If you are in the query trenches you have my sympathy for how difficult the going can be. You should also make sure you only query an agent one project at a time. I get a lot of queries for a whole series (fantasy is the big offender for this) or an author pitching multiple books in the same query letter. Pitch one project at a time to an agent. I’m going to explain exactly why that is.
First off, I will more than likely only pitch one project of yours at a time. That means I need to know which project you are currently focusing on and want to sell. If you throw several at me, I don’t know which one you want to go up to bat with the most. It’s also more reading time not only to decide if I like your writing, but which project to sign. My time is limited when it comes to reading projects to sign clients, so I need to choose carefully. Having a whole series or several books to get through is a much larger time investment than looking at one project and unless I’m in love with a concept the time investment makes it easy to pass.
When it comes to the query itself, if you focus on what happens in the whole series I’m probably left with few details about the plots of each individual book. There’s a reason you get a whole query letter for one book. Summarizing a book in a query letter is hard. Adding in several books is even harder and leaves me with too many questions since each book is getting less space and less time to shine. I need to walk away from the query feeling like I understand the plot and what’s at stake. The query needs to entice me into reading, not leave me feeling like I’m missing important information on a project or worse, feeling overwhelmed by everything being thrown at me.
Selling books these days is hard. I’ve heard from agents who have been in the game much longer than me that books are getting harder and harder to sell. Getting an agent is also very hard. If you write a whole series and only want to go the traditional route what happens if you can’t get someone to pick up your first book? Then you’ve wasted your whole time on a project that isn’t going to sell. That means you’ve done yourself a gigantic disservice. After the first book start something new. If your first book doesn’t sell you’ll be happy to have another project waiting in the wings instead of realizing you have a whole series that is going nowhere and it’s going to be months before you can try again with the next finished project.
Basically don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If you are going to self-publish if you don’t get representation then sure, you can finish the series. But traditional publishing is hard to break into. Sometimes I ask clients what they are working on next. That let’s me know that they are more than a one-trick pony and aren’t putting all their time into a series that hasn’t even sold yet. Working on other projects let’s you sharpen your skills in new ways with new characters and story lines as well. It also tells me you are thinking long-term and won’t give up if the current project doesn’t sell.
So remember, only send an agent one project at a time.