Liz is a Young Adult author and her debut novel Ask Again Later is now available from Harper Teen! She is represented by Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary Agency.
Connect with and learn more about Liz . . .
What advice would you give to querying writers?
Don’t rush it. No one is going to take your place at the publishing table, I promise. Rushing a book to market equals rejections, plain and simple. It’s so hard not to feel like every other unpublished writer is breathing down your neck, but trust me they’re really not. You’re not in competition with anyone except your own writing skill.
What are some important things for querying writers to consider when researching agents?
Google is your best friend. One of the things I always did when looking at an agent was type in Name + Interview. You can learn so much more about what an agent likes and looking for in an interview than in a short bio or on the potentially out of date ones from other sites. There were a few agents I thought would be great fits based on the “stats” like what genres they represented, but after reading an interview I’d find out they can’t stand stories about prom, or really like sci-fi better than anything else. Obviously not the agent for me after all.
What resources and websites did you use when querying?
Apart from Google, I was a huge fan of QueryTracker. I paid for the premium membership and it was totally worth it. So much easier than keeping your own spreadsheet. Plus, the comments under each agent’s listing can be pure gold!
Had you queried other books before the one that got you your agent?
Yes, absolutely. At least three I can think of. And Laura (my agent) rejected me on at least two of those. They weren’t ready. I know that now. But I was feeling those other writers breathing down my neck. (Not happening.)
How did you know your agent was the right one for you?
Because I was a little scared of her at first. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. I asked all the agents who offered representation what they envisioned for my career as a writer, and what kind of schedule they’d expect me to keep. Laura was totally honest; she talked about starting with one contract and working my way up. She said it would all be based on my production as a writer, and that some of her clients wrote four books a year. My knees went weak, but I knew for sure she meant business. I wanted someone who wouldn’t coddle me. I wanted someone who would work hard for me and push me to work hard.
Once a writer has signed with an agent, what’s the next step?
For me, it was a short round of revisions and then we went out on submission. And let me tell you, if you think you check your email a lot while you’re querying, you’ll wear your Refresh button out when you’re on sub. Even when you know there’s not possibility of a reply coming in. Writers are slightly nuts, aren’t we?
Do you send sample chapters to your agent or do you wait until the manuscript is finished?
I usually send 3-5 chapters and a 2 page (roughly) synopsis. We talk about any major issues she sees in the pages and then I write the entire manuscript based on that discussion. Although when we’re working with an editor I’m already contracted with, sometimes we just send those chapters and synopsis to the editor.
Do you see the feedback from editors?
Yes, absolutely. My agent always shows me their responses and I really appreciate that. Even if it’s not always the most positive feedback, I learn from it.
What is the next step if an editor shows interest?
Panic! No, seriously. If you’ve still got manuscripts out with other editors who haven’t replied yet, your agent will contact them and let them know you’ve got an offer on the table and give them a deadline to get back to her. It’s usually a week, so for the next seven days you’ll jump out of your skin every time the phone rings or a new message arrives in your inbox. Will it be a rejection or another offer? SO NERVE-WRACKING!
What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?
Write another book. This is seriously the only thing you have control over. Get your mind off the submission and be ready with the next project. You’ll either need it if your current project doesn’t get an offer, or you’ll need it when your editor asks what else you’re working on after you sign the current project. You want to be a professional writer, right? You’re definitely going to want more than one book on hand. Write one, write another one, write a third if you have time. And you might. Submission can take a LONG TIME.
Did you know there was interest in the book before you got an offer or was it a surprise?
Total shock. It came faster than we expected. So fast there wasn’t even time to get a hint of interest before the offer. After that, I got a few hints that other houses might be interested as we slogged through the week until deadline. But it’s never a sure thing until the offer comes in. Publishing is not just an editor’s decision and things can fall apart in a few places along the way.
How did you celebrate when you got the news about your book deal?
Champagne, laughing and crying simultaneously, and swearing. I do that when I’m happy.
Thanks so much, Liz!
Posted March 2014