Jennie is a young adult author and her debut, POPPY MAYBERRY, THE MONDAY, releases from Month9Books/Tantrum Books on September 13, 2016. She is represented by Bill Contardi at Brandt & Hochman Literary Agency.
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Now for Jennie’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, going on submission, and being a debut author!
What advice would you give to querying writers?
My biggest piece of advice would be DON’T GIVE UP! I know you’ve heard over and over again that publishing is subjective – believe me, it is! I think I queried at least 40 agents with POPPY. Although ten asked for the MS, only 3 liked it enough to even offer. Did I mention that was in my SECOND round of querying? Take any constructive criticism you get from agents, friends, writing partners, and if you’re up for it, go back and revise a few more times. I did two MAJOR overhauls on POPPY before landing my first agent.
Are there any conferences you attended that really helped you move forward as a writer during this stage?
One of conferences that gave me confidence in POPPY was the Eastern PA’s SCBWI Critique Fest. The first pages of POPPY were critiqued by an author, an editor, and an agent. All three loved the first look and both the editor and agent asked me to submit my full MS. Although they both did ultimately pass, I got the confidence in my writing that I needed at that time. I also met some other amazing MG and YA authors!
What was the week surrounding your offers of representation like for you?
My first agent left the publishing business in the summer of 2014, and it was shortly after that I began searching for a new agent. I actually had three offers this time around and that week was totally surreal and nerve-wracking. I remember scheduling three phone conversations with three different agents, and here’s the thing – they all were so awesome to talk to! In the end, I went with Bill Contardi of Brandt & Hochman because he works with other authors who are pubbed under my publisher and because I admire the work of some of his other authors. I also like how direct and to-the-point Bill is!
Do you send sample chapters to your agent or do you wait until the manuscript is finished?
That actually depends. I had two new YA projects I was working on and I just wasn’t sure which one I wanted to focus on, so I sent the opening few chapters of both novels to Bill. His feedback helped me stick with one. Then I got this awesome idea for an MG mystery and discussed it with Bill over the phone. That time I decided to finish the MS before sending it.
What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?
Read and Write. Whatever you do – do not compulsively check your email hundreds of times a day and do not FB or twitter stalk the editors. Both of those actions are all-consuming and a huge waste of time. (Gosh – can I please follow my own advice?!)
How much contact do you have with your agent when you are out on submission?
My agent forwards me everything pretty much right away. So when I’m out on submission, I hear from him when he hears from editors.
What is the best thing about being a debut author?
I would have to say that working with and getting to know other debut authors has been the best thing. I love being a part of the Sweet Sixteens and I love my Sixteen to Read girls! Everyone is so supportive.
Have you done any conferences, book festivals, or events as an author? What was that like?
I did my first bookish event in October at the PA Council for Teachers of English and Language Arts conference. I was one of the featured authors at the author breakfast where I got to share my journey to publication and my inspiration behind POPPY.
Then at the beginning of February, I spoke to 500 elementary school students about life as a teacher and author. It was so much fun and the kids treated me like a celebrity. One 3rd grader asked if I was friends with J.K. Rowling! haha In April I’ll be at the Texas Library Association conference and then in June I plan on attending ALA in Orlando.
Thank you, Jennie!