PLANNING AND PITCHING YOUR SERIES
By Aleesah Darlison
Four years ago when I started writing for kids, I was told never, under any circumstances, pitch a series to a publisher. Mentioning the ‘S’ word would, apparently, ensure a rapid rejection of your manuscript and see the publisher scurrying away in fear.
Now, all that has changed. It seems that series are the way to kids’ hearts, particularly in the 7 – 12 year age group. I think this shift was helped along by some phenomenally successful series (too many to name here) but perhaps the better known ones in Australia are Go Girls and Zac Power.
In Australia, Hardie Grant Egmont, in particular, seems to be a powerhouse for successful series, but other publishers are also cottoning on to this brilliant marketing technique. The first book hooks kids in and launches the series. Subsequent books consolidate readers’ loyalty and secures their purchasing dollar time and time again.
And why wouldn’t publishers love series? Series give publishers greater shelf space in bookstores, the opportunity for ‘dump bins’, promotions including ‘free’ gifts with purchase and merchandising.
Here are my Seven Simple Secrets to Planning and Pitching a Series
- First and foremost, your idea must be original and it must be marketable. Kind of obvious, I know, but at the end of the day, the publisher needs to make money (and so do you).
- Write a comprehensive and well thought-out Series Proposal, which includes: an overview of major characters, details of the setting, the series concept or rationale, information on the current market and competition, and an outline, or mini synopsis, of the books planned for the series.
- Think of the proposal as a sales pitch and use persuasive, upbeat and positive language. Don’t be afraid to let your passion for the project shine through. You don’t need to go overboard, but just like you wouldn’t write a dreary and uninviting story, you shouldn’t write a dreary and uninviting series proposal.
- Ideally, the series concept should have a USP, which in marketing speak is a unique selling proposition. This goes back to the idea of your series concept being original. Make sure you know what it is that makes your series different from all the others out there. Something that is going to make people buy your books. Something that is going to tell publishers how to place it in the market.
- It’s always good to have at least the first instalment in the series written, or at least the first few chapters for longer works. Submit the sample story or chapters with your proposal.
- The first book in a series is the key to hooking a potential publisher and your target audience. Make it as perfect as it can be. No matter how impressive your proposal is, your story writing must still be exceptional. Just like a stand-alone novel, you only have one chance to impress.
- Digging deeper to the books themselves, the key to success in writing for kids is what it’s always been: stand-out characters that readers instantly bond with and care about, well-paced plots, loads of tension with a twist here and there, and a satisfying resolution.
Truly, if you’re a children’s writer, the time is ripe for pitching your series. So if you’re sitting on the next brilliant idea, get it out of your bottom drawer, dust it off, and start reworking it. Write an irresistible Series Proposal and send it out there. If you pitch it right, if you pitch it well, you might just find your series is the next big phenomenon.
Aleesah Darlison is a children’s writer and a book reviewer for The Sun Herald. Musical Mayhem, the first book in Aleesah’s new series for girls aged 9+, Totally Twins, is published by New Frontier Publishing and was released this month. The second book in the series, Model Behaviour, is due out in October. Find out more about Aleesah at her website: www.aleesahdarlison.com.