As an author, she's written the Princess Juniper middle grade series, and the Two Truths and a Lie nonfiction series co-authored by Laurie Ann Thompson. (She also writes picture books and gives a strong impression of being an immortal, all-knowing being when it comes to children's literature.)
Her client work includes series books The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen, Grounded by Megan Morrison, Divided We Fall by Trent Reedy, Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, All Four Stars by Tara Dairman, and House Arrest by K.A. Holt.
Here are a few highlights from her incredibly useful breakout session.
Why write a series?
Joan gave us four reasons to write a series: You can tell a larger story. You can make the most of your created world—that took a lot of time and energy, and you can carry it on further with a series. Kids love them, especially in the MG age. And why not?
Princess Juniper was her first plunge into series, followed by Two Truths and a Lie--connected nonfiction books that don't carry on a single story.
She gave us an overview of categories:
- YA: tends to be high concept. Lots of fantasy and dystopian.
- MG: there can be both fantasy and realistic series.
- Chapter book. Many of these series go on for a long time.
- Picture book series. Rare to sell a series. If it's wildly successful, a publisher will say "let's do more."
There are also genres:
- Fantasy, epic fantasy, and science fiction
- Action adventure—tends to be especially middle grade
- Mystery—sometimes in MG, sometimes in YA.
- Outliners—contemporary, historical, literary (like the Luxe series). You don't see a ton of contemporary in series
They come in numbers:
- Duology—two books
- Trilogy—used to be the name of the game (editors might be wearying of this)
- Also ongoing (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Babysitters Club)
How do you know your book might be a series ?
- Does it tell a larger story?
- Does it have an irresistible hook?
- Can you sell it?
How do you query an agent with one?
It makes an agent nervous to be pitched on a series that's all done or mapped out. Publishing isn't a sure thing. Best bet is not to write the whole series ... yet. Here's a handy phrase: "This is a standalone book with series potential."