When is it a Series and When is it Not?

by Linda
(Canada)

Question: I just discovered your site quite recently, and am going to recommend it to anyone and everyone as the most helpful I've come across.Thanks so much for being such a great gift to all who happen upon it.


I'm working on a series of what I guess would be mainly sweet romances some in which the protagonist finds love and others in which the happy ending is their growth in self-awareness or character. Although each title can stand alone, there are three main characters who play a major role in every title, but not necessarily any of them as protagonist.

Instead, in every title, either the protagonist or the love interest is from one of four families... and the reader could sometimes get to almost the end of the book before realising, "Oh, that's So-and-So's brother. Go figure." Also, a specific character may be protagonist in two to four titles before finally living happily ever after with the lover of his/her dreams.

Is this a still considered a family saga series? Would I shop it around as such, or market the series to publishers with a gussied up version of what I just wrote in the preceding paragraph?

Many thanks.

Answer: The primary reason books are identified as being a "series" is to sell more books. If someone likes one book, they may then purchase others in the series - provided they are identified as such.

There are many ways in which books can be linked in a series. The tightest, of course, is the trilogy (or tetrology, or quintology, etc.) in which there is one overarching plot and each book tells part of that plot, so that readers must buy every book to get the whole story.

In some series, each book is a separate story, but may have the same protagonist or other characters, and be part of the same genre, so that readers will look to buy the next "Miss Marple" or "Star Trek: Voyager" book, for example.

Some series use different protagonists but are set in the same story world and may share some minor characters. (Yours may fall into this category.)

And some series may have nothing in common except the style and genre (e.g. the children's series Goosebumps).

In fact, sometimes publishers create series in which all the books are written by different authors!

All that matters is that all the books in the series appeal to the same group of readers.

However, you probably should not try to sell the entire series in one go. It's a big commitment for a publisher to offer a contract for more than one book at a time, and they probably won't do it unless your last book was a bestseller. The key is to sell one book first. Do a good sales job on that book.

If a publisher really likes the first book and is considering buying it, then it's a bonus if you also have some ideas for sequels. If they hate the first book, it doesn't really matter how many others you have up your sleeve.

If the first book sells really well, then the publisher may ask for sequels because you will be a known quantity.

Comments for When is it a Series and When is it Not?

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Dec 21, 2013
Congratulations, it's a Series!
by: Anonymous

Thanks so much for this detailed and informative response. I really appreciate the very thoughtful response and intelligent advice.

My plan is to not submit a query letter for any one title until I have two additional titles completed or very near completion, just in case they like it and want more.

Ever the optimist.

But I will certainly act on your advice, and not be all "This is a series" unless or until they like my writing well enough to care.

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