Kate is a Young Adult author and her debut novel The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy will be published by Knopf in April 2014! She is represented by Uwe Stender of TriadaUS.
Connect with and learn more about Kate . . .
Preorder with links from this page on Kate’s website!
What advice would you give to querying writers?
Wield patience. Don’t jump into the query process too fast. Make sure that both your query letter and your manuscript are the best they can be. And take heed of obvious red flags: I didn’t want to query any agents who only wanted the first ten pages, and that ought to have been an indication that my first chapter sucked. I should have rewritten it then and there.
But also wield impatience. In your first batch of queries, include a few agents who are known for fast responses. Even a rejection can be an exciting reminder that you’re actually starting the process, and you might get some useful feedback.
How did you keep track of your queries?
I use Google spreadsheets for my query records, along with all the other important statistics of my life: number of push-ups I’ve done, dollars I’ve spent on Chapstick, etc. Obsessive? Compulsive? Repulsive? All of the above?
What do you wish you’d known back when you were in the query trenches?
A few days after Uwe Stender offered me representation, I hashed it out with my dad. On the one hand, Uwe was a newer agent; on the other, he was incredibly enthusiastic and had offered remarkably insightful suggestions on my manuscript. I got kind of teary, overwhelmed by the decision, and my dad said, “Kate. This part is supposed to be fun.”
That’s what I’d tell querying writers. There is always a next stage to this process. There is always some higher pinnacle of success, and you might always feel like a fraud. But if you’re querying, you’ve written a novel. You’ve written a freaking novel! Bask a bit, okay?
Did you sign as a client of a career agent or on a book-by-book basis?
I have a career agent, and I’m so glad. Despite my general cluelessness when querying, I knew I wanted an agent who wouldn’t toss me out if my first book didn’t sell. When, to everyone’s surprise, my gripping tale of teen Latin tournaments proved unmarketable, I was thankful I had an agent who wouldn’t give up all faith in me. (It probably helped that I quit writing about teen Latin tournaments.)
What is the revision process like between you and your agent?
This is how it goes.
I have been working on a manuscript with single-minded focus. I’ve written it and rewritten it and revised it and spent many a happy hour researching hyphenation in Garner’s Modern American Usage. I’ve doodled plot arcs and made calendars so all the important plot points do not happen on Thursdays, which is my wont. I have messed around with every sentence, every word.
I have no clue how to make it better. In fact, I’m secretly convinced that it can’t be made better.
Uwe says, “Let’s talk on the phone.” In about thirty minutes, he eviscerates my story. His suggestions are brilliant. They seem glaringly obvious in retrospect; therein lies their brilliance. After I tear it up and put it back together again, he points out the places I’ve screwed up basic German. Then we’re good and he submits.
At what point do you share new story ideas with your agent?
I don’t like to talk about things until I’ve finished them, and there’s no pressure to do so.
Do you make suggestions or share a wish list when it comes to which editors/imprints to submit to?
Nope. In fact, I appreciate that throughout this whole process, I’ve only been asked to perform one particular task: writing. Everything else, from the submission list to the cover design, has been left to people who actually know something.
Do you see the feedback from editors?
I did -- although in paranoid moments, I imagine that Uwe redacted the insulting lines. (“And tell her, from me, that she ought to ditch this ‘writing’ fantasy and do something useful for society.”) The rejections I got for Varsity Latin, my first book, were brief but helpful. More than one editor said that not enough happened, and even though I thought that the climactic scene where the protagonist misconjugated a basic verb was edge-of-your-seat thrilling, I took that as a hint.
What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?
Try to forget you’re out on submission. Start something new. Get so involved in your new project that you don’t even care what happens to your other one. Leave your phone on silent. Forget to check your email. Fake nonchalance.
Thank you, Kate!
Posted January 2014