Query.Sign.Submit.Debut! with Everly Frost

AUTHOR PHOTO EVERLY FROST

Everly is a young adult author and her debut, Fear My Mortality, is now available from Month9Books!

FINAL FMM Frost with blurbConnect with Everly . . .

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Get the book . . .

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Query into

QUERY

What advice would you give to querying writers?

My querying journey was a bit unusual. My first agent became a bestselling author (and stopped agenting) and my second agent moved agencies. I still count them both as friends. In the end, I submitted my manuscript without an agent. So my advice to querying writers is this: keep an open mind and be prepared for the unexpected. Nobody’s querying path is the same.

What was your method for querying?

I queried in small batches and treated any feedback like gold. Getting requests told me I was on the right track with my query – while hearing crickets told me I needed to make changes. It takes a lot of patience, but if an agent took the time to give feedback (even a single line), I gave it serious consideration.

Did you ever have a Revise & Resubmit? What should a writer consider when deciding whether or not to take one on?

I had a revise and resubmit request for a previous manuscript. When deciding whether to take it on, I considered whether the feedback made sense to me and to my view of the story. My advice is to take the time to get it right, really think about what they’re asking, and whether you can make it happen, before sending the revision back.

If querying was a long time ago for you, what do you remember most?

What I remember the most is the waiting. Sure, you hear cases of writers who land an agent within a couple of weeks, but I think they’re the rare ones. My experience of querying was that it took time. A lot of time. Months. I signed with my first agent after about five months of querying. My second was quicker at three months.

SIGN

How did you know your agent was the right one for you?

It’s actually a really hard decision to make. It would be nice to have some magical guidance that tells you what you should do, but the thing is that you can’t see the future. All you can base a decision on is the information that you have at the time. But there are things that can help you make the decision, such as: do their suggested revisions make sense to you? Are they easy to talk with? Do they have a track record of sales? And most importantly: are they over the moon about your book?

Once a writer has signed with an agent, what’s the next step?

For me, it was revisions both times. No manuscript is perfect and I think at least one round of revisions before going on submission can be expected.

How editorial is your agent? Is it what you expected?

Both of my agents were editorial and their suggestions were really helpful. They both made it clear what revisions they wanted when they offered, so I was fully informed.

SUBMIT

What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?

This is where my story deviates from the norm, because I submitted to my publisher unagented. But I think my suggestion is the same either way: Write your next book. Keep busy. Try not to think about it (well, too much).

Did you know there was interest in the book before you got an offer or was it a surprise?

Definitely a surprise. I’d submitted a query as a first step and was delighted when the full was requested, but by that stage I’d learned not to get my hopes up. It was a thrill to read the offer email.

How did you celebrate when you got the news about your book deal?

I waited for my lunch break, rang my husband in the quiet hallway at work, and tried not to burst into happy tears. J

DEBUT

What is the best thing about being a debut author?

The best thing about being a debut author is meeting other debut authors. We’re all learning, trying our best, and supporting each other.

What have you learned about being a debut author?

That I still have a lot to learn!

What else are you working on along with all the promotion?

I’m working on the final book in the series. I’m excited to tie up loose ends, but I’ll be really sad to write the last word of Ava and Michael’s story.

Thank you, Everly!

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Query.Sign.Submit.Debut! with Janet Sumner Johnson

JanetJohnson.AuthorPic

Janet is a middle grade author and her debut, The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society, is now available from Capstone Young Readers. She is represented by Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider/ICM Partners.

Final Cover.PBJSocietyConnect with Janet . . .

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads

Get the book . . .

Amazon * B&N * Indiebound

 

 

Query into

QUERY

What resources and websites did you use when querying?

There are so many resources out there for querying authors! When I first started querying, I got a hard copy of Writer's Market to learn about agents and publishing houses just to figure out the lay of the land. Once I knew I wanted an agent, I relied heavily on the blog Literary Rambles. They put in so much work to research agents, and compile all the interviews and information about each agent. It was wonderfully helpful! I learned so much!

Querytracker.net was another great resource. Not only can you use this amazing site to track the queries that you send, but they have compiled lists of agents that are searchable by genres they represent. SO helpful! They also include up-to-date information about what each agent wants in a query. And of course the forums and chats on each agent's page made the waiting that much easier because we could both commiserate and celebrate together. I highly recommend this site!

What was your method for querying?

I queried in small batches. I would query 10 at a time, and as I got responses, I would send more out so I always had 10 out at a time. In between sending out queries, I would research more agents so I was ready to send as requests/rejections came in.

If I wasn't getting any requests with a batch, I would revisit my query and make adjustments. I used forums like the blue boards (SCBWI), querytracker, and writeoncon to get feedback and refine my query letter.

What helped you get though the query trenches?

Writing friends who were also querying definitely helped me the most getting through those trenches. It's really hard to get rejection after rejection and still move forward with a positive attitude. I read tons of inspirational posts about how long it took others who then later had success, and that helped, too. But having someone to commiserate with . . . someone who really understood . . . by the end, all the rejections felt like a badge of honor. Like, I'd paid my dues. I worked hard to get published, and it was all the more satisfying to have reached that point with friends. In other words, you don't have to be an island!

It took me a while to follow the "write another book" advice, and I wish I'd done that sooner. That was definitely the best way to get my mind off of my pending query letters. And this is even more important now for when I go on submission!

SIGN

What was the week surrounding your offer(s) of representation like for you?

This question totally made me laugh! It was all random screams and grinning for no reason. It was a bustle of sending e-mails to agents who still had partials and fulls, or even my query. It was a great shrug of indifference when more rejections came in, because they no longer mattered. Emotion. Lots of it. And mostly the happy kind.

How did you know your agent was the right one for you?

The very first indication that my agent was right for me, was her email response asking to set up a phone call. She referenced a humorous spot in my book that I particularly loved. She said, "You had me at 'We don't traffic in body parts in this household, young lady!'" If she got my sense of humor, I knew we'd be okay.

And speaking with her on the phone sealed it. At the time, I'd had a lot of writing friends who were breaking up with their agent because their agent didn't like their second book. So we talked about this and how she dealt with this as an agent. Also, we talked revisions, and everything she recommended was something I agreed with. We had the same vision. That was super important for me.

Once a writer has signed with an agent, what’s the next step?

I'm sure this varies depending on your agent, but for me it was revision. About a week after I signed I got an email of notes about changes she thought should be made. It all went along with what we talked about on the phone, so none of it was a surprise to me. I revised for about a month, and then she sent me my submission list and boom! We were off!

At what point do you share new story ideas with your agent?

