Sunday, April 17, 2011

Kevin Emerson on Imagining, Writing, and Selling a Series #scbwiwwa

Kevin Emerson is the author of three series--Oliver Nocturne through Scholastic, and the forthcoming Atlanteans (YA) and Fellowship for Alien Detection (MG). Both of those are HarperCollins.

When you're writing a series, it's a good idea to have a single sentence that can describe the whole series. "It needs to not be complicated," he says.

Kevin, with ice cream
"Any series that you're planning to write all has to come down to one sentence." Also? It ought to be about a character. (And he had us write the one-sentence thruline for our favorite series as an exercise.)

He asks why we love series: 

We love to read about characters over and over again, and we love to watch them grow and change.

"In real life, we tend to change in increments. What you get to do in a series is slowly evolve the character as you go along. You don't have to do a big switch."

All of the relationships in a book are dials that you can adjust. You don't have to attend to them all in a single book. "It's a little bit more realistic to how we operate on a day to day basis," he says. 

Series also allow for big stories. Sometimes, the fate of the world is at stake.

How Kevin's first series came to be:

His first book was a standalone (Carlos is Gonna Get It). The editor of that book, Arthur A. Levine, walked him downstairs to the department that published series. He pitched Oliver Nocturne, a middle-grade series about a young vampire in Seattle with a dark destiny. The vampire wave broke around that time, and Scholastic Apple became interested in five books. He had a book due every six months for two-and-a-half years.

The books have come out in the Czech Republic, France, Spain, and Australia, among other places. He self-published a sixth book. (Just this week! Find more information here.)


With his next series: 

He showed Katherine Tegen an idea, but it wasn't right for her. She asked what else he had, and he sent along the idea for the Atlanteans series. It had a lot of compelling elements: global warming, environmental degradation, dystopian/post-apocalyptic worlds. He brought three chapters and pitched a solid trilogy with an outline and sold it from the proposal.

"The way I have met editors has been by showing them single books. There is the question, 'What else do you have'?" And that's where the conversation turns to series. 

About series proposals

Writing a good proposal is part of selling a book series. You want to sketch out the beginning in detail, and leave yourself room to get to know your characters better as you write. Include lots of information about the character, what he's going to do, and the world he inhabits.

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