Tuesday, September 21, 2010

To Multi-book, or Not to Multi-book

Q: What about two-book deals? How finished does a sequel or tie-in need to be and how likely is it that a debut author can get one?
There are great reasons to sell a book in a two-book or multi-book deal:

* You get a guaranteed next book for the same amount of money, even if the first book just does "meh".

* You get more time for the publisher to "build" you -- if they've made an investment of time and money, they are expressing faith in your future and longevity, and the hope and expectation is that they will try to make sure that you do well enough for them to make some dough, at least.

* There is a sense of security that comes with knowing that this book is sold already. Some authors thrive with this knowledge. And some authors work best under a deadline.

There are great reasons NOT to go for a multi-book deal:

* You are locked in to having sold the second book for the same amount of money, even if the first book does phenomenally well. You may deserve a lot more money for book two, but the book is already sold.

* If you don't get along with the publisher, or don't agree with how they are handling your career, or think the book is being published badly... you are stuck for another book, with an potentially expensive and hassle-filled nightmare if you want to get out of the contract.

* There is a sense of excitement and freedom knowing that you don't have a contract for the next book. You could do anything you want! Some authors work better if they "stay hungry" and free in this fashion. And some authors panic under a deadline.

Maybe half of the deals I make are multi-book deals, and many of my debut novelists sold in a multibook deal. Sometimes these are series or sequels, though just as often book 2 is an entirely new book.  Whether we go in the multi-book direction depends on the author, the book, the desire of the publisher, if the book lends itself to a series or sequel, if there is competition, etc.

The good news is, the most I've ever had at this stage is a paragraph or brief synopsis describing what book 2 might be. In some cases, in fact, I have had absolutely nothing, but the publisher was ready to make a commitment to the author even without an idea for book 2.

As in so many aspects of this business, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. This is something to discuss with your agent or editor when the time comes.


  1. Thank you for addressing this. I haven't seen this question answered quite this way before. Lots to think about :-)

  2. Awesome. Thanks, Jennifer! You answered questions on this topic I didn't even know I had!

    Interesting to see the pluses and minuses.

  3. Thanks for sharing this. It's good information, and is good to know that either a single book, or a multi-book contract has advantages!

  4. Anonymous8:38 AM

    How about getting out of a never-ending option clause? Say you've gone directly to a publisher. Say that publisher keeps putting an option clause in the contract that says they get first look at your next book. Said Publisher refuses to take this clause out, and Little Known Author has very little bargaining power. Is there any way out of this situation? Or is it best to just suck it up, write another book, and query some agents?

  5. Thanks for this post; I've always wondered about this. And yep, like Rachel said, this gives me a lot to think about when I get close to submission.

    Not that that's going to be anytime soon, of course, but I like to be prepared!

  6. This question is going to be one of my first whenever I'm lucky enough to land an agent. But this is super great. Seeing the pros and cons of anything is extremely helpful, especially from an agent who probably deals with this question often.

    Thank you :)

  7. Thanks, this is really interesting - this sort of info is another example of the way agents add value.

  8. Thanks for addressing this. You've provided some really helpful insight.

    I've just finished writing a novel which I'd planned as the first in a trilogy, so this post is just what I needed to read. Thanks!

  9. Thanks, Jennifer, for this book deal breakdown. Guess it all depends on the author and everything else you said. :)

  10. Great post, Jenn! Super informative, as always -- and this is something I'd definitely been wondering about.

  11. Thanks Jennifer for this post. Very useful information.


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