So we went on submission in November, and I sent the next book to my agent in January. That's when I was ready. I actually sent an email to my agent asking about how this process should work, and she basically said, send me stuff when you have it. No rush. My agent prefers to see the finished work, but when I'm about to start a new book, I usually send her several ideas and get her input on what sounds most interesting to her and what would be most marketable in her opinion. This really helps me focus on a project that has the most potential to sell. That said, I only send ideas for books that I really want to write.

SUBMIT

What is a typical first round like once a writer goes on submission?

My agent sends me the submission list, which I love. Then I can do my stalkingresearch to find out more about them. Then I pretty much sit back and wait. (Actually, I work on the next book). My agent forwards all responses to me, so I can see exactly what they had to say . . . why they chose not to make an offer on my book, or that they're interested and what needs to happen next.

With PB&J Society, I actually went to acquisitions a total of five times. I always imagined "acquisitions" as some big important meeting, and sometimes it was, but I learned that other times it just meant that the editor sought approval from specific individuals within the company. It was pretty interesting to see the process for so many different publishers. A couple asked for alternate titles. Another two asked if I'd be willing to make it into a series. One editor even asked for a resumé. Fascinating process!

What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?

Forget that you are on submission!! Seriously. This is one of the really great parts about having an agent. Once my manuscript goes on submission, I can move on. I don't have to worry about follow-up, I don't have to do anything except write the next book. Enjoy it.

Can you check in with your agent if there hasn’t been any news in a while?

I can check in with my agent whenever I want, but I try to limit myself because I know my agent has many other clients and is very busy. So if I'm on submission and a month has passed and I haven't heard anything, I usually send a quick email to ask about it. Also, I often have questions about other things, and I can always piggyback a submission question with that. I think the key is respect along with open communication.

DEBUT

What is the best thing about being a debut author?

Everything is new and exciting. There are all these benchmarks that you get to experience, and they are all exciting and special. The first edit letter. The first time you see your cover. The first time someone asks to interview you. The first time you see your book mentioned out in the wild by someone you don't know. The first Skype visit. The first classroom visit. The first time you sign a book for someone! So many firsts! And even though my debut year was full of crazy (2 moves!), I enjoyed every second of it. I seriously felt like Cinderella at the ball.

What’s involved in promoting a book?

SO. MUCH. This is probably the thing that surprised me the most about getting published. I had no idea how much time promotion would take. And with social media being what it is, there are a lot of things an author CAN do. Honestly, getting to the basics of it all, promoting a book is about being outgoing and friendly. But instead of being that way in your own small group of friends, you have to learn to step out of your box and be that way in extended groups.

It's about reaching out to people. Reaching out to other authors. Reaching out to schools. Reaching out to media. Reaching out to book stores. This has been a huge area of growth for me, and thankfully I've been involved in a group of other amazing debut authors who have coached me, answered my questions, shared their knowledge, and encouraged me. And my take away is that promotion is always more fun with other people.

Have you done any conferences, book festivals, or events as an author? What was it like?

In March, I was able to go on a book tour with three other debut authors, Ava Jae (Beyond the Red), Kathy MacMillan (Sword and Verse), and Laura Shovan (The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary). We did library panels, book store signings. We participated as faculty at the MD/DE/WV SCBWI conference, and we did Skype/school visits. It was a whirlwind of activity, and it was amazing! SO. FUN.

I was nervous going in because it was my first book tour, but being with the other three was absolutely awesome. We took turns moderating the panels, and we used questions we'd prepared in advance. The fun part was getting to know the other authors. By the time we presented our final events, we were pretty hilarious together. In short, it was a real joy to talk about books and answer questions that people had about the publishing process. I very highly recommend group events, especially for starting out!

What advice would you give to writers who are working hard to get to their own debut year?

Keep working! It feels like it will never come, but if you keep working and don't give up, you will get there. For real. And when it comes, it will zip by. You will blink, and suddenly your book will be out in the world. Don't wish away all the excitement leading up to publication. All the sweat, blood, and tears you are putting in now will only make the experience that much sweeter. I am super proud of every single one of my rejections. Because each one is a reminder that I'm stronger than that. You are stronger than any rejection, too!

Thank you, Janet!

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Query.Sign.Submit.Debut! with Jennifer Mason-Black

Abrams photo--J. Mason-Black-2

Jennifer is a young adult author and her debut, DEVIL AND THE BLUEBIRD, releases from Amulet Books (Abrams) on May 17, 2016! She is represented by Alice Speilburg of Speilburg Literary Agency. Final Cover

Connect with Jennifer . . .

Website * Twitter

Preorder the book . .  .

Amazon * Barnes & Noble * IndieBound

 

Query into

QUERY

What resources and websites did you use when querying?

I’m an omnivore when it comes to information collection. If there were places to look, I looked at them. Literary Rambles often compiles great stuff on agents, so it became one of my starting points. Query Tracker is wonderful, especially for a data hound like me. And I used Absolute Write to double check on everyone I queried.

I queried two books, neither of which were my debut, and those experiences took place over a period of three, maybe four, years. I didn’t have a Twitter account with the first book I queried, but I peeked at agent accounts from time to time. By the time I’d written the second book, I already had a sense of which agents I was interested in, and while Twitter was clearly a good way to research agents, I more or less skipped it.

How did you keep track of your queries?

Query Tracker, all the way. I’m more of a small-scraps-of-paper-everywhere kind of person when it comes to managing files on my own.

What helped you get though the query trenches? Inspirational posts? Writer friends? Writing another book?

Friends definitely helped. To be honest, and this is one of those tricks that you’re never supposed to admit, the biggest help was that my husband read all my query responses for me. I have chronic depression, and it makes me a champion at beating myself up. For the querying period, when I had no sense of how my writing would be received and was really struggling with confidence, I made the choice to do something to ease the journey.

I was really lucky because a) I had a partner, b) an incredibly supportive partner, and c) I had other people in my life who also supported my writing. It’s funny to me how shameful it still is to admit cutting that corner. Really, that’s exactly why I am admitting it. I think there’s a lot of insistence about what things writers must do in order to be real writers. The best answer is that you do the things that work for you. Note that this isn’t the same as refusing all editorial guidance or attacking agents online for rejecting your work. It’s about taking breaks from querying if you need them, and being okay with the fact that your process may not look like everyone else’s.

SIGN

How did you know your agent was the right one for you?

Some of it was gut level. We connected really well in our phone call, and I felt comfortable asking her all sorts of questions. That was important for me, that she let me drive the conversation. I like collaborative relationships, and it was clear she did too.

