Today I’ve got Joyce Lavene on the blog talking about selling a series.
You’ve come up with a great idea. You’ve got some unique characters. You think it might be possible that you’ve thought of a series. How do you convince a publisher?
The publishing industry is driven by money, just like any other. Publishers and writers both want to make a living. One time-honored way to please both readers and editors is the series.
By definition, a series is a group of books that maintains a place or characters, sometimes both. Readers begin to identify with returning characters or setting. If your series captures their interest, they’ll want to read the backlist and wait eagerly for new books.
Publishers know this too. Many editors are looking for the next J.K. Rowling or Jan Karon. Series books have a long shelf life, an active backlist, and guaranteed future sales. Your job as a writer is to convince an editor that:
- You’re capable of writing several books.
- You have an interesting plot that can carry more than one book.
- You have fascinating characters that can continue to be fascinating.
- You have a wonderful setting: town, world, etc.
If you’ve had several books published, it shouldn’t be too hard to prove to an editor that you’re capable of getting the job done. If you’ve never published a book, you’re going to have to provide thorough documentation to show that you’ve thought the project through.
How do show that a plot is strong enough to maintain a series? Not all ideas are big enough to write more than one book. Of those that are, another group of ideas would drop off after two or three books. Your plot has to be expandable. It has to show growth potential. Don’t be afraid to let the editor know where you’re going.
You love your characters. How do you show an editor that they’re up to the task of carrying more than one book? Character breakdown is a major series problem. If your series has replaceable characters, you don’t have to worry about it. Most series are dependent on their characters: Miss Marple, Harry Potter, Jack Ryan. If you’re starting now, re-design your characters to give them endurance.
You’ve created the ultimate universe that can continue through several books, regardless of character changes. Be sure you express that when you contact an editor. What makes your universe so special? What makes it strong enough that people can come and go without taking away from it?
A final word about the practical aspects of selling a series: Be sure the publisher knows you’re selling the books as a series. Your contract should reflect that. It should stipulate how many books are going to come out each year and when they’re going to come out. Each publisher is different. Each contract is different. It’s good for both of you to know what you’re doing from the beginning so there aren’t any surprises.
If you’re planning to publish your own series, these tips still make sense. You might not have to sell your idea to an editor, but you’ll want to sell your writing, and continue selling it, to your readers.
A series can be a delight to write. If you love your characters and your setting, you can go back over and over to visit them. They become like members of your family!
My new book is A Haunting Dream, book four in the Missing Pieces Mysteries, set in Duck, North Carolina (a real place!)
The mayor of Duck, North Carolina, Dae O’Donnell, is a woman with a gift for finding lost things. When her boyfriend Kevin’s ex-fiancée Ann arrives in Duck looking for a second chance, Dae suddenly finds herself facing certain heartache. And while her romantic life is in shambles, she’s even more concerned by the sudden change in her gift. After touching a medallion owned by a local named Chuck Sparks, Dae is shocked when her vision reveals his murder—and a cry for help. Dae doesn’t know what to make of the dead man’s plea to “Help her,” until she has another vision about a kidnapped girl—Chuck’s daughter, Betsy. With a child missing, the FBI steps in to take over the case. But Dae can’t ignore her visions of Betsy, or the fact that Kevin’s psychic ex-fiancé might be the only person who can help find her.
Joyce Lavene writes bestselling mystery with her husband/partner Jim. They have written and published more than 60 novels for Harlequin, Berkley and Charter Books along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. She lives in rural North Carolina with her family, her cat, Quincy, and her rescue dog, Rudi. Visit her at www.joyceandjimlavene.com, www.Facebook/JoyceandJimLavene Twitter: @authorjlavene
Purchase: A Haunting Dream at: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-haunting-dream-joyce-and-jim-lavene/1111363964
Win a copy of A Haunting Dream, the fourth book in the Missing Pieces Mysteries, by leaving your name at my blog: http://romanceofmystery.blogspot.com
It’s Cindy again! Thanks for being here, Joyce. Lots of great information about series! Hurry over to Joyce’s blog and comment!
December 5, 2012 at 9:31 am
Thanks for hosting my blog today, Cindy!