Thursday, June 14, 2018

Book 1 isn't going to be the first one in the series

How would you go about querying the second book in a series of novels?

Partials and even fulls were requested for the first installment, but didn't catch an agent.

I've continued the story universe, in one case with a new female protagonist, and in the other with the sole surviving 2nd main character from the first.

Both new stories can stand alone--with only minor references to theprevious ones.

Should I even mention the first book in the query?

No. It's not a second book unless there's a first. And by first, I mean a published book.

I'm perplexed why you're querying book two if book one didn't get a deal. Have you gotten assistance on the book? By assistance I mean someone other than you or your crit group taking a look. If you just keep going without fixing what was wrong, it's going to be hugely frustrating.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

"It's not a second book unless there's a first."

Um...your second husband can't be your second husband unless you had a first. Not the guy you dated, not the guy you lived with for years, the guy who signed on the line the "death 'til you part" stuff.

Cheyenne said...

It seems like the only way this can work is if this 2nd book is presented as utterly new, no strings attached. Then if it hooks an agent and deal, you'd have the chance to present books in the same universe. Though if it were me (and I have written a book in the same universe as one that hasn't yet sold, so I sort of get where you're coming from), I would simply focus on that first book. If you love it enough to keep writing in that universe, I'd suggest seeking a pro who can give you a developmental edit to maybe see where any potential problems lie. Good luck!

Jessica said...

I have a similar situation as OP. I have a (planned) duology. First book contemporary fantasy, second book high fantasy. Don't have to read one before the other (if you read the second book first, you could just call the first one a "prequel"). The books are so different, including changing POV and themes. So why not query both books? If you can't get an agent with the first for whatever reason, why not try your luck with the second, very different book (that's probably at least marginally better than the first because you've written at least one book before it)? I always intended to query both books, so I'm very curious about Janet's response to this.

KariV said...

To play OP's advocate, maybe the world and characters were stellar, but plot or voice fell flat in book 1. Since we writers tend to improve our craft over time (and tend to fall in love with our characters and world) I can see taking some of that foundation and building something new.

My advice is - query this as a standalone. If you sign an agent and this book sells, maybe there will be a place for book 1 as a prequel. Who knows?

But for now, focus on this book.

Unknown said...

"It's not a second book unless there's a first. And by first, I mean a published book."

Oh right, I never realized this before. Okay, this gives me some ideas. Thanks.

As far as why I'm querying two if one didn't get a deal? Because aren't there a million reasons why an agent might reject a book: , query goes directly to junk mail, agent swamped, current market situation not favorable, a more promising query comes in, family home leave, not enough minions, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. 99.9% of all communications are form letters, which leave you completely clueless on why the query was rejected, let alone knowing if it were even read or seen--which is understandable considering how much agents are swamped with work. I guess my attitude is that luck plays a major role in this process when you're an unknown like me, so just query--like someone once said, "what's the worst that can happen, the agent hits the reject button twice...?"

PAH said...

For me the phrasing of your question ("second book in a series") makes it seem like you're expecting this one to get interest from an agent, but you still plan on trying to publish the "first book in the series" first, after "hooking" them with Book Two... which is why Janet is asking you "why query book two if book one didn't get a deal" ... Admittedly, I am making a lot of assumptions. But that's how this reads to me.

If the first book didn't work for folks, the better route would be fix the first book (which is where getting extra help comes in) and keep trying with that one (though for sanity and practice and to keep working, by all means continue work on subsequent books in the series -- though I personally do not like the idea of writing additional books in a series before the first one gets some love and adoration).

OR, you've got to re-frame your perspective and start thinking of Book Two as Book One -- which makes your former Book One a might-could-be-published-someday Prequel.

Just the hot take of an anonymous nothin'.

Brenda said...