And she gave the right kinds of answers to my questions. Things like sticking with writers beyond one book if the first didn’t sell. I didn’t think what I wrote were the kinds of books that would sell fast. I wanted to know that I wouldn’t be dropped if we didn’t have a six figure deal after three weeks. She also understood what I was trying to do with the manuscript in hand. She wasn’t looking, for example, to hang onto my voice but reshape the story into a Stephen King knockoff. The suggestions she made resonated as right ones to reach farther into the world I’d made.

What is the revision process like between you and your agent?

The reason that I wanted to know I was comfortable asking her questions in our initial call was because I struggle with challenging people. And part of having a good relationship with an agent who edits your manuscript is being able to disagree. The agreement part, that’s easy. The points where you know in your heart that what you’re hearing isn’t the right solution? That’s so much harder.

With the first novel that we worked on together, the initial edits were light. After a round of submissions, we did another, which involved deepening some motivations. We talked things over, and then she left me to handle the changes in a way that felt organic to the story. I wrote some new scenes, which I ended up loving. She tends to suggest what’s not working for her, but not to give me specific fixes. I work better that way. It ends up feeling like solving puzzles instead of failing exams.

At what point do you share new story ideas with your agent?

We talk about new ideas when I’m thinking about what to do next. Generally those conversations involve strategy, which is one of the great things about having an agent. I’m good at coming up with ideas, and much of the time I’m good at following through on them. What I’m not always good at is thinking of the world outside of my head. Having someone who can discuss whether or not a story about a sentient motorcycle fits well with my particular set of writing skills and/or readership is pretty handy. I do not, however, share new work with her as I’m writing. Having too many cooks in the kitchen makes for a really bland soup, at least in my case.

SUBMIT

Do you see the feedback from editors?

Yes, always. Unlike with querying, which felt like a terribly lonely experience, submissions to editors with an agent feels very much like a team effort. If a pass makes me blue, I’m pretty sure it makes my agent blue as well, because I know she’s invested in my book. She shares the comments with me, and we sometimes talk about them. If I’m certain that one response means the book is terrible and will never sell, she gently sets me straight. It’s a good system.

What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?

Anything that works. Seriously, trying to sell a first novel often means having no clue if editors will like anything about your work, whether you’ll succeed in a week or give up after a year. It simply didn’t work for me to be writing another novel at the same time. I knew that I could sell short stories, so I focused on those, because I needed the confidence (and I love writing short stories). I also spent a lot of time with my kids, and worked on crosswords, and shoveled snow. I tried not to let the waiting eat up my life.

Did you know there was interest in the book before you got an offer or was it a surprise?

It was moderately surprising. Since I’d had another book that didn’t sell, I’d really stepped away from the whole submission process. My agent had mentioned at several different points that there was an editor staying in touch with her, but I didn’t ask for details. The first time it really filtered through all my defenses was when I was raking snow off my parents’ roof. My agent had emailed and mentioned that there was an editor waiting to hear how other people felt and that she (my agent) would be in touch soon. Suddenly, out there in the snow, I started thinking that maybe her cautious comments meant a lot more than I’d thought.

(The complete story of what happened when I got the call can be found here.)

How did you celebrate when you got the news about your book deal?

The usual fun things. Dinner, cake, you know, party stuff. The very best thing was that my friend Christine sent me flowers and chocolates. I live in a rural area, and no one ever just drops by, and I was trying to play things cool because I had a call with the offering editor scheduled later in the week and I didn’t want to say anything to people until I had a contract. But Christine had been there through the whole journey, so I told her immediately. My daughter had a friend over, and there was a knock at the door, and here was this elderly florist delivering flowers and chocolate, and I was pretending that this was something that happened all the time at my house. When I looked at the card—remember, small town, elderly florist—it said, well, things I can’t repeat here without making you second-guess having invited me to answer these questions.

Anyway, my flowers and chocolates and profanity-laced card was a definite a highlight.

DEBUT

What’s involved in promoting a book?

So much writing! I think I’ve accepted all the blog invites that have come my way, and have been very grateful for them. Seriously, bloggers are superstars when it comes to helping debuts find their audiences. So, lots of interviews, some guest posts, lots of tweeting. I suspect life is suddenly going to feel very quiet in another month, after pub date has come and gone.

Have you done any conferences, book festivals, or events as an author? What was it like?

I went to ALA Midwinter in January to do an ARC signing and a luncheon held by my publisher. It was fun, in a wow-people-are-so-nice-and-this-space-is-SO-HUGE-and-full-of-books kind of way. I was incredibly grateful for the giant badges everyone wore, as it made it very easy to spell names correctly! My sole piece of signing advice for authors is either don’t have a long name, or to come up with a shorter version in advance. Also, remembering how to spell it is a plus.

Since then I’ve participated in a panel with three other 2016 debut authors. That was also fun, and in a library, which is where I’d like to be nine times out of ten. I’m an introvert of the highest degree, but these events are not half as scary as they seem beforehand.

What was it like to see your cover?

Pure unadulterated awesome! There’s something a bit terrifying about getting an email containing your first glimpse of your cover. After all, authors, particularly debut authors, don’t have a lot of pull when it comes to what their books look like. I knew Abrams, Amulet’s parent company, had a great design team, and I knew my editor understood my book, but I still opened the file with a certain amount of fear. Fear that vanished as soon as I saw the guitar. Cover art and book design can be such a tremendous gift to an author. It’s like a visit from the book fairy godmother.

Thank you, Jennifer!

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Release Day for THE BFF BUCKET LIST!

I started this blog at the very beginning of my writing journey, and as I learned about publishing, I kept little collections here—agent contests, stories of writers getting their agents, tips--and eventually I started the Query.Sign.Submit. interview series. And as it grew, I realized it wasn’t just me using all the info and inspiration anymore, it was all of you too. It was everyone who was on their own writing adventure. People started sending other writers here, listing it on their own blogs, and tweeting to come here for the info others needed. It still makes me happy whenever someone tells me that my blog helped them so much when they were going through all of their own challenges on the writing path.

And now today, after all that researching, collecting, querying, subbing, writing, and revising, my very own debut is out in the world. I cannot thank you enough for joining me for the ride and I hope that you’ll join Ella and Skyler on their adventures. Maybe even make your own bucket list, which my talented hubby makes easy for you with The Bucket List Builder over at TheBFFBucketList.com.

Happy book birthday to THE BFF BUCKET LIST and happy dreaming and bucket-listing to all the writers and readers out there!

Where you can find it . . .

Simon & Schuster * Amazon * Barnes & Noble * IndieBound * Your local bookstore!

BFF Bucket List [9109319] - high res

About the book . . .

