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Pitching a 2-book series

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Using the anonymous feature to ask about this. What was a trilogy is now going to be a two book wip (around 70-80k per book).

Is this less appealing than a trilogy? Could agents still accept it? How do you go about pitching a two book proposal? Neither book could stand on its own - well , possibly, but they are heavily tied together.

Any advice would be most appreciated.

Thank you.
#1 - December 20, 2008, 08:56 AM


Hi Anon.  I think conventional wisdom is to pitch the first book as a stand alone.  Some people say not to even mention a second book, some say to mention it but focus on the first book.  It will be interesting to hear others chime in here.  Good luck with it!
#2 - December 20, 2008, 09:08 AM

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FWIW -- I think it depends a little on who you are (e.g., how famous or bestselling) and on the work itself (how high-concept/commercial/genre). And maybe even on your agent/house. But that said, or if you're a debut author, you're likely to hear that the first book has pretty much got to stand on its own regardless. Or else your two books may need to be combined into one longish one -- which might be a good option for you?

I was in more or less this situation, though I had 3 ms's to start. But the first one was not considered self-contained enough by itself (I thought it was, but others didn't), so the first two were combined (with some cuts to make it a reasonable length). And the third book has become the sequel, though the new 1 and 2 were sold separately. And since now the third book of the trilogy (originally it would have been a #4) is drafted and we hope to sell it, too, so it really will become a trilogy, but that will depend at least in part on sales of the first two.

Repeatedly I heard during this process, directly and indirectly, "Each has to stand on its own and sell on its own." YMMV.

Of course, I've read first books of trilogies that in no way stood by themselves, but I think that's easier to get away with if you're already a marketable name (and there are thus essentially guarantees that a second/third book will be bought and read. If you're not a platform in your own right, the first book might not sell well enough to prevent them from bailing on the second/third.
#3 - December 20, 2008, 09:18 AM
The Farwalker Trilogy
The Humming of Numbers
Reality Leak

Thank you both for such a speedy response. This does make sense. I haven't even got an agent yet :) So I'm a complete unknown. Genre is sci-fi.

I think I'll write them, get them critiqued and revised, and see whether people think the first can stand on its own. It may turn out that this small series will have to wait until I have one of my other wips published, thereby giving me a platform to work with.

Nice not to feel so confused about it all.
#4 - December 20, 2008, 09:29 AM

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With my manuscripts which I think might have series potential .. I leave room for a sequel ( a few threads hanging, characters that look ready for a next adventure, some hint of the future), but make sure the book stands on its own, so that it can go either way.
#5 - December 20, 2008, 12:09 PM
Making metaphors out of molehills for over thirty years.


I wrote a book that could theoretically stand alone, with a satisfying resolution and all -- but I also had enough unresolved plot threads that I hoped readers might want a sequel, and I always kept the idea of a sequel alive in the back of my mind.

I won my agent over with the first ms. alone, but I also told him about my idea for Book Two and when he pitched my debut novel to editors, he pitched the sequel idea (which by that point had grown to include a first chapter and outline) along with it. I ended up with a two-book deal.

This is not quite the same as writing a single story spread over two books, not exactly -- but it is a case of a publisher saying yes to a two-book series as opposed to a trilogy.
#6 - December 20, 2008, 01:07 PM


I agree with everyone else. While I have heard stories of an agent falling in love with a series that can't stand on it's own and offering representation and then selling the series, it's very, very rare. Your best chance of success is to submit a book that can stand on it's own. If these two books can't, and you don't want to combine/alter them, I'd submit at different MS first. However, like I said, you could always give it a go and take your chances. You never know.  :goodluck
#7 - December 21, 2008, 08:22 PM

I'd just query the one book to the agent, then if the agent's interested you discuss the possibility of a sequel. That's what I did with mine, and the agent agreed immediately that it was a good idea. She's going to pitch it to publishers as a trilogy.

Don't mention it in the query, though. Don't bring it up until the agent's read the first book and likes it enough to discuss with you.

And definitely be sure - even if you leave direction for the plot/subplots that need addressing - that there's a self-contained plot in the first novel, not a cliffhanger. That'll annoy any prospective agent, from what I gather.

Good luck!
#8 - January 01, 2009, 12:22 PM
S.J. Kincaid, INSIGNIA
(July 10, 2012, Katherine Tegen Books)

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Same advice here- pitch the first book as a standalone when you're querying agents, but if you have interest, be open about the fact that you see it as part of a duology (side note- a recent big release EON: DRAGONEYE REBORN is part of a duology that sounds very much like how you're describing yours- it really has to be two books, and even the titles complement each other well with that in mind).  You might stand a slightly better chance pitching a duology than you would pitching a "the story needs four books to be told" kind of thing, but conventional wisdom is still probably best.
#9 - January 05, 2009, 11:46 AM

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This is some really great advice, I especially like florkincaid's idea (love your blog BDW). I was always wondering if I should put in my query that my book is the first in a series of ten, but I put it anyway only now to realize the brunt of my mistake.
I though it would make sense seeing how successful C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling were with their series, and I though agents would be elated by the possibility of a next best selling saga. They still are, but I guess trying to sell a trilogy of an unknown is hard, trying to sell a 7 part series is extremely difficult but trying to sell a 10 part series. . .Goodness! I can only imagine how near impossible it would be for them.

Thanks for enlightening me, now I know I should focus on selling the first book and the possibility of a series can come after. Thanks so much everyone, without you I would have kept making the same mistake over and over again and not knowing the reason for it.
#10 - January 30, 2009, 03:59 PM
Wannabe Middle Grade Fantasy author and total superhero geek


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