Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Multi-Book Story Problem

I am a first-time author shopping my MS around to various agents (since most major houses don't accept unsolicited MS's anymore anyway). But the entire story is actually three books. I mention this in my query letter as a matter of fairness but I'm wondering how many agents look at that and say, "Three books to tell your story? Forget it!"

I've had five agents request partials, one request the MS and one who recommended I submit it to another agent, so it's getting some action. But if first-time authors *NEVER* get a three-book deal, I'm thinking of setting this project aside and starting something else. Thoughts?

P.S. Rejecter? Or Rejector? ;-)

"Rejecter" is the correct spelling, but I kind of like the idea that I'm some kind of rejecting robot - "REJECTOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Multi-book stories are fairly normal in certain genres, mainly fantasy, particularly high fantasy. If you book is not fantasy, you're in trouble, and you may just want to make it into one long book. (It's the same story, isn't it? Why isn't it one book?) If it's some kind of historical epic, it's allowed to be excessively long. If it's a mystery, it's supposed to be relatively short. It all depends on your genre.

(If it is high fantasy, do not name the first book "The Prophecy." We've seen that a million times and it's honestly getting annoying. Trust me)


Kimber Li said...

This issue is addressed on a bunch of agents' blogs. I've read it time and again that an author's first novel must stand alone. We can mention that there's sequels, but it must stand alone.

writtenwyrdd said...

Perhaps this is a dumb question, but shouldn't all novels stand alone? (And, yes, I know that sometimes books are published which aren't stand alones, particularly in long series.)

Kimber Li said...

Personally, I believe they should, but I don't know if that's the case in the publishing world. It makes sense to me because if a reader picks up a book and gets lost in the first chapter because she hasn't read the book before it, she's not going to buy it.

MaNiC MoMMy™ said...

Funny. I looked up Rejecter in the dictionary too because I thought it looked funny. Rejector looks better IMO anyway. One of those words where it can go either way, like judgment and judgement.

Good blog!

Luna said...

::raises hand::

I'm a first time author who got a 3-book deal. It does happen.

Just sayin'.

My advice? Make sure book 1 can stand on its own. Then, in your query letter, explain "while book 1 can stand on it's own, books 2 and 3 are (written/not written) and continue the story of (people in book 1."

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of Katherine Kurtz's Deryni series. Published in trilogies, probably for publisher's convenience -- I noticed her "trilogies" generally consist of a single standalone novel and a two-volume story arc.

In her first trilogy (circa 1970s), the first volume (Deryni Rising) was the standalone and the second and third (Deryni Checkmate and High Deryni) were the two-decker.

Anonymous said...

This was my question, so I feel compelled to jump in here (although I'm guessing I'm stepping on some Internet Ms. Manners' toes somewhere).

In my case the genre is F, and no it's not named 'The Prophecy' so judging from her response, I guess I'm in the clear there. This means my rejections folder is bulging because of my writing ability, and not because of any arbitrary structuring of the publishing market. ;-)

I've given my first novel an ending/resolution, but it's clear from the last paragraph that there's much more to come. It wasn't my intention to write a trilogy, that was just how the story came out.

I've written the second book (not final, but written) and the third is in outline, though I don't intend to do anymore work on it unless I get some real interest.

I'm glad to hear someone else here got a three-book deal. Perhaps all is not lost.

Thanks to all for the responses, and most esp. THE REJECTOR!!!!!!!!!!!!