If it’s already written you might as well query it as a stand alone.
I’ve left book two and book three at 20k and 35k words respectively and am working on another series altogether, my reasoning being that if the first book sells there may be fundamental changes required that would affect the plots of the next two books.
Also, why keep beating a dead horse?
Also, there’s a contest I want to enter.
Also, I’m very stubborn.
Regarding your first book, a more important question is ‘How widely have you queried?’ I just received a request off my 103rd query of the same book. It costs me very little time to keep it circling the bowl while I massacre (read frolic through) another WIP.
At any rate, good luck OP. You aren’t alone.

Craig F said...

I keep thinking of series like Harry Bosch or Jack Reacher. As a reader I didn't start reading them at book one, they were around before I found them. I did amend that timeline.

Both of those work as and because they are capable of standing alone. Simple answer to your question is to drop any talk of a series and query the book. Make sure it stands alone.

Steve Stubbs said...

I think what you are saying is, do you want to present your new book in a way that predisposes it to fail. By clarifying the question you should be able to get your own answer.

Put another way, do you want to say to a prospective agent, "This is the second book in a seeries and the first one was a flop. So do you want this one anyway?"

It is a yes-or-no question, and can be answered either way. Unless you are into defeating yourself (and some people are), I'd wager your answer is that you want to present yourself in a way that assures success.

If that is the case, you don't want to breathe a hint that you have EVER failed at ANYTHING. You want your agent to believe that you are a winner. Present your new book as best you can. This one is going to catch on fire and make you and your agent and your publisher rich.

Give it the chance it deserves.

Danae McB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julie Weathers said...


Here's the problem with your theory:

query goes directly to junk mail, agent swamped, current market situation not favorable, a more promising query comes in, family home leave, not enough minions, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. 99.9% of all communications are form letters, which leave you completely clueless on why the query was rejected, let alone knowing if it were even read or seen--which is understandable considering how much agents are swamped with work.

You said you were getting requests for partials and fulls, so obviously some agents were requesting. It wasn't a problem with the query necessarily, or agents missing it, or family time or any of the other excuses. There's a problem with the story. You didn't fix the story. You continued right on and wrote problem story, part two.

I understand the frustration of not knowing what's wrong until someone tells you. Been there, done that. There's an old saying, "Practice makes perfect." That's not exactly right. perfect practice makes perfect. In other words, if you keep practicing doing something wrong, you just get better at doing it wrong. You have to stretch out and practice doing it right.

Who knows, maybe your second attempt will be better, but I'm going to guess that the fatal flaws are still there.

Cara M. said...

@ Julie Weathers

I don't understand why you think that book 2 will necessarily have the same problem as book 1, just because book 1 didn't sell. Maybe there was some weak plotting in book 1 because it just didn't click, maybe the writing was rough but it got better via the practice of writing two books.

There are plenty of great writers out there with books that didn't sell for one reason or another, and published writers with one book that is just, unexpectedly, bad. Doing everything perfectly doesn't guarantee anything, neither does doing something wrong prevent you from selling. Telling someone that they haven't suffered enough yet to be able to cut their losses and move on seems a little unnecessary.

Julie Weathers said...


Because the author doesn't, by her own admission, know what the problem was. She got requests for partials and fulls, which means there is a problem with the story. Is it plotting, characters, writing style, grammar, unrealistic plot twists, an unlikable world building? If we continue the story without fixing the problem and she doesn't know what to fix, she admits that, we're just making the same story longer with new characters.

I got a LOT of full and partial requests on my fantasy. A LOT. The agents liked my writing. Several of them invited me to query them again with my next project. It wasn't until one of them wrote a very long and detail pass describing why he was passing and what the problem was in his view that I understood the problem. I had a YA. I needed to expound on my magic system, which he found fascinating, but it was far too lean. He wanted more of that world. There were some scenes that were far too adult for a YA. He wanted me to flesh out some more characters. He didn't tell me which ones or how to build my magic system. He wanted me to do it organically. What felt right to me.

At least I had some solid advice to build on.

And this is the problem with the OP. She's shooting in the dark. She doesn't know what to fix because no one has told her, so she's just going down the same road. The main difference between a rut and a grave is depth. Sometimes you need to stop digging.

Maybe she's figured out what was wrong with the first one intuitively and the next ones are much better. It's possible.