I’m thrilled to have Marianne Musgrove writing on my blog today. Her topic is on pitching a series of children’s books to publishers.
Pitching a series vs a stand alone title
Publishers love a series. They’re often easier to market than stand alone titles because the series itself becomes a recognisable brand. That said, it may be possible to have your cake and eat it too. I pitched Lucy the Good as book one of a series. However, I made sure to point out that it could work equally well as a stand alone title, should they prefer that. Since then, book two, Lucy the Lie Detector, has been released with hopes of a book three (fingers crossed!).
My advice is to try and make every book operate as a stand alone. You can’t guarantee the reader has read any other books in the series and, after all, a story should always stand on its own two feet.
Multiple Book Deals
Sometimes, a publisher will offer you a two, three or four book deal. Other times, as in my case, you will be offered contracts from book to book, even if you’ve pitched a series.
Bear in mind, if your publisher prints a couple of your books then decides to drop the series, it’s highly unlikely another publisher will sign you for extra titles in that series. Think carefully about writing too far ahead or you may find you’ve put a lot of work into books that will never see the light of day.
It’s important to have a theme for the series and then a complimentary theme for each individual book.
Overall theme: an inquisitive girl explores life’s big questions.
Lucy the Good theme: what does it mean to be good (especially when you keep getting sent to the ‘time out’ chair)?
Lucy the Lie Detector theme: what is truth (particularly when you’re told to always be honest yet you keep catching your parents sneaking Tim Tams when they’re meant to be on a diet)?
Being consistent but allowing for growth
For each of the main characters, sketch out their emotional arc in each book, and over the series. In my case, Lucy has quite a temper. As she ages, she slowly gets better at controlling it.
Keeping track of things
- Choose a birth date for your character. This will help you monitor how old they are as the series progresses.
- Get a notebook and write the name of each character at the top of a fresh page. Under each name, jot down characteristics you need to remember, eg. age, hobbies, catch phrases, pet peeves.
- Keep track of the weather. What time of year are your books set? I keep a seasons diary in which I jot down things on the relevant date, eg. ‘rained for a week’, ‘jacarandas out’.
- List all minor characters in the front of your book. It’s easy to forget their names when they only appear briefly.
- When you’re at the copy-editing stage, reread all previous titles in your series then read your current manuscript. Keep an eye out for continuity errors.
All the best with your pitch! With a bit of luck, we’ll see a third Lucy book on the shelves some time in the future.
Lucy the Lie Detector
Lucy the Good
(Random House Australia)
Thank you, Marianne! I’m sure this post will prove useful to many writers – including me and my work-in-progress. 🙂