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:~: Saturday, October 21, 2006 :~:

Series and Connected Books (Again)

Yeah, I know. You're tired of hearing me talk about this one. Well, bear with me. I'm in a minor-crisis.

My agent sent my book out. It's making the rounds. I'll spare you the neurosis I've developed because of this and move on to the topic at hand: Connected Books.

I love connected books. I love series, but as an unpublished writer, I see nothing positive about pouring my heart and soul into a series that might never sell. I mean, if the first book doesn't sell, you're basically screwed, so why waste your time and effort writing subsequent books?

However, there's a difference between series and connected books. A series builds, one book to the next. I think of Nora Roberts's trilogies as a series. Sure, you could read book one and never read the other two, but the big plot question isn't answered until the end of book three - defeating a warlock, finding a murderer, laying a ghost to rest. Each book "technically" could stand alone because each one has its own unique romantic plot, but if you read book two without reading book one, you'd be a little lost as to the over-arcing plot.

On the other side of the spectrum, you have connected books. I think of Cindy Gerard's Bodyguard Series as connected books rather than a series. Each book IS stand alone. You don't have to read book one to love book two or three. They're connected by characters (siblings) and profession (they all work together). But (so far) there's no overriding main plot question hanging that will all the sudden be answered in the last book.

As I sit here contemplating what I work on next, I'm more than a little stuck. I've started four books since August. (Which really isn't like me at all. I've never started something and not finished it.) Two are connected to the book my agent is circulating, which is, at this very moment, probably collecting dust on some editor's desk. However, they are connected books, not series. They're connected by characters and one minor thread that will run through all three, but nothing like the over-arcing plot say, in JR Ward's series. So my dilemma becomes, what do I work on next? I'm getting proposals ready for both connected books, just in case, but then what? Do I continue working on book two, thinking if the first doesn't sell there's still a chance with two and three? Or do I shelve both connected books until book one sells and go work on something else? The indecision is enough to make a person looney.

How do you feel about connected books vs. series books? Which do you prefer and why? And while you're at it, what the hell would you do if you were me?

13Comments:

Blogger Paty Jager said...

LOL - As you know I'm working on a trilogy of sorts. The only thing connecting these are the spirit siblings and the setting. I'm moving on to book two simply because it is where I am focused right now. I want to move on and continue the saga of the Nez Perce and the siblings.

So to answer your question - Where is your heart? Will you write the best book, now, because you are continuing with the connected books, or will it be just as good a year from now when you have your head in something else and the agent or editor wants the second and third book and you have to get your head and heart back into the connecting books?

3:21 PM  
Blogger Edie said...

I have a series of connected books in mind. It's probably easier to do than a series. Connected books must be more complicated to keep all those different threads in mind. OTOH, you've got all those familiar characters to work with.

I don't think one is better than the other. It's just your preference. LOL, I'm a lot of help.

9:42 PM  
Blogger Christine Keach said...

A friend of mine wrote 3 stories that were connected (I'm not sure if it was a series or not). The second book in the group sold first. She had to revise book 1 to accomodate that.

I wrote a book and had an awesome series planned that played out over 3 other books. That first manuscript got shot down. So, I revised the 2nd one to be the first. That also got shot down. Around that time I realized that I couldn't think in terms of a series just yet and I started making the books connected instead.

Personally I love reading connected stories because I really feel like I'm in that world the author built. I like finding out what the characters from other books are up to. Right now I'm working on 2 different connected groups of books. My theory is if they don't sell, then I haven't really lost too much because they're all stand alone books. And I haven't lost anything because I still get to "live" in that world.

9:44 AM  
Blogger wavybrains said...