Ella and Skylar have been best friends since kindergarten—so close that people smoosh their names together like they’re the same person: EllaandSkyler. SkylerandElla.

But Ella notices the little ways she and Skyler have been slowly drifting apart. And she’s determined to fix things with a fun project she’s sure will bring them closer together—The BFF Bucket List. Skyler is totally on board.

The girls must complete each task on the list together: things like facing their fears, hosting a fancy dinner party, and the biggest of them all—speaking actual words to their respective crushes before the end of summer. But as new friends, epic opportunities, and super-cute boys enter the picture, the challenges on the list aren’t the only ones they face.

And with each girl hiding a big secret that could threaten their entire friendship, will the list--and their BFF status--go bust?

Dee Romito - author photoAbout the author . . .

Dee Romito lives in her hometown of Buffalo, New York, where she and her family are steadily checking items off their own bucket list of adventures. You’re likely to find her at the local ice cream shop, writing at a cafĂ©, or curled up on the couch with her cats. And while she does her best to be a grown-up most of the time, giggling with her BFFs is still one of her all-time favorite things. You can visit her website at DeeRomito.com.

To join the fun and create your own bucket list, visit TheBFFBucketList.com!

Connect with Dee . . .

Website * Twitter * Facebook * Goodreads

Query.Sign.Submit.Debut! with Bridget Hodder

Bridget Hodder PhotoBridget is a middle grade author and her debut, THE RAT PRINCE, releases from Margaret Ferguson Books/Farrar, Straus & Giroux/ Macmillan Publishers on August 23, 2016! she is represented by Eric Myers of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.
Hi Res Rat Prince Cover

Connect with Bridget . . .
WebsiteFacebookTwitter * Goodreads
Preorder the book . . .
Amazon
 
Query into
Now for Bridget’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, going on submission, and being a debut author!
QUERY
What advice would you give to querying writers?
Not that I'm some kind of authority, but I'm happy to share my thoughts!
So, I'm assuming you've already polished like crazy, you've tailored your word count, and you've incorporated into your manuscript the feedback and edits of at least two beta readers or critique partners. Now I would say, prior to starting the querying process...do the emotional prep.
Get yourself into a determined, focused space in your head. A place from which you can do business.
These days, writing a book you intend to traditionally publish is committing to the equivalent of doing a startup company. Querying is the first stage of "Startup You". If you succeed in getting an agent and selling, this will become an all-consuming endeavor for at least the next two years, and you will be responsible for doing most of the work yourself.
Are you ready for it?
Then it's time to research agents.
What are some important things for querying writers to consider when researching agents?
In addition to all the good advice you can find online and at conferences, I would suggest you take a good hard look at your manuscript and ask yourself: what genre is this puppy? Yes, you may think you wrote an awesome YA, but it may in fact be an awesome Middle Grade. Or even a wonderful mainstream romance or work of speculative fiction. Do the research, and ask your critique partners and beta readers if they think it fits where you believe it does. This will be a huge factor in figuring out which agents will want to represent your manuscript.
Then, it's all about Google and social media platforms, finding out as much as you can about the agents. Unfortunately, there is no "Common Application" like there is for college admissions; every single agent has a different thing she or he wants to see in a query, and it changes often. I spent most of my querying time carefully studying these individual preferences, and making sure I followed them to the letter.
Are there any conferences you attended that really helped you move forward as a writer during this stage?
I learned everything I knew about the process from the amazing Romance Writers of America. What a sharing, caring bunch of professionals. They love their work and they love their readers, and it shows. And soon I'm going to attend my first SCBWI conference!
SIGN
How did you know your agent was the right one for you?
My agent, Eric Myers, was so clearly a great personality match for me. I felt it from the very first phone call. I found we had many interests in common, above and beyond literature, and I knew I could work with him. I had done my research, and discovered before I queried that he represented a best-selling author in my genre whose work I loved, so our tastes were aligned.
He had very perceptive questions to ask about the manuscript of THE RAT PRINCE, and he made it clear he was interested in me as a writer with long-term career goals. I knew he would treat me with respect, but not shy away from difficult discussions if they became necessary. And that's how it turned out!
SUBMIT
What is a typical first round like once a writer goes on submission?
All I can say is, hold on tight, because it can happen fast once it gets going. My agent sent THE RAT PRINCE around, and within a few weeks, I had to make a choice between two publishers. My wonderful editor Margaret Ferguson has her own imprint at Macmillan/ Farrar, Straus & Giroux, and she put a pre-empt offer on the table. My agent helped me understand the pros and cons of the situation and allowed me to make my own informed decision. I'm still so grateful to all the people involved who showed interest in my work.
How did you celebrate when you got the news about your book deal?
Honestly? I was too stunned to celebrate. I kind of sat around and trembled like a deer for a couple of days.
DEBUT
What special things do you get to be a part of as a 2016 debut author? Is there a lot of support among debut authors?
Being one of the original "Sixteen" of The Sweet Sixteens (founded by Kathy Macmillan) has been an intense amount of work and an extra-special, transformative experience!
I've learned so much. When we started, I didn't even know what a Cover Reveal was, or a Sell Sheet, or even swag...and I had no website, no Twitter account, no Facebook Author page, nothing. I didn't know how to write a ProBoards post or do a Google Hangout. But now I can do all those things and more, thanks to the patient kindness and information sharing of my fellow debuts. The entire membership has been a humming, busy, hive of sweet support.
What an amazing thing it is to realize our dreams are coming true...and we're here to lift each other up. Because we stumble under the burden of just how much work and self-sacrifice those dreams demand of us. Every single day.
If you're aiming for a writing career (and I assume you must be, if you've read this far), I'm here to tell you what I wish someone had told me: it's going to take everything you have to give, and the real work comes after you sell, not before.
But, oh!
It's worth it!
Thanks, Bridget!
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Query.Sign.Submit.Debut! with Shari Schwarz

Shari picShari is a middle grade author and her debut, TREASURE AT LURE LAKE, is now available from Cedar Fort Publishing/Sweetwater Books.

Connect with Shari . . .image-2015-09-26

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads

Get the book . . .

Amazon

 

 

Query into

Now for Shari’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, going on submission, and being a debut author!

QUERY

What advice would you give to querying writers?

Querying is hard. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Gather some really good people around you who love you and believe in you so that when it gets almost too hard to handle, they will be there for you to lift you up. You can do this! Don’t give up! It took me 100 rejections to get to my YES!

Did you ever have a Revise & Resubmit? What should a writer consider when deciding whether or not to take one on?

