Query. Sign. Submit. with Kate Karyus Quinn

Kate’s debut young adult novel, ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE is now available from HarperTeen! She is represented by Alexandra Machinist of Janklow & Nesbit Associates.

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QSS banner black Now for Kate’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, and going on submission!

QUERY

What advice would you give to querying writers?

At my undergrad university there were tons of stop signs across the campus. Driving from one short end to the other, you’d sometimes stop as many as five or six times. It was a little silly. So, we began to refer to these stops signs as “stoptional”, meaning that if the way was clear we slowed a bit, but otherwise rolled right on through them.

The reason I mention this, is that I feel that when querying it is a good idea to put up as many stops signs along the way between finishing the first draft of your manuscript and pressing send on your query letters. And when you come to these stop signs, I encourage you to come to a full stop. Hopefully, this will give you a chance to ask yourself important questions such as:

Is this the best draft of the manuscript that I can possibly send? Has it been through crit partners? Have I revised enough? Have I given myself space between drafts to be able to see the strengths and weaknesses clearly?

All these same questions should be applied to the query letter as well. Write it and rewrite it the same way you did the manuscript. Have other people look at it. Make it as strong as possible. This is your first introduction you want to make sure your skirt isn’t tucked into your underwear and there’s no spinach between your teeth.

What resources and websites did you use when querying?

The best site I used was querytracker.net

I paid the $20 a year fee to become a premium member and it was worth every cent. This site not only lets you search agents, but also keep track of who you have queried and where you are in the process for each agent. You can also pull up all different types of graphs with your querying stats. It is insanely helpful and I cannot imagine having to query without it.

I also used the querytracker forum quite a bit and met lots of other people in the query trenches. This is a great place for support and also to find some eyes to check out your query letters and probe it for weaknesses.

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

On my second (and now trunked novel) I actually did 2 R&R’s for an agent. After the second R&R she very kindly told me that the novel was still not coming together and could not offer me representation, but she encouraged me to send her my next project. A year and a half later, I did exactly that and she was the first agent to offer me representation. Although, in the end I went with a different agent, I still look back and think what a wonderful agent she was and appreciate the time she put into writing notes and rereading different drafts of that second book. I think writers should see an R&R as a sign of encouragement. For me, it helped to know that even though that book wasn’t strong enough to get me representation, I knew that I was getting close. As for whether or not to take an agent up on an R&R, I think that is up to each individual author. But my advice would be to leans towards yes, unless you really disagree with the agent’s direction for the book or if another offer for representation seems imminent.

SIGN

Did you sign as a client of a career agent or on a book-by-book basis?

The contracts with my agent are book-by-book, but when I signed with her it was with the expectation that we would be working together for a long time.

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

The day I called my agent to tell her that I was choosing her, we laughed, we cheered, and then she asked if I had a minute to take some notes on a few revisions she wanted me to work on before we went on sub. I immediately started scribbling. They were pretty minor revisions and I was able to knock them out over the weekend so that the next week we could go out on submission.

Do you have input on the pitch to editors or does your agent take care of that?

No, my agent took care of all of that, which was really quite a relief. She also didn’t share any news with me until an offer came in. Luckily, this was only a week of waiting, or else I might have been bugging her for some news (even the bad variety) just so I could know something.

SUBMIT

Do you make suggestions or share a wish list when it comes to which editors/imprints to submit to?

I honestly had no idea how many different imprints existed when I first went out on sub, so this may be an area where it paid off to be ignorant.

What is the next step if an editor shows interest?

I actually had offers from two different editors, so my agent set up a phone call with the first editor. We really hit it off on the phone and made me really want that editor to be the one that I would be working with. I was incredibly lucky that in the end, the editor I loved also had the better offer.

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

Um, well I was on submission for a pretty short amount of time, but pretty soon I will probably be going on sub again for my next book and I would not be surprised if it took a little longer (although, obviously, I hope that it won’t). I think the best thing you can do, is use the same several methods as getting through the query process, which for me was obsess a little and try to write as much as possible in between the obsessing.

Thanks so much, Kate!

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