12. Odds and Ends

In this lesson we will look at a number of issues that will help you negotiate some of the more difficult or confusing questions that may arise whilst preparing your book proposal…

By this point you should have a workable query letter. This lesson aims to try and answer some of the common questions that arise in regards to a query letter…

How Do You Pitch a Series of Books?

It is very common for fiction writers to have an idea for a series of books. After all, a series can be a very attractive prospect for potential agents and publishers. However, this raises an important question as to the best way to pitch your series of books.

As a general rule of thumb my advice to writers pitching a book series is that your approach is dependent on how many books of the series are actually written.

If you have written just one book, but have the outline/synopsis/vague idea for a series of follow-on books, then pitch just one book. By this I mean that your pitch should focus very heavily on your written book, with just a small section in the cover letter explaining that you see the book as part of a series. Don’t include any information beyond this simple statement. You are selling a single book NOT a series.

If you have written more than one book then your pitch is for the whole series. Your book proposal will focus on the books as a set, with a separate synopsis for each title, or one synopsis covering all the books, it’s your choice. The important difference here is that you are selling a book series, not a single book.

A single book with the potential for a series is one product, a series that has already been written is an entirely different product.

Why Does it Matter?

Well in the first instance, everyone (well not everyone but you know what I mean) says their book is part of a series. This is far more common in certain genres, but is still commonplace across the board. The problem is that if your series is not written then your claim is just hot air. Agents/publishers need to see a product, and yes the potential for a series will strengthen that product’s appeal, but ultimately it is sales that will determine the number of follow-on books that are produced.

So you may have a great idea for a ten-book series of novels, but the publisher has seen it all before. Unless you have a book series that is actually written, then make the series aspect of your pitch nothing more than an added bonus.

What if the Book is Already Self-Published?

Twelve months ago I would have said this was an issue, but today this has changed. A blog post on the BubbleCow blog looked into this question in depth. I suggest you have a good look at the comments since they add real value. It is now not uncommon for an agent or publisher to seriously consider a book that has already been published. However, it is all going to come down to sales. If you have sold 10,000 books in two weeks then agents will come running. The flipside is that if you have sold just a handful then questions will be raised.

If you are pitching a book that has been self-published, at some point the issue of sales will come up. My advice is that if the book has impressive sales, then they should be listed in detail in your pitch. If the sales are less impressive, then still say it has been self-published, but avoid adding exact numbers. However, be aware that the agent/publisher will ask — this will be your chance to explain the reasons for the poor sales.