Very early on in my querying process, I had two R&Rs, pretty much at the same time. While I really credit both of them for helping shape my manuscript in different ways, they varied widely on their advice. It was a bit confusing to me as a writer new to the process. I tried to fit all of their advice into one R&R and failed miserably. (I’m a pleaser!) After a few months I began to learn that I didn’t have to take everyone’s feedback and somehow cram it all into my story. Now, I would tell other writers to listen to your gut on revisions and to take it slow. I’m a literary intern now, and I see how rushing the R&R can be heartbreaking. The writer is sooo excited to resubmit to the agent and thinks that they have to ‘strike while the iron is hot’ that sometimes they don’t pour themselves into the revision like they should. Take your time, get lots of good feedback from good readers and good writers…people you trust. And make sure your heart is really in the R&R. It has to resonate with you and the story you’re trying to tell.

What helped you get though the query trenches? Inspirational posts? Writer friends? Writing another book?

My critique partners helped tremendously as I went through the ups and down of being in the query trenches. There were times I thought I’d never write again. But reaching out to other writer friends and letting them know how I was feeling allowed them to help pick me back up by brainstorming with me, or looking at my manuscript again, or just giving me a pep talk. That, and going for good long walks. Sometimes I just needed to clear my head and get a new perspective. It’s easy to get sucked down into a blinding hole with one manuscript. We need help to find our way out sometimes. Writing two other books at that time helped me gain a fresh perspective as did reading posts about other authors’ paths to publication. It’s rarely easy for any of us…we’re all in this together!

SIGN

Are there any specific questions you’d suggest writers ask an offering agent during “The Call”?

I got “The Call” from my acquiring editor, not an agent. I asked a lot of questions over the course of several days…you can find lists of questions online that spell out what you should ask an agent or editor. But the things that convinced me the most that Cedar Fort was right for my book were asking other Cedar Fort authors about their experiences with the company and looking at the quality of books and covers that Cedar Fort puts out. They put out very high quality writing and covers. I’ve been truly happy with them every step of the way! If you get a call from an agent, I’d recommend finding out from an agent’s current clients how their experiences have been. I’d also want to see what deals the agent has made in the past year.

What is the revision process like between you and your agent?

Since I don’t have an agent, I will focus more on my acquiring editor, Ashley Gephart. Her first round of edits to me were completely eye-opening. I had previously had well over 30 critique partners and beta readers on my manuscript before she worked on it and I’ve never experienced such deep, thematically significant edits. I agreed with 95% of what she suggested and the parts that I didn’t, she was fine with me keeping as it was. I have loved the friendly and professional back-and-forth with my editor over the months of working with her. It’s a wonderful partnership that I had not anticipated, but now can’t imagine writing a book without!

SUBMIT

Did you know there was interest in the book before you got an offer or was it a surprise?

I was completely surprised. On Twitter, I had read an #MSWL written by Ashley, my editor, where she put a call out for MG submissions. I had a short conversation with her on Twitter and sent my manuscript in. Only three weeks later, I got an email from Cedar Fort offering me a contract. It was a total surprise. So much so that I thought it was spam, and then a joke, or maybe a mistake. I had to read the email several times before it began to sink in that it was genuine.

How did you celebrate when you got the news about your book deal?

I tried not to hyperventilate. I did an awkward little dance in the kitchen and then calmed myself down because I know these things can take time and sometimes not go through (at that time, I could have still declined). My husband took me out for dinner to our favorite date night restaurant.

DEBUT

What’s involved in promoting a book?

There is an endless amount of possibilities when it comes to marketing and promoting a book. I thought, because I am with a smaller publisher, that I’d have to do so much more self-promotion than the authors being published through the ‘big five.’ And, while in some cases, that might be true, for the most part we are all having to do the very same or similar things for our own books when it comes to promotion: scheduling book cover reveals, being active on social media (not only about my own book but about other’s books), scheduling blog tours, answering questions for interviews, ordering bookmarks and other swag, making connections at bookstores, libraries and schools, getting media outlets to be interested in some aspect of your book or career as a writer, scheduling an author release party and signings and the list goes on. I come across lists of 101 things to do to market your book, and suddenly, I feel my heart clench. It can be pretty overwhelming. One thing I’ve learned to do is to spend at least 5 minutes a day on publicity and focus on the aspects of it that I am most passionate about. I can’t do everything, but taking small bites out of it each day adds up to a lot in the long-run. It’s a month before my release as I write this, and I can already see how it is worth it.

Is there a lot of support among debut authors?

Absolutely! The Sweet 16s group has been a god-send. We are all in this together, and it has been so comforting to know that I’m not the only one who is afraid to look at their reviews, or who is overwhelmed by the amount of appointments that need to be made to promote their book, or who just wants to celebrate the fact that they got their bookmarks in the mail that day! It’s all so new and exciting, I can’t imagine doing this alone, without the support of others who are going through similar journeys.

What was it like to see your cover?

The first time I saw my cover, I cried. Seeing my cover made becoming an author feel so real. And I LOVE my cover. It wasn’t the final version that you see now and there were a couple of things to work out. They had a grizzly bear on the cover instead of a black bear. A minor thing, but since there haven’t been any grizzly bears in Colorado for decades, I had to ask if they could change it. They also worked on a few different styles for the typography and placement of the title and tagline, but in the end, I absolutely love my cover!

Thanks, Shari!

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Query.Sign.Submit.Debut! with Brooks Benjamin

BB author picture

Brooks is a middle grade author and his debut, MY SEVENTH-GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS, is now available from Delacorte/Random House! He is represented by Uwe Stender of TriadaUS Literary Agency.

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Query into

Now for insight from Brooks on querying, signing with an agent, going on submission, and being a debut author!

QUERY

What was your method for querying? Small batches? Query widely? Wait for feedback?

I kind played it safe with my querying. I picked the absolute top agents I wanted to work with and sent out a batch of like five emails. And then I waited. For what seemed like forever. And when I got two rejections I’d send more. So in the span of a few weeks I ended up sending probably around twenty five or so emails.

What helped you get though the query trenches? Inspirational posts? Writer friends? Writing another book?

Keeping my mind off the queries I’d just sent and on a new project I was working on. As soon as I hit send on my queries I began a new project and tried to focus every bit of energy into that. And when a rejection would trickle in, writer friends were always there to give me a pat on the back, a pep talk, or to make me laugh. Jackie (my wife) was probably my biggest cheerleader during this time. At one point I was ready to give up, but she wouldn’t let me. If it weren’t for her, I would’ve never found my agent.

Are there any conferences you attended that really helped you move forward as a writer during this stage?

