Ava is a young adult author and her debut, BEYOND THE RED, releases from Sky Pony Press on March 1! She is represented by Louise Fury of The Bent Agency.
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Now for Ava’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, going on submission, and being a debut author!
What resources and websites did you use when querying?
I used Casey McCormick’s Literary Rambles to start off my research, but then I would follow up by Googling more recent interviews, agency pages, etc. because a lot of the profiles are pretty old and some of the information has changed. I also used QueryTracker for the first time the round that landed me an agent, and that was really helpful in terms of finding agents, seeing average response times, and also just keeping track of who I’d sent what and when.
What was your method for querying? Small batches? Query widely? Wait for feedback?
If I remember correctly, I think I sent out an initial batch of ten queries, then always kept ten queries out—so whenever I got a rejection, I’d immediately send out another query. This gave me time to do revisions on the query if it wasn’t working, and also helped me not take the rejections quite so hard because I sent out a new query to hope for right away.
Had you queried other books before the one that got you your agent?
Oh, yes. The querying round that landed me an agent was actually my sixth time in the query trenches—I’d queried four other manuscripts, one twice (with several years between the querying rounds), so I was pretty familiar with the process by the time I got my agent.
What helped you get though the query trenches? Inspirational posts? Writer friends? Writing another book?
All of the above! Seeing other writers talk about their experiences—particularly if it took them a long time to get agented and/or published—was a massive encouragement for me during the long years of querying. Talking to writer friends also helped, and writing another book while I was querying was really important because it helped me not to obsess over the querying process and also gave me hope for the next project.
Did you sign as a client of a career agent or on a book-by-book basis?
I signed as a client of a career agent, which has been wonderful. My agent’s guidance not just for whatever book we’re working on, but for my career as a whole has been great.
Once a writer has signed with an agent, what’s the next step?
That depends on the agent and the manuscript! For editorial agents, you may do a round (or several rounds) of revisions with your agent. For those who aren’t editorial, or if your manuscript doesn’t need more tweaking, then it’ll probably be straight to submission—after the agent puts together a submission plan, of course. For me, it was the former. :)
At what point do you share new story ideas with your agent?
I don’t share story ideas with *anyone* until I’m 100% sure it’s going to be a real project that I’m going to finish—which isn’t official for me until I’ve written at least 10,000 words. So far I haven’t mentioned new projects to my agent until after I wrote the first draft, which has been fine. I may pitch something earlier once I’m sure the project will be a project in the future—I haven’t decided. Though if I was ever in the situation where I had several ideas and wasn’t sure what to pursue, I’d probably talk it over with my agent first.
What is a typical first round like once a writer goes on submission?
Barring super-quick sales (which are not the norm), first round of submission is usually pretty quiet for a while, because getting feedback takes forever. Well. It feels like forever, anyway. For me, it took over a month (maybe two? I don’t remember) before we started getting feedback trickling in. How large the submission round is will depend on both the agent and that particular manuscript, though.
Do you see the feedback from editors?
Sort of? With rejections, I usually had paraphrased explanations from my agent, and sometimes I saw quotes with compliments, which was cool. When we started getting interest, that’s when I began to get more specific details.
What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?
Work on something else, if at all possible. Submission, like querying, is less painful when you have other things to distract you—and even better, other projects to get excited about.
Did you know there was interest in the book before you got an offer or was it a surprise?
I did! I’d heard initially that the editor loved the manuscript and was getting other readers, so I had small status updates along the way when more readers liked it, the book was going to the acquisition board, etc. It was exciting. :)
What other 2016 debut books have you gotten to read? Did you get to read them early?
Yes! I’ve had the pleasure of reading The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, Burning Glass by Kathryn Purdie, The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie, After the Woods by Kim Savage, Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace, Assassin’s Heart by Sarah Ahiers, Crossing the Line by Meghan Rogers, Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin, and The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye early, which was awesome. I also recently read This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp, which was a great read, and I’m currently in the middle of The Reader by Traci Chee, which I’m really enjoying.
Is there a lot of support among debut authors?
There is *so* much support and I love it. I’m part of two debut groups and it’s been wonderful to get to know other debuts, have the opportunity to read many of their books early, and just support each other along the way.
What advice would you give to writers who are working hard to get to their own debut year?
Keep writing, keep reading, don’t rush, and don’t give up. It takes some people much longer than others—for me it was a little over a decade from starting to write my first ever manuscript to seeing my book published. Take the time you need to get your skills and your manuscript to publication; in this case, time is on your side.