Agency Lessons: Querying a series

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made. 

When it comes to writing a series, it seems like the extra questions that pop up seem to multiply with each book you add. Do you write the whole series and then query? Write the first book and then query with a full series synopsis? Write the first book and nothing else so you can walk away if it doesn't sell?

So many questions. And conflicting advice everywhere. So let's add a few more opinions into the mix, shall we.

I love a good series. There is something really gratifying about coming back to the same characters and following them as they grow. As an author, I appreciate just how hard that can be.

Let's start with when to write what. Some will say that you should only write the first book and that way you haven't wasted time writing a second book if the first doesn't sell. Others suggest you should write the whole enchilada before you sell so you have all the kinks worked out. Here's what I think.

Write what makes you happy. I wrote a manuscript and expected it to be the first in a trilogy. While I was mistakenly querying that plot-less wonder, I wrote the second book. I'm fairly certain neither one of them will ever see the light of day. But I'm not sorry I spent the time writing the second one.

For starters, I was so in love with the story that I knocked out the first draft in 10 days. Also, I know it helped me grow in my craft because practice is what makes me a better writer. And that was the story in my head right then. If I had tried to ignore it, I would have fumbled through writing something else until I came back to it. That's how my brain works. Maybe your brain works differently. The point is whether you write the series or just one book is up to you. Write what makes you happy.

Now when it comes to querying, I have a less touchy-feely answer. Do not query an entire series. I get queries all the time that try to explain an entire trilogy in a single query. As you can imagine, this is a disaster. Don't do this. Start with book one. Craft your query as if this book stood all on it's own. Then tell me that it's part of a series, completed or planned.

Also, let me know if your book can stand on it's own. If you are a debut author I cannot recommend strongly enough that the first book in your series should be able to stand on its own two feet. If it can't, don't tell me it can. I will know that it can't when I read your synopsis and then I will be in a bad mood because you lied. Don't lie. If your book needs the others in the series to tell a full story, tell me.

There is no wrong or right way to write a series. But no matter how you write it only the first book belongs in your query and synopsis.

Anyone want to share your best tips for writing a series?