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New writer starting out with a series

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Hello all,

I was just curious about something.  I read a few threads that said it is almost impossible for a writer who has never been published to start out by having a series published.  Is this true?  I am currently working on a series that will stretch to six books and am extremely excited for this project.

Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,

Bryan S.
#1 - January 09, 2018, 03:44 PM

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Of course, there are always exceptions. :) But as you probably noticed on the other threads, the challenge with a new (untested) writer starting with a series all comes down to the money. If the first book gets picked up and published but doesn't offer a huge return for the publisher's investment, then the chances of the publisher wanting to continue the series diminishes. :shrug When an established writer who has proven him/herself starts a series, then the publisher might be more willing to take a chance and continue with the series, even if the first one doesn't do as well as everyone hoped (though I think even that is becoming less common these days).

However, you always have the option of self-publishing. And I know a couple of writers -- both established -- who got the first (or first couple/few) in a series published traditionally before the publisher decided they were done, and the authors finished off the series through self-pubbing (for their fans).
#2 - January 09, 2018, 03:53 PM
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Yes, it’s true. Be sure the first book in your series can stand alone. Even the first HP stands alone. They could have and would have pulled the plug on the series at that point if it hadn’t put up the sales numbers they wanted to see.

When you query it to agents or publishers, don’t say it’s a series. Say it’s a book with series potential.

Exceptions: (a) you’re aiming for a publisher that does everything in (often paperback) series, (b) you’re writing chapter books, which are done in series and character-driven.
#3 - January 09, 2018, 05:36 PM
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Bryan, seconding mrh about making sure the first book is able to stand alone. I would query with that book (for an agent) or sub it (to editors) before writing the second book. The issue is, if you can't find a taker, you can't very well query with the second book of a series from which no one wanted the first book.

I speak from experience. I was first agented for what we hoped would be a trilogy, and wrote the second book quickly. Then my agent retired unexpectedly, and I had to write something different to find a new agent.
 :goodluck
#4 - January 09, 2018, 06:34 PM
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What Goes Up (Bloomsbury, 2017)
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Thanks for the info everyone.  I have another question.  Forgive me if I sound like a complete newbie here haha.  My first book has a sort of to be continued ending with the main character going off on his own and leaving behind his friends.  Should I re-word the ending or is this type of ending ok?  In a way its almost like a Lord of the Rings style ending with Sam and Frodo leaving the group to take care of things themselves.

#5 - January 10, 2018, 08:32 AM

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Bryan, it's hard to answer your question thoroughly without seeing the mss. My suggestion is to get into a critique group, if you are in doubt. But what others have said is true. Your first book needs to stand on its own, if at all possible. Off the cuff, a TBC ending doesn't sound like it does that.

FWIW - I am under contract for a YA series with a mid-size publisher. My first book in the series does indeed stand alone and is a complete story all on its own with the main character of book one having her story completed.

Book number two will feature a new main character, but the main character from book one will still be featured, along with some of the original characters. Book TWO is then not as much of a stand alone because some of the characters from book one will appear, but the story of THIS main character will be told, so it's an 'almost' stand alone.

My agent sold book one on its own first, and then we went under contract for the series. This is usually how things unfold for most authors. Yes, there are a few exceptions, but they are rare. Usually, they happen with an established, experienced author the publisher can trust to complete the series. 
#6 - January 10, 2018, 10:38 AM
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Bryan, I agree with Melody--a cliffhanger ending is likely to be a problem. The story's arc needs to be complete at the end of Book One--your MC has solved his/her problem. Book Two can widen the problem or introduce another one, or relate in some way to Book One--turns out the Bad Guy had an accomplice you now have to deal with, say. But each book needs to be a satisfying read by itself.
#7 - January 10, 2018, 11:01 AM
Learning to Swear in America (Bloomsbury, July 2016)
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That’s understandable.  If the first book doesn’t do well on its own then they won’t pick up the rest so it would be pointless to have a cliffhanger ending.  I think I have a way to change the ending to where it’s a standalone book yet still hints at further adventures for my main character.  If I leave the ending open as opposed to a cliff hanger is that better or does it have to have an official close?  Originally it would have been something like, The MC headed north on his next journey.  The way I’m thinking now is perhaps he makes it home safely, goes to bed peacefully but doesn’t realize a piece of the relic he had in this fantasy world came with him and was hanging off the side of his bed.
Sorry for all the questions. 
#8 - January 10, 2018, 11:31 AM

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Please don't be sorry for the questions. That's what this board is for and we are happy you are here.
All best, Vijaya
#9 - January 10, 2018, 12:11 PM
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That’s understandable.  If the first book doesn’t do well on its own then they won’t pick up the rest so it would be pointless to have a cliffhanger ending.  I think I have a way to change the ending to where it’s a standalone book yet still hints at further adventures for my main character.  If I leave the ending open as opposed to a cliff hanger is that better or does it have to have an official close?  Originally it would have been something like, The MC headed north on his next journey.  The way I’m thinking now is perhaps he makes it home safely, goes to bed peacefully but doesn’t realize a piece of the relic he had in this fantasy world came with him and was hanging off the side of his bed.
Sorry for all the questions. 


This is the sort of thing that could work, like the twist ending at the end of many picture books that hints at more to come even when no other book i likely to follow. But it depends on how it's written. In other words, we can't really tell.
#10 - January 10, 2018, 09:37 PM
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Yes to what Vijaya said--we're here for the questions!  :hug

It's awfully hard to know without reading. I'd get several beta reads and listen undefensively to their reactions.

To me, the original ending sounds okay. The "he headed off on the next adventure" doesn't sound like a cliffhanger, but rather that one story has wrapped up, and you're just saying that there will be another one. But the second ending you suggested is probably stronger.
#11 - January 11, 2018, 07:24 AM
Learning to Swear in America (Bloomsbury, July 2016)
What Goes Up (Bloomsbury, 2017)
Twitter: KatieWritesBks

Thank you again everyone for the input.  I actually went back and looked at the ten chapters I had written and began to rework them to accomodate a different ending.  I realized by doing this I can expand on this new world i've created and can probably extend the story even further if it does get picked up at all  :thankyou
#12 - January 11, 2018, 08:37 AM

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