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Author Topic: Is it rare to get a long fantasy series published?
Member # 8522

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I was just wondering. Since there's plenty of fantasy stories already out there that may make your novel seem like a repeat even though you did not intend it to be, is it hard to interest a publisher with a fantasy series? If so, how hard?
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Jeff Baerveldt
Member # 8531

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It would depend, I think, on whether your publishing credentials. If you've published some short stories in some quality magazines -- or have placed the Writers of the Future contest -- it should prove to be too difficult. Both Patrick Rothfuss and Ken Scholes did it like this.

But if you're not a published author, this would be more difficult. Even novelists known for writing long series -- Robert Jordan, Tad Williams, and Brandon Sanderson come to mind -- started off with a stand-alone novel.

Incidentally, I recently shelved a story I was brainstorming because I got to a point where I knew I couldn't tell the story in one book. Not even in one really long book. So I put it aside and focused on writing a stand alone novel.

[This message has been edited by Jeff Baerveldt (edited April 06, 2009).]

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Member # 2733

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Statistically, it's a rare event to get anything published. However, within the universe of published fantasy novels, series are common, often in the form of a trilogy, and probably common enough to be considered the norm.

A strong first novel for the series is probably the strongest selling point, rather than trying to pitch an entire series.

Fantasy readers like multi-volume stories, so I don't think there's a lack-of-originality penalty for them.

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Member # 5675

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I just got done with a writing conference with lots of exposures to a few agents. The consensus seemed to be that if you can hook the agent, and get them excited about your project, especially with a strong first novel, they'll be excited about purchasing the series. There seem to be a lot of long series out there lately, what with the new popularity of demon hunters and witches and so on. (Rachel Caine, Jim Butcher, Kim Harrison, etc).

I'd say write what you want to, and what you can do best. Don't limit yourself with the standards of the industry... but be aware of the trends, what is currently selling, and what it will take to break through. Perhaps you'll be the one to start a new trend.

Of course, this is just what I got from these particular four agents. It seems more and more that the only standard in this industry is that there is no standard.

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Robert Nowall
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I've thought a lot of fantasy series "just happened"...the writer wrote one book and only one book, the publisher asked for a sequel (or the writer decided to write one), and a series was launched.

I've wondered if I could handle it. (1) I've usually spent so much time on the world and the characters that I don't particularly want to revisit them when I'm done, and (2) I don't know if I could think up enough ideas to keep a series going.

On the other hand, I'd like to have the opportunity...

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Member # 2651

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Scott Lynch sold a 7-books series without (to my knowledge) having published anything else beforehand. It certainly CAN be done. But it isn't "common" - agents and publishers rejected dozens, hundreds, even thousands of proposals for every one they accept.

In the currently-vogue urban fantasy genre (which, in novels, tends to mean MCs who are half-vampire or half-werewolf or something - it's all very "post-Buffy") it definitely seems that publishers are actively looking for ongoing series (at least in part because they lend themselves to TV adaptation, and TV adaptation means BIG sales for the original books - I know of a mystery writer who openly acknowledged that she was happy her series had been bought for TV - and she wasn't too worried about what changes the TV company would make - because "it meant she'd sell a million books".

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Member # 8490

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From what I gather, most publishers would rather have a new writer with a plan for a series than a new writer with a stand-alone novel. Sales will usually be low until a writer establish name recognition and a fan base. Publishers are more likely to risk a new writer if there's hope that future books will compensate for lackluster sales on the first one.
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Member # 5512

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Suddenly I feel very optimistic about the fantasy market in my own country. All I have to compete against is a single novel that got published two years ago. Other than that: nothing.
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