OMG. Very timely post. My mother and I just had a long discussion about this. My first manuscript is part of a planned three book (or more) connected series about a small Iowa town. I'm waiting to see if I can sell the first to any category lines before finishing book 2 and starting book 3. My YA is a true series that doesn't fully resolve until book 3, although each will have a satisfying ending. I finished book 1 last week. My mother says---quick do the next 2, THEN submit to agents. I say, no I'm going to send out ASAP for a few reasons: One I want some feedback on the concept before investing the time on books 2 and 3, Two, Most agents will request only book 1's manuscript anyway, and if I get a request for a full, I can start book 2 at that point.Correct me if I am wrong--but I have never heard of an agent asking to see more than one manuscript even if the query letter alludes to a series. Three, and this is the REAL reason, I know that as much as I believe in this YA and this series, I'm going to have to face rejection--I feel like I can handle the rejection better if I get another adult contemporary (not part of a series/connected book) ready to go while I wait. I do plan to return to the connected series for category books at some point soon, but again, I have come to realize that I need some feedback before I commit to multiple related books. Also, I feel like the more seperate projects I have circulating, the more likely something will happen. Just my opinion, but I definetely feel your pain and your dilemma. Oh, and are you still all giddy every time you write "my agent" and "shopping around"---I'm thinking it would take me a good six months to stop chair dancing everytime I even thought those phrases, even as nerve racking as it must be. I've got everything crossed for your book.

4:19 PM  
Blogger TJBrown said...

The one that dies is a connected book. I wrote a synopsis and then worked on something else. Oh, and what does your agent say?
teri

6:33 AM  
Blogger Sparky Duck said...

I honestly like both types of books, though as I have become older, I have grown more inclined to read connected books for a couple of reasons. If I like one of the more recent books I have a whole bunch of books I can read, plus with connected books, you can read one and then read another a year later and not become lost.

9:10 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...

I love both connected and series, Eli--

And I feel your pain, I'm going through the exact same questioning. lol.

I've decided to work on the books that will stand alone. A better chance, I think, that you can sell one of the later books in a series if the books stand on their own. Besides, I've had a couple of friends who sold the third book in their series and then sold the second and first immediately afterwards. So just because the sucker doesn't sell first, doesn't mean it won't sell later!!

9:30 PM  
Anonymous Michelle said...

I have written the first book in what could be three connected books. I won't write the other two if the first doesn't sell. It is doing the editor / agent rounds right now. I am also working on a series. I know agents hate series for new writers, and because it makes sense to the way I'm writing it, I'm writing them together, so I spend a little time on one, then the other. I've made this my warm-up writing to my WIP, and its working well. I hope to be sold and well on my way by the time this gets shopped around, as it will be a case of buy one, buy all three.

8:43 AM  
Anonymous Therese said...

I love connected books, more so than series books, because you can still read just one and appreciate it as it is. It's nice, though, to be able to read more about familiar characters and settings (easier on the reader maybe?). When an author leaves a secondary character "dangling," I always crave a follow-up book. Just my 2 cents.

3:19 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Paty, my heart is with the book I'm writing a proposal on.

3:29 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Thanks for the info, Christine. Interesting about your friend. I, too, love connected books. It's like seeing old friends, even if you don't have time to catch up with them.

Bethany - LOL. Thanks for the kind words. No, I've moved past the giddy phase and am now consumed with angst about the fact I have an agent who expects me to actually produce something coherent (yeah, I'm a little obsessed sometimes). She's great though, and I love her, so it's made the whole thing much easier.

You have a great attitude and outlook, Bethany. And you're right, I don't know of any agents who ask for all three books when they hear you're writing a series. In the group pitch I sat in at Nationals, one woman pitched a seven book vamp series. The editor asked to see the first one only. Another woman pitched a three book RS series. Again the editor only wanted to see the first. So my advice would be to get that one out there. :) (And congrats on finishing your ms. Isn't that the BEST feeling ever???)

3:34 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

That's true, Sparky. I feel the same way.

Teri - my agent and I discussed it. Her opinion was if the second one can be considred a stand alone and a reader isn't in the dark with having not read the first, then, by all means, to go for it.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Well, that's optimistic, Theresa!! I love hearing stories like that.

Michelle - Makes perfect sense. Good luck with both your connected books and your series. :)

Therese, I love dangling characters too - but only if I know there's another book coming. ;) I've been anxiously awaiting Cindy Gerard's final Bodyguard book centered around the last Garrett brother - Dallas. She left his story hanging in book three, and his story isn't coming until book SIX! Ugh. I'm dying waiting for it (and buying all the ones in between - good marketing strategy).

3:38 PM  

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