Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sara Shandler: Developing and Selling a Series

Sara is the senior vice president of editorial at Alloy Entertainment, a creative think tank that develops and produces books, TV series, and movies.

She talked to us about how her company develops series, which she loves because she can stay with a great character for a long time.

Alloy has weekly brainstorming ideas where eight people pitch an idea or two. Every year, 10 to 15 ideas get developed. "There are no bad ideas, there are ideas that are just not right for right now," she says.

It even happens that ideas that have been pitched in the past are repitched and developed years later, because sometimes the timing just isn't right.

When they have a great idea, they partner with writers and develop them. Sara's job combines a bit of writing, agenting, and publishing. She shared a lot of tips with us about how to develop a series; here are three:

Have a clear concept for your series
You have to pitch an idea in a sentence. This is a good litmus test for whether your concept is clear. You have limited time to capture someone's attention, and there are a lot of ideas out there.
When Sara sends out queries, she sends out very short pitches, with a paragraph about the concept, a paragraph where we are in the story at its beginning, and a third that summarizes the essentials of the plot, with comparable titles, and information about the author.

She gets query letters that are just too long.

Don't try to think of a series. Think of a great idea.
Almost anything can be a series if you have a few things: amazing characters, ongoing narrative potential, a series obstacle.

Every book has an arc with its own contained story and has to feel satisfying.

"A series-long obstacle is super-important," she said. An ongoing love triangle like the one in Gossip Girls can work. So did the mystery of A's identity in Pretty Little Liars.

Love what you write. Write what you know. Write honestly because everything counts.
The best concept in the world will not be a successful book without amazing execution. It's hugely important.

It doesn't mean your book needs to be you. It's finding something of yourself that you identify with in your character. That will make the character go from generic to special. 

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