Yes! I attended my very first conference shortly after I decided to try writing a book. I went to the Midsouth SCBWI conference and met my very first writer friends (thanks to Gail Nall who introduced me to literally every person there). It was that conference that introduced me to the publishing world. I go back to it every single year.

SIGN

Are there any specific questions you’d suggest writers ask an offering agent during “The Call”?

Definitely ask your agent which editors specifically he or she has in mind, how many editors he or she will sub to at a time, and what sort of sales record he or she has with your type of book. I was so nervous talking to the agents who had offered and I felt like if I asked something like that it’d be too personal, too rude. But once I did they were all so happy to tell me. Agents expect you to be curious about their plans for your work. They’re excited about your work. They love your work so don’t be afraid to ask them those questions.

How editorial is your agent? Is it what you expected?

Uwe is highly editorial which I love. I was looking for an agent who could help me chop, shred, and rebuild my manuscript to make it as good as it could be. And Uwe definitely did that. We talked on the phone about ideas to make it better. He’d ask questions, offer suggestions, and listen. It was truly a team effort. I was expecting him to give me notes, but I didn’t know he’d be so willing to talk about them like he was. It was truly refreshing.

At what point do you share new story ideas with your agent?

I’ve sent Uwe first chapters and I’ve also pitched him ideas over the phone. One of the things I love about him is how excited he gets when he hears or reads something he likes. It’s such an infectious sort of enthusiasm and I always leave so jazzed about whatever it is I sent his way.

SUBMIT

What is a typical first round like once a writer goes on submission?

So. Much. Waiting. You’ll find out which editors are reading your work and you’ll wait. You’ll ask your agent for an update and he or she will tell you that no news is good news and you’ll wait. You’ll Twitter stalk the editors and see if they’ve posted anything telling and you’ll wait. And then if one of them passes, you digest any feedback they’ve offered and you’ll wait some more.

What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?

I’d suggest writing. The waiting can be so distracting and if you’re like me, it’ll completely consume your day. So what I’d suggest (and what I’d bet any agent would suggest) is to read as much as you can and begin that next project that your agent will fall in love with.

Did you know there was interest in the book before you got an offer or was it a surprise?

I did! Wendy Loggia, my incredible editor, emailed Uwe to let him know she really loved what she’d read so far. After that I floated through the week and never stopped smiling. And then on Friday, I got the email from Uwe. It was a pretty spectacular day. Smile 

How did you celebrate when you got the news about your book deal?

I immediately showed my wife the email and read it with her so she could verify that it had really happened. Other than dancing around a little and getting some pretty severe face cramps from smiling so much, I didn’t do a lot of celebrating. I did eat pizza, though, and pizza’s always a good thing.

DEBUT

What else are you working on along with all the promotion?

I’m working on another MG right now. It’s tentatively titled THE MOSSY HOLLOW FORTUNE TELLER’S CLUB and has been a blast to write so far!

What other 2016 debut books have you gotten to read? Did you get to read them early?

Oh my gosh, I’ve read SO MANY. I signed up for literally every single book on the ARC tour. If I had to pick a top ten then they’d be Marieke Nijkamp’s THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS, Jen Maschari’s THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF CHARLIE PRICE, Laura Shovan’s THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY, Lois Sepahban’s PAPER WISHES, Victoria Coe’s FENWAY AND HATTIE, Melanie Conklin’s COUNTING THYME, Kali Wallace’s SHALLOW GRAVES, Kelly Zekas and Tarun Shanker’s THESE VICIOUS MASKS, Kurt Dinan’s DON’T GET CAUGHT, and Shannon Parker’s THE GIRL WHO FELL. Actually, I could probably list every single galley I’ve read because they’re all so good, but these were the ones that melted my heart in one way or another.

Is there a lot of support among debut authors?

There is so much support. The Sweet Sixteens and the Class of 2K16 groups that I’m a part of have been so wonderful about helping to promote everyone’s work. Without them this journey would be so lonely and not near as much fun.

What was it like to receive your ARCs?

It was an unbelievable feeling. Holding your book for the very first time is so surreal. I actually shot a quick video of the moment when we found them sitting on the deck.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENej3OsbSZQ

Thanks, Brooks!

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Query.Sign.Submit.Debut! with Jenny Manzer

clip_image001Jenny is a young adult author and her debut, SAVE ME, KURT COBAIN, is now available from Delacorte Press (Penguin Random House)! She is represented by Kerry Sparks of Levine Greenberg Rostan.

Connect with Jenny . . . clip_image002

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Query into

Now for Jenny’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, going on submission, and being a debut author!

QUERY

What advice would you give to querying writers?

First, be sure your manuscript is ready to query. This may be your one chance to impress a particular agent. The tricky part is—you may not realize that your draft isn’t ready. This is where you either take a step back before querying and reassess the manuscript, or ask some trusted advisors to help you decide. I queried my agent twice with SAVE ME, KURT COBAIN. After an initial pass, I wrote to her months later to see if she was interested in seeing a revision. I was lucky to get a second chance.

If querying was a long time ago for you, what do you remember most?

I remember one day receiving two e-mail rejections at exactly the same time. It was if they fist-bumped in cyberspace. Querying was truly a grueling experience. I still sometimes can’t believe it had such a positive outcome.

What do you wish you’d known back when you were in the query trenches?

I wish I’d been more concise in my queries. When I look at them now, they seem long and perhaps explain too much. A query needs to be complete, but it is only a teaser.

Are there any conferences you attended that really helped you move forward as a writer during this stage?

I didn’t attend a conference, but I did seek out a manuscript consultation from a well-known Canadian short story writer, Zsuzsi Gartner, who also teaches creative writing. Her advice on the manuscript was useful, but her enthusiasm for the story meant even more. I think a well-timed manuscript consult with the right person can make a huge difference both in drafting and your self-confidence.

SIGN

How did you know your agent was the right one for you?

There were several factors. My agent is with a top agency and she has her own track record of success, particularly in YA. But the main things that impressed me were her suggestions for revising my manuscript, her sheer enthusiasm for the book, and also her character. She’s an astute negotiator with incredible drive and energy, but she’s also someone I truly like and admire as a person—and that’s a great place to start a business relationship.

At what point do you share new story ideas with your agent?

I’ll give her a heads up that I’m working on an idea—if I’m actually drafting. I have lots of ideas, and she has other clients, so I generally only let her know if I am really moving forward on a new manuscript.

Do you send sample chapters to your agent or do you wait until the manuscript is finished?

So far, I’ve waited until the manuscript is finished. I tend to plow ahead without revising—adhering to the idea of just getting that messy first draft down. So I need to make sure the place I end up is the place I started before sharing with someone else. My early drafts tend to have name changes halfway through and sometimes eye colors switch—so it’s nice to fix those inconsistencies up first.

