A few years ago, I got picked up by an open call at a Big 5 imprint and accepted a three-book deal with no advance. In my limited (poor) wisdom, I hired an IP lawyer instead of trying to find an agent to negotiate the deal, which I regret in the long-term. Fast-forward to the option for the next book in the same series, and the publisher declined to publish due to lack of sales. It was a huge bummer, but ultimately, I understand that publishing is a business, and no matter who was responsible, low sales are low sales and there’s not much I can do about that.
So, here I am with the fourth book in a dropped series, no agent, and no idea what to do moving forward. The “no agent” bit is the most difficult part (and I am still kicking myself for that). So, my goals are to get agent representation for future work and finish out the rest of my original series.
1) Query agents with this fourth book in a series, using my previous publishing record to try to land representation for future works?
2) Self-publish the rest of this series, and write something new to query?
(2) Not now/YES
3) Request rights back from the publisher (they all meet contract requirements for rights reversion) and query agents with the series as a whole in the hopes of finding a new publishing home for it?
As this is not a common knowledge type question, I was hoping you could help! (I feel the first one is probably a ‘no’, but I’m uncertain enough to ask advice about it.)
Getting your rights back is a good idea, if only for keeping things tidy.
Those rights don't have a lot of value just now; that's not to say they won't in the future, so you're better off getting them back now.
Shopping a fourth book in a series with lackluster sales is a recipe for despair. Avoid that.
BUT, writing something new is a good idea.
AND while you're writing this New Tome of Excellence, you work on building your platform. Make book friends.
Querying with "my last series didn't do so well, here's a new book" is nowhere near as appetizing as "yea, my last series didn't do so well, but I