When you propose a book that’s number one in a series, it helps to have blurbs for the next couple of titles ready to go. You can send this along with your query or later with your full manuscript. Create a tagline for your series title, and check online to make sure this title hasn’t been taken. Then craft a query letter and mention this is the first book in a series.
My route to selling the Bad Hair Day mystery series was a circuitous one. When I first presented a proposal for Permed to Death, book #1, I sent out the first three chapters and a synopsis in a multiple submission to various agents. Here is my original query letter.
As we’ve mentioned before in a post on Tips for Query Letters, your one-page letter should include three paragraphs. The first one introduces you, gives the word count and the story genre. Next comes a catchy story blurb, followed by your writing credits. A marketing hook can also be included or suggestions for possible markets. In this case, that extra paragraph is where I mention a series.
Dear Ms. P.:
I’m a published author seeking a new agent to represent me for a mystery book proposal. PERMED TO DEATH is a 75,000 word novel featuring beauty salon owner Marla Shore.
When one of her clients is poisoned while getting a perm, Marla becomes a prime suspect. She attends the woman’s funeral and meets her relatives and business associates, all of whom have logical motives for murder. But so does Marla, as Homicide Detective Dalton Vail learns during his investigation. Desperately seeking to salvage her reputation, Marla tries to identify the killer before the next “permanent” solution is her own.
PERMED TO DEATH is the first book in a proposed series. Also available is a synopsis for the next story, HAIR RAISER. The title for the third installment is MURDER BY MANICURE.
I have four futuristic romance novels in print and am the winner of the 1995 HOLT Medallion Award in the paranormal category. PERMED TO DEATH is my first mystery. Would you be interested in seeing the complete proposal? An SASE is included for your reply. Please note this is a multiple submission. Thank you for your consideration.
I received rejections from all ten plus agents. (See my earlier post on this topic.) Some of them gave insightful comments as to what needed fixing. I decided to put this book aside to focus on romance again. I’d met an agent at a Florida Romance Writers conference who recommended me to a colleague of hers. I sent this person a query for Phantom Bride, a contemporary romance I’d written. Here is a copy of that letter:
Dear Agent L.:
I’m a published author seeking a new agent. This past weekend, I had a delightful conversation with Agent R. at the FRW Conference in Ft. Lauderdale. She is familiar with my four published futuristic romance novels for Leisure Love Spell Books and urged me to send you my new proposal.
Enclosed are the first three chapters and synopsis for Phantom Bride, a 60,000 word contemporary romance novel. I’ve already sent this proposal to Brenda Chin at Harlequin Temptation and am working to finish the book within the next couple of months. I’m seeking representation for this and other works in progress.
Included are my bio, one of my books, and an SASE for your convenience. I’m looking forward to hearing from you soon.
Agent L. took me on in Feb. 1997. While she was trying to sell my romance novel, I rewrote the first three chapters of Permed to Death as per the suggestions in those earlier rejection letters and completed the manuscript. In June 1997, I sent this agent a query for Permed to Death mentioning the series title.
Dear Agent L.:
Enclosed are the manuscript and synopsis for Permed to Death, a 75,000 word mystery novel and first book in my proposed series called The Bad Hair Day Mysteries.
I’ve already spoken to RC, Senior Mystery Editor at St. Martins Press, whom I met at SleuthFest in Fort Lauderdale this past spring. I told her about this story and she expressed interest in looking at it.
If you like the story and think JS at Avon might be interested, please feel free to send it along. GB is on my list as a mystery editor at Berkley Prime Crime, and I may have more marketing ideas in my files. As always, I’m open to suggestions for revisions.
At this point, I didn’t follow my own advice and had merely a completed manuscript for Permed to Death, a synopsis for Hair Raiser, and a title for Murder by Manicure. And that’s how I sold the series in a three-book deal to Kensington. Then and Now book covers:
Below is how I would write this proposal now:
Series Proposal for The Bad Hair Day Mysteries
Hairstylist and salon owner Marla Shore solves crimes with wit and style in sultry South Florida.
PERMED TO DEATH – Book 1
Sassy hairstylist Marla Shore is giving grumpy Mrs. Kravitz a perm when her client dies in the shampoo chair. If that isn’t enough to give her a Bad Hair Day, handsome Detective Dalton Vail suspects Marla of poisoning the woman’s coffee creamer.
HAIR RAISER – Book 2
Hairstylist and amateur sleuth Marla Shore volunteers for Ocean Guard, a coastal preservation society. When someone sabotages their gala fundraiser, she must comb through a knot of suspects to unmask a killer.
MURDER BY MANICURE – Book 3
Hairstylist Marla Shore joins a fitness club to get in shape, but she finds a murder instead of an exercise program. To complicate matters, handsome Detective Dalton Vail disapproves of the charade she’s playing to help a friend.
My First Mystery Sale
Permed to Death sold to Kensington and appeared in hardcover in December 1999. The sale was a 3-book contract, and the series took off from there.
The Lesson – If you’re presenting a book that is part of a series, have blurbs on books 2 and 3 available along with the overall series title and a tagline. The same goes when you are pitching your book in person. Mention that it’s part of a series. See my post on Tips for the Hot Pitch for more details.