How to Query an Agent When Writing a Trilogy (or Series)

questions-to-ask-an-agentQ: I’m currently finishing the first book in what I plan to be a trilogy and am getting ready to query agents. When I pitch the book, should I mention that this is the first book of a series or not? Do agents want to know it’s a series? What’s the best way to handle it?—Anonymous

A: Agents (and publishers, for that matter) are big fans of book series. If the first book is strong and flies off bookstore shelves, it’s a safe bet that its follow-ups will too. Most who run the publishing industry would practically sell the naming rights to their first-born child to land a Harry Potter or a Twilight. Heck, I’d have sold the naming-rights to both my daughters for a chance to write them.

Luckily for them, I’ve yet to land that golden ticket.

The key to selling a trilogy is selling the first book first. Without that sale, books two and three (or more, if it’s a longer series) are DOA. So focus your query letter on book one. Pitch it as if it weren’t in a trilogy—don’t mention future books, plots, etc. Stick to the strengths of book one and, if you find you can’t without mentioning the others, then book one has major flaws.

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Now this doesn’t mean you should keep your trilogy a secret, says Guide to Literary Agents editor Chuck Sambuchino. Just save it for a future conversation.

“If you propose your first book and they like it, they’ll contact you,” Sambuchino says. “One of the first questions they will ask, I promise you, will be, ‘What else are you working on or writing?’ And that’s when you say, ‘Well, I’m halfway through the second book in that series and I’ve got some outlines for other projects.'”

By following this method, you’ll avoid irritating agents who dislike queries about more than one book while doing no harm to ones that don’t care either way. And if you feel that you must mention it in your query letter, use the line “It’s a stand-alone book with series potential.”

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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

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