Query.Sign.Submit.Debut! with Lois Sepahban

Lois is a Middle Grade author and her debut, PAPER WISHES, is now available from Margaret Ferguson Books/FSG. She is represented by 
Kathleen Rushall of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.

Connect with Lois . . .
Website * Twitter * Goodreads

 To get the book . . .

Insight from Lois on querying, signing with an agent, going on submission, and being a debut author!

Now for Sarah’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, and going on submission! - See more at: http://www.writeforapples.com/2015/05/querysignsubmit-with-sarah-marsh.html#sthash.D5bPwjUu.dpuf


What advice would you give to querying writers?

Be considerate, of course: research who is open to queries and how they like to receive them. Don’t rule out agents just because you haven’t made personal connections with them. But do trust your intuition. I knew which agents would be a good match for me and my book. Querying anyone else would have been wasting their time, as well as mine.

How did you keep track of your queries?

I kept a spreadsheet with the name of the agent and the date I sent the query. 

What was your method for querying? 

I queried four agents with my debut novel. Two were agents I’d queried before and two were agents I’d met a few months before at a conference. 

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

Yes! I’m a member of SCBWI (Midsouth Region) and I’ve found the Midsouth conferences and retreats to be a wonderful support for me at all stages of my writing career.


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

When the phone rang, all of my intelligent thoughts fled. Fortunately, I had made a list of questions beforehand, so I was able to sound somewhat articulate. It’s helpful to know what your goals are: for the phone conversations, for your relationship with an agent, and for your dreams for your book. My goal for the phone conversations was simply to get to know the agents—to discover if they were the kind of people I would like to work with long term. I asked the agents what their goals and dreams were for my book, and I asked what kind of writer they wanted to work with. I listened. And I shared my goals and dreams.

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

I was on a roller coaster of emotions, ranging from elation to worry. For me, the worry was that I was going to hurt people’s feelings by not signing with them. I dreaded telling people that I had decided to sign with someone else. Once I made my decision and signed with my agent, though, everything was bliss. I felt like the whole world was celebrating my happiness—my favorite songs were always on the radio, my kids and animals were healthy and happy, lines at the market were short.

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

During our phone conversation, we connected on so many levels. We are both animal lovers and, even now, we share rescue stories and trade rescue advice in most of our conversations. Aside from that, I could sense her compassion and kindness, and these are qualities I value above all others. By the end of our first conversation, I think we both knew we were going to make a good team.


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

Before my novel went out on submission, my agent emailed me a list of editors she wanted to send it to. We discussed the merits of each of these editors in a couple of emails, and then she queried them. Once I knew they had been sent, I tried (unsuccessfully) to keep my mind busy with other things. We started to hear back from editors within a week.

Do you see the feedback from editors?

Yes, my agent sent me all of the feedback she received. This was reassuring to me.

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

Everyone says that writers should get busy with their next novel when they’re out on submission. This was difficult for me because I had too much emotion going on to be able to focus on writing. I did (and still do) find meditation to be helpful. Doing barn work was also helpful, and I think my barn has never been cleaner than it was during those weeks.

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

Hearing that an editor wanted to talk to me or was planning to take my book to acquisitions meetings was a wonderful surprise.


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

I’m working on a couple of new stories. I also spend time helping to promote fellow debut friends’ books. 

Is there a lot of support among debut authors?

Yes! The 2016 debut author community is amazingly supportive. We celebrate each other’s successes, and cheer each other on. I’ve loved seeing new book covers and reading ARCs.

What was it like to see your cover? 

The original cover image I received is the same one that became the final cover. I love it. Seeing it for the first time brought tears to my eyes. The artist, Julia Kuo, perfectly captured the main character and her longing for her lost pet on the cover.

What was release day like?

It was by far the busiest social media day I’ve ever had—I spent every spare minute catching up on Twitter and Facebook and email. But I’m a working mom. So, other than social media, release day was a lot like every other day—take the kids to school and after-school activities, go to work, make dinner, help with homework, and so on. For me, the routine was grounding—a reminder that, yes, I’m an author. But I’m also a person, just like everyone else.

Thank you, Lois!

See other Query. Sign. Submit. interviews
Read inspiring stories of writers getting agents
Learn about Tools for Writers- like Scrivener - See more at: http://www.writeforapples.com/2015/05/querysignsubmit-with-sarah-marsh.html#sthash.bwWRRT6z.dpuf


  1. I love this! As a former fourth grade teacher, I would have loved this book for my students. It's an extremely "glossed over" topic. I'm impressed with Lois and her methods for getting the agent she wanted. Congratulations on the release of the book! I can't wait to read it. :)

  2. Wonderful interview! So fascinating seeing the process for different writers. Thanks for such a great series, Dee! And Lois, congratulations on your beautiful book! I'm in love with it. :)

  3. Thanks, Janet! And thanks for stopping by, Melissa. :)

  4. I've heard such wonderful things about this book. Can't wait to get to it in my kindle. :D Best wishes for success Lois!

  5. Great interview Dee and Lois. Barn work sounds like a great antidote to book-related stress.


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