Whistle a Happy Tune

Hello Miss Snark,

The more research I have done on publishers and agents, the more anxious I have become to insure that I don't waste their time because of ignorance. There really is a great deal to learn about the submission process!

I am preparing to submit queries for my first work, a prequel to a four book, fantasy series. I decided to submit the prequel first because I read that agents/publishers are much more willing to take a chance on an unpublished author with a standalone work than on one with a series.

Have I made a wise choice by submitting a standalone work first? Should I spend a paragraph talking about the series that follows or should I even mention it at all?

You're worried about the wrong thing in the first paragraph. It's not a waste of my time if you query like a nitwit, its a waste of YOURS and your money. Despite all our self serving statements to the contrary, agents are not deities and our time isn't worth any more (or less!) than yours. You want to get this right so you can present your book in the best possible light to an agent. You want to get this right for YOU not for me. Miss Snark may be bald but she's not Yul Brynner and you are not Deborah Kerr.

The people that waste my time are the ones that never think they are; the ones with no clue that the submission process IS something to be learned.

That said, query on the prequel as a standalone. You can mention you envision a series but don't spend any of your limited word allotment in a cover letter saying much more than that. It won't be important unless the first book gets launched.


kis said...

I've been thinking this exact thing. I'm done books one and two, and half-way through book three, but now I'm guessing my time right now would be better spent writing a stand-alone sequel or prequel. 140 000 words is a lot easier for a publisher to commit to than 400+, and I have no shortage of ideas for stories set in the same world as my BFF. It's hard to shift gears and start something else when you've been eating, sleeping and dreaming the one story for so long. But MHO is that MS is absolutely right about this.

Mark said...

140,000? Try 95,000.

Sherry Decker said...

I'm always surprised by the number of writers (especially new writers) who have a series in their heads, and can hardly wait to get the first in the series out so they can start promoting the rest. I am purposely ending my first novel in a way there can be no sequel.

Anonymous said...

Do editors prefer a book to be part of a series or is that a negative? Is there any consensus?


Anonymous said...

...I read that agents/publishers are much more willing to take a chance on an unpublished author with a standalone work than on one with a series.

Huh? For the last ten years, I've been told that publishers are more willing to take a chance on an unknown WITH a series than a single.

I have a feeling that, regardless of it being alone or a series, it still all comes down to whether or not the book's any good.

:) Misty

Bernita said...

My impression too, Misty.
Not that one should do more than a bare mention in a query.
First things first.

kis said...


140 000 is not unusual for fantasy. I've been doing some research, and even Luna the fantasy imprint at Harlequin, well known for it's supermodel (ie, thin and fast) books, wants 120-150 000 words.

AnonS #1 & #2,

I think editors want books that have "series" written all over them, but not necessarily "trilogy." That is, they want books that can stand alone as a story, but that feature the same characters or settings. More David Gemmell than George RR Martin.

And Sherry,

What genre do you write? SFF writers tend to want to write series because inventing worlds complete with histories, mythologies and religions (usually more than one of each), and often races other than human, is a time-consuming labor of love. It took longer for me to work out the chronology of the three thousand years leading up to my story than it did to write the first 100 000 words of it. And if you don't take the time to work everything through, so that your religions, gods, races, magical properties, laws of physics, technologies, aliens are consistent and well-rounded, it shows.

Given the time and effort invested, it ain't easy to just crumple it up and throw it away after one book. Plus, I simply like the place too much to let it go yet.

Now if I wrote a novel set in Detroit, it probably wouldn't be a problem.

Mark said...

I was under the impression Ms. Snark considered that, "losing control of your novel."

Sounds right to me. The series of long novels for a beginner sounds like biting off more than enough to kill you in the industry. I think it shows borderline delusional flying before crawling.

Anonymous said...

Ok...so novice # 3,421 weighs in for the first time w/ Miss Snark.. My first novel is finished, and my editor wants to know if I've started the sequel yet...so that's a good thing right? If fictional characters live in the mind beyond the close of the book, you've successfully entertained your audience...and left them wanting more.