues. They make great talking points too:-

'He rings her back after the voice-mail she left at 3:00 am'.

'No he doesn't, didn't you get the reference to him living on the eighth floor?'.

Even the odd loose thread might work, it's just that the paradox is, doing so is probably not a good idea for a prospective series. You know when you're getting to the end of that novel bought at the airport and there's just a few pages left, as you pinch their number between your fingers. That sense of panic: what happens to Diedre in hospital, will Tarquin tell his father he's gay, how does Mr. Munce's Jam do at the women's institute fair? They're all questions begging resolution and then you get to the block caps, "The End", Arrrrrrrrrrgggggh. Worse, the author wrote an epilogue, to fool you into thinking you still had five pages left.

In TV land they make pilot episodes, to see if it's worth spending time and money extending a concept into a series. If the pilot's reception is lukewarm, well at least they've got something to mull over in a retrospective a few years down the line. It's not quite the same for an author, you need a little bit more faith in your work, otherwise you'll never navigate the peremptory dismissal of the industry. It's just that, do you want to spend time plotting a series, that no one's going to read?