SUBMIT

Do you see the feedback from editors?

I did, and I am glad. It’s difficult when critical feedback varies from editor to editor—it leaves you wondering about a path to revision. Still, a published book will receive a lot more scrutiny and it will all be public. The submission stage can help you realize that while one reader may adore a voice; another will not, and that’s just the way it is.

What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?

Work on something new if that calms you down and fills you up. Many writers need to write to feel grounded. If not, focus on something completely different and unrelated to books—baseball, yoga, kickboxing, movies, your adorable dog or kids—whatever else makes you happy, and you, aside from writing.

How much contact do you have with your agent when you are out on submission?

My agent would let me know who was reading and also send me any rejections so that I was kept in the loop. I liked that system because my agent’s not there to sugarcoat things for me (though I know she sometimes does), but we’re partners in this, working together.

DEBUT

What is the best thing about being a debut author?

Right now the best thing is hearing from real teens who have enjoyed my book—whether they are half a world away in Sydney, Australia, or closer to home in Washington State. I hope I never get over being thrilled about that. I also love seeing mentions of my book pop up at different libraries around North America.

What other 2016 debut books have you gotten to read? Did you get to read them early?

I have read some absolutely wonderful 2016 debut YA books, and there are dozens more I would like to devour. A few I read early and enjoyed include: THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE, ASSASSIN’S HEART, THE FIRST TIME SHE DROWNED, MY KIND OF CRAZY, DON’T GET CAUGHT, and THE GIRL WHO FELL. I recently purchased UNDERWATER and loved it, too. I went on a YA buying spree. I also read a warm and wonderful middle-grade book: MY SEVENTH GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS. There is a real range in this Class of 2016 mix: from complex fantasy, to suspenseful, heart-wrenching contemporary, to fast-paced and funny.

Is there a lot of support among debut authors?

Yes! I joined The Sweet Sixteens group of debut authors, and they are a fabulous, generous and humorous bunch. I’ve learned so much from the fine writers in this group—about the publishing process, about book promotion, about being gracious, even about the pursuit of diversity in books. Children’s literature is dynamic and competitive, but there’s room for everyone at the table.

What was it like to see your cover?

My cover surprised me. I thought it might have some aspect of Kurt Cobain on it—some graphic allusion to him. Instead, it looks like the knee of a torn pair of jeans. I love it now. I think it really stands out, which was definitely the goal. Seeing the cover made me think: “Here we go. This is really going to be a book!”

What advice would you give to writers who are working hard to get to their own debut year?

The author Courtney Summers once shared the advice that authors have to play the “long game.” So I am going to borrow her advice. In the case of querying and trying to break in, playing the long game means being professional with everyone you deal with. It means continuing to work on new projects so that these can distract and sustain you when your first project is not going as you’d hoped. It means thinking of the bigger picture and not dwelling on every injury or omission—the snarky reviews, or the lists your books doesn’t make. I am still working on all this myself. I’m a WIP!

Thank you, Jenny!

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BEHIND THE BOOK with Janet Sumner Johnson

PrintAll books, no matter the genre, have some reality in them. Some truth that called to the author, and pushed them to write the book.

When I was 19, I found myself at a weekend retreat with a bunch of college friends where everyone had paired off but me. Talk about awkward. I wasn’t a writer then, but I have always loved writing, so I begged some paper and a pen and sat down and wrote.

I started with stream-of-conscious about how I was feeling, but soon I found myself telling the story of Annie and Jason and their exploration of the “Great African Jungle.” I was entranced. And during the time it took to write it, I relived my childhood and those carefree days of easy friendship as I wrote about my childhood best friend and I. Of course, none of it had really happened. But it could have.

I didn’t come back to that story for another five years, but when I stumbled upon it, I was drawn to it. At the time, I don’t think I recognized it for what it was, but I was struggling in the face of becoming an adult. I was a semester away from completing my Masters’ and knew that an era of my life would be coming to an end. Plus, I’d recently gotten married. I didn’t admit it at the time, but my future felt so limited. A long line of all work and no play. Of being serious and responsible.

I needed that story I had written. I needed that carefree feeling. That joy that comes from spending time with someone who means the world to you. And I needed more of it. So that’s what I did. I wrote a series of stories from my childhood. Not all of it is true, and of course, gads and gads of it were changed and formed into something that suited the larger story, but many of the events in my book really happened. Often not in the way or at the time that it happens in the book, but it happened nonetheless.

So today, I wanted to share just one event from my book and talk about the truth behind it. But rest assured there are many, many more.

During the hunt for the buried treasure, Annie and Jason come across an actual ‘X’ scratched into the rock. They frantically dig, certain they have found the treasure, only to find nothing but an old, broken Miss Piggy Alarm Clock. An item from Annie’s long-since past. One night, when she was 5, her mother served pork chops for dinner. Annie asked what pork chops were, and her mother glibly answered, “Pig. We’re eating Miss Piggy!” Properly horrified, Annie buried her beloved alarm clock with the help of her best friend.

This really happened to me! When I asked my mom what pork chops were, that is how she responded. Even she can’t explain that momentary lapse of judgement. And for the record, I do not like pork chops to this day. I had a Miss Piggy alarm clock that I loved, but I didn’t bury it. I wish I would have thought of that, because I would have totally done it! Poor Miss Piggy.

I don’t have time to tell more, but I am offering all of you the chance to win a one-of-a-kind annotated ARC in which I note many of the stories behind The Story. Thanks for dropping in, and good luck!

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Janet Sumner Johnson 

JanetJohnson.AuthorPicJanet Sumner Johnson lives in Oregon with her husband and three kids. She bakes a mean cinnamon twist and eats way more cookies than are good for her, which explains her running habit. Though her full-time occupation as evil tyrant/benevolent dictator (aka mom) takes most of her time, she sneaks in writing at night when her inner funny bone is fully unleashed. The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society is her first novel.

PB&J Society

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Query.Sign.Submit.Debut! with Lindsay Eagar

Lindsay Eagar-12-EditLindsay is a middle grade author and her debut, HOUR OF THE BEES, is now available from Candlewick Press. She is represented by Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary Agency. CMMlj24VAAApX0r

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Query into

Now for Lindsay’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, going on submission, and being a debut author!

QUERY

What are some important things for querying writers to consider when researching agents?

