I am in the same situation as you (I assume you’re referring to yourself in your question), and I do NOT have any advice whatsoever. However, I’ve been to a lot of writing conferences and have my ear to the ground because I too have the first discovery drafts of my series on Wattpad and I am seeking representation for the first book in that series. So I can give you what I’ve learned, but please don’t take this as advice.
My understanding is the term ‘standalone with series potential’ has been hijacked by writers who do not have a truly standalone book (with beginning, middle and end), but rather a ‘first in a series book.’ The term has become overused to the point agents are now wary of it. I personally do not use that term anymore to describe my standalone book. What I’ve heard is that being a debut and having already written the next book in a series is considered an amateur mistake. I’m not saying it IS an amateur mistake, only that it’s considered to be by many agents/publishers. They will only want the next book in your series if the first book sells well. That’s why your first book MUST stand alone (emphasis not mine).
I have heard over and over by agents and publishers that it is MUCH safer for a publisher to publish a standalone book of a debut author. When that book gets the author some recognition, they might then work to publish something with “series potential.” Or potentially the next book in that series that you just whip out of your sleeve magically, saying “Tada! I finished it already!” In that case, you are no longer an amateur but a genius.
Does that mean you will NEVER find an agent or publisher who will publish your series (previously posted on WP)? NO. That’s not what it means. My impression is that putting it on Wattpad has consequences. Yes. Unfortunately. Even if it is only the first draft and you’ve substantially changed it since Wattpad.
Being in your situation, i will tell you what I am doing, which I believe is the smart course of action (of course I think it’s smart because it’s what I’m doing, but still this isn’t advice).
- I turned the first book in my series to a 90% standalone book with satisfying beginning, middle and end.
- I finished it, submitted it to agents (with the knowledge it is VERY unlikely to garner me an agent because it reeks of series potential and amateurishness, even though I tried SO hard to scrub it clean).
- I abandoned the next books in my series. Completely gave them up. I will no longer work on them until the first book sells (which might be in many years).
- I immediately turned my attention to an entirely new project that is truly standalone that I am SUPER PASSIONATE about.
- I hope to finish that truly standalone book soon, and submit THAT as my debut book.
- I will keep my failed series book up my sleeve so when my future agent asks me what else I’ve got in the works, I can whip that out and say “Tada!” and she will go “Wow!” and I will say, “I posted the first drafts on WP” And she will say, “That’s okay because the publishers want your next book and you have the upper hand now.”
That’s my strategy. Call me crazy. It’s long term. Not immediate gratification. I have spoken with agents regarding this and they have said it is a GREAT strategy. In fact, I probably stole this strategy from an agent at a conference at some point.
sorry this is so long. Does it help?