1) Make sure you really understand the role of an agent before you begin defining the right kind of agent for yourself. Many authors don’t sell the first book they send on submission. Many authors find themselves at creative crossroads after hitting the publishing milestones (getting the book deal, handing in edits, after the book releases, etc.). In these tumultuous moments, you want an agent on your side who has the end game in sight, someone who can offer perspective and guidance for this particular book deal, yes—but also for your entire career. A good agent is not just a salesperson; a good agent can act as book doctor, author therapist, contracts advisor, and that wise little voice in your head.

2) I’ve heard a lot of people compare signing with an agent to marriage. While I understand the hilarity and accessibility of this metaphor, it’s actually pretty important to understand that it’s not a marriage, or a friendship, or any kind of interpersonal relationship. It can definitely blossom into one of those things, but the truth is that many authors switch agents throughout their careers. Agents quit. Agents switch agencies. Agents see differently than their clients and have to part ways. This doesn’t mean you should have the mentality of, “Oh, if this agent doesn’t work out, I can find another one!” It’s still a serious step to hire an agent, and you should do so as if you will be working together and selling books forever! But there’s also a comfort to know, when you are querying, that it isn’t a commitment until death do you part. It’s a business relationship. There are boundaries, and expectations, and you should both be honest about what to expect out of your new pairing.

3) Wait until your manuscript is ready. Really. If you query before you have revised and brought the manuscript up as high as you can bring it, you’re just ensuring that you’ll have rejections. Yes, every author has their own stack of rejection letters—but there’s no reason to add to that pile by querying with an unfinished, unpolished manuscript. Wait until it’s ready—and then wait another week, just to be sure.

What do you wish you’d known back when you were in the query trenches?

I wish I had known that it was just the first step of many (and the first celebration of many!) on my publishing journey. I had put so much stock into this milestone that the next milestone—selling a book—felt so far away. Signing with an agent is absolutely cause for joy, but it is the very beginning of the workload, not the end! I also wish I could have bottled my momentum to unleash during long months of waiting. Seriously, publishing is an industry of mostly silence, a few flurries of emails, and word-by-word, page-by-page book-writing. Getting an agent doesn’t change that, I’m afraid.

What helped you get through the query trenches? Inspirational posts? Writer friends? Writing another book?

I devoured any blog posts like this one—the “how I got my agent” posts were like sweet, sweet candy to me while I refreshed and refreshed my inbox. I also did start on a new project. It kept my mind busy while waiting for feedback from agents, and it also reminded me the reasons I was willing to put myself through such psychological and emotional torture: because I wanted to write stories.

SIGN

How did you know your agent was right for you?

When I was learning how publishing worked (through Google University), Sarah Davies’ blog on her Greenhouse Literary website was the first agent blog I had ever read. I stayed up all night reading her archive, and took notes, and marveled in her perspective on what makes a book good and timeless. I knew she was an agent I would query someday, and when I finally had a manuscript, I gritted my teeth and screamed a little when I sent the e-mail out to her! You’re not supposed to have a “dream agent,” smart people will tell you—but I absolutely did, and when she offered me representation, I pretended to take the weekend to think about it (so I would look like a levelheaded, patient, responsible adult) but she had me at hello!

She is the right agent for me because she is passionate about representing only the highest quality books. She has a killer sales record, and a very grounded, no-nonsense approach to building her authors’ careers. I’m very lucky to have her as my agent.

How editorial is your agent? Is it what you expected?

Yes, she is editorial with a capital “E!” Sarah worked as an editor for years. She has a high standard for manuscripts that she sends out on submission. We worked on BEES for a good six months before we sold it.

I did expect it, because that was one of the reasons I queried her, but working with Sarah was my first experience with an edit letter. It was so much work, but it taught me that a thoughtful critique is the greatest gift you can give to a writer, and I was so grateful that she was thorough with my manuscript before we shopped it to publishers.

At what point do you share new story ideas with your agent?

This is something I recently learned about myself the hard way—as much as I wish I could know what a book is about before I finish it, I really need to get through the first draft and at least one round of revision before I can correctly pitch it. I had a heartbreaking experience with this, when I pitched a book that I didn’t quite understand and sent along sample pages, and the critique of this half-baked book put me off the whole idea for months! The poor book just wasn’t finished simmering yet. Thus, I made my own rule about this: I won’t send her anything until I know my book well enough to withstand its evaluation, and for me that means a semi-completed manuscript.

SUBMIT

What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?

Find something to work on. It doesn’t have to be Your Next Book— it can just be a bit of writing that sets your heart a-twitter, or it doesn’t even have to be writing! It could be a quilt, a classical music piece, your roller-blading skills. It’s better if it doesn’t involve computer or TV screens, and double points if it’s something physical. That way, your hands are kept from inbox refreshing, your mind can go into that trance-like state that comes with creation, and your heart can remember that there’s more in this world than this book, this round of submission, this deal.

Did you see the feedback from editors?

Yes! I asked that Sarah forward me all messages, positive and negative. It was surprising to see how much the rejections conflicted—one editor thought my main character was too passive, another thought she was much too headstrong and proactive for a twelve-year-old. How funny is that! It was also great to see the ones that were so close—one editor asked to see any future projects from me, even though they couldn’t buy BEES. That was such a great beacon to find in a rejection letter—that my career would have a future, even if this book didn’t.

How did you celebrate when you got the news about your book deal?

I went to the bookstore with no price limit and spent $*** of money on whatever books I wanted to buy. (I’m blurring that number out, because it will shock you.) It was the most fun I’ve ever had. I’m doing it for every book deal.

DEBUT

What was it like to see your cover?

Surreal! I was already a fan of Matt Roeser (my cover designer) so when I heard he was assigned to my book, I heaved a sigh of relief. The initial e-mail with the cover comp required a bit of faith on my part—the watercolor letters of the title were going to be raised and glossy against the matte white cover, but of course, I couldn’t see that online. But when I finally got to see the in-person effect, I swooned. It is the perfect cover for this story.

What else are you working on along with all the promotion?

I am finishing up edits on my second middle grade with Candlewick Press, out fall 2017. It’s called RACE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, and it’s a very special book to me, but also incredibly difficult to work on—it was a trunked manuscript, and I’ve rewritten it so many times in the last five years. But I’m so excited to see it on shelves.

What advice would you give to writers who are working hard to get to their own debut year?

If you want it, if you truly want to write stories and see them published, you will have to work hard to get there. Either it’s worth it to you or not, so if it’s not, then get out while you still have your heart! If you do want it, then know that everything else fades away and the work is all that remains. Talent fades, cleverness is only relative, and shortcuts lead to the big bad wolf. Publishing requires you to work harder than you ever thought you could… But ultimately, it’s the only thing that matters, and it is the only thing that is rewarded.

Thank you, Lindsay!

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