Mia is a young adult writer and her debut novel, JERKBAIT, will publish from Jolly Fish Press on May 3! She is represented by Travis Pennington of The Knight Agency.
Pre-order the book . . .
Now for Mia’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 Jeff Hernan’s Guide to Literary Agents and Query Tracker religiously. I also did research on Twitter and blogs to see the interaction (if any) between the agent and their clients. I felt I could learn more about them that way.
How did you keep track of your queries?
I used a Word doc for each novel—the agent I queried, the agency, the date sent, follow up (if necessary), response, Partial/Full, date of requested material sent, R&R, etc. It was tedious but VERY easy, especially as I moved them around to see active requests versus not. And, for each agent, I included their email so I could contact them immediately should another offer come in.
What was your method for querying? Small batches? Query widely? Wait for feedback?
Minimum of 16 queries out at a time. If I got a rejection, I sent out a few more. I rarely waited for feedback for querying, admittedly.
Did you ever have a Revise & Resubmit? What should a writer consider when deciding whether or not to take one on?
I’d suggest that ANY writer accept a R&R. Save the original copy of what you sent out just in case. But, usually, with the R&R, you end up with a more powerful piece. In fact, it was via a R&R with a different agent that led me to the offer with my agent (which the R&R requesting agent told me to accept).
What was the week surrounding your offer(s) of representation like for you?
Hell, LOL! Honestly, I was a nervous wreck. I don’t think I slept at all, and I’ve never had so much pizza in a week. My agent (Travis Pennington of The Knight Agency) was the first to offer, but I wanted a week to think (and talk with other agents). The agent who’d last given me a R&R actually told me to sign with my agent because I’d be in excellent hands (which was great because I was thinking he’s REALLY good). I felt bad because one agent accidentally wrote the wrong deadline down and apparently had been planning on offering. Not that I would have signed with that agent, but that the agent seemed so glum.
How did you know your agent was the right one for you?
Admittedly, I’m an extremely aggressive writer in terms of style (i.e. how do I do this effectively? How can I improve? How can we sell this?), and I wanted to work with someone who was extremely aggressive with marketing yet loved literature of all varieties. When I talked with him on the phone, we discussed different novels and whatnot. I saw he actually researched me and even read some writing samples for another book. The second he said, “I think this is a LOT bigger than you think,” about one of my other novels (after saying he knew he was going to offer after reading the first paragraph of my debut novel), I knew this was it. And, on the spot, I said, “Let’s do this. I want to work with you.”
How editorial is your agent? Is it what you expected?
I’m not sure how he compares with other agents as I never worked with another agent before, and I’m not sure what I expected to be honest. That said, I think Travis is probably the smartest person I’ve ever worked with, no exaggeration. He’s read only two of my novels (JERKBAIT, which comes out in May, and an adult thriller we’re both excited about) but already made a game plan for what we’ll do after this. I really appreciate that he gives me multiple choices about what I want to do with career, such as sticking with the original intent of a piece or doing significant rewrites. We’re on the same wavelength for the most part, and fortunately he’s really good at explaining things when I get confused (unfortunately, due to a concussion history, I tend to get mixed up over really simple concepts, so I appreciate his patience).
At what point do you share new story ideas with your agent?
Whenever I have them. Sometimes he slows me down (like when I was working on the different passes for JERKBAIT and also working on edits for him and asked about what novel I should do when I’m waiting for responses), but for the most part he’s ready/willing to talk about concepts from the start. It makes sense, honestly—if I have a really bad idea, then I won’t waste 2-3 years on a terrible idea. But, if I have an idea I’m unsure about, and it’s actually a great one, he’s there to say, “Go for it!”
What is a typical first round like once a writer goes on submission?
I have no idea because mine was very a-typical. J I think I’ll find out soon, though.
What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?
Work on the next novel. I’m dead serious. You’ll drive yourself crazy waiting, and you might as well get that next project underway so you can pretend you won’t be overwhelmed by ridiculously tight deadlines, or 6 editorial passes… including, “Get this back ASAP,” when you’re in a different hemisphere… on vacation… to celebrate your birthday and getting engaged… and you have to pull all nighters and work on the airplane… (I say that dotingly because she’s amazing, but you can ask my editor, McKelle George—that absolutely happened).
Can you check in with your agent if there hasn’t been any news in a while?
Again, my situation wasn’t normal, but I’d think there’d be an issue if one couldn’t contact their agent.
How did you celebrate when you got the news about your book deal?
I… don’t know if I actually did… I think I went out to dinner with my Dad and Stepmom, and had some nice food (like those fancy cheeses and wine) with my Mom… but besides that? I… really don’t think I did.
What’s involved in promoting a book?
An obscene amount of work that a lot of people aren’t willing to do. I don’t say that to be a criticism, but fact. I posted a lot on social media and did a ton of work for Goodreads. I sent out postcards and got a ton of 4x6 prints to sign and mail out. I ordered a mini hockey stick that’s custom for a giveaway. I made 37 bracelets, 1 necklace, and am in the process of making arm warmers in JERKBAIT’s colors. I email Travis frequently to ask his feedback, and I’m in contact with the publicity team at Jolly Fish Press almost daily, especially with Kayla (Assistant Publicist).
What special things do you get to be a part of as a 2016 debut author?
16 is a really special number for me. My birthday is November 16th. Robbie’s hockey number is 16. One of the… erm.. “important” characters in JERKBAIT has a screen name Jimmy2416. The book is getting released in 2016. It’s just… it’s a really special number for me, so this is exciting.
Also, being featured on so many 2016 Upcoming Release lists… just wow. There’s a lot of momentum, and I’m grateful for that.
What other 2016 debut books have you gotten to read? Did you get to read them early?
Oh jeez. I’ve read a lot but I’m blanking right now.
I read THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS by Marieke Nijkamp, CONSIDER by Kristy Acevedo, THE YEAR OF LIGHTNING by Ryan Dalton, and FIRSTS by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn (I think it will be almost impossible for any book to beat this in my head). I just got a few ARCs that I’m going to tear into soon, including Riley Redgate’s SEVEN WAYS WE LIE, and I’m hoping for a few others.
I can’t wait for THE SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN by Jeff Garvin and MY SEVENTH GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS by Brooks Benjamin.
Is there a lot of support among debut authors?
Yes, there is. Especially in The Sweet Sixteens group. Because I went to Australia and New Zealand for two months, I was sort of “late” to join the group in major activities. But, within it, now that I’m more active, I’m meeting some incredible people with incredible stories, all very different. I’m learning about the process, and I feel protected, too. Everyone has been incredible but I’ve been super blown away by Heidi Heillig, Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, and Kathleen Glasgow in particular (and am definitely learning a TON from them about the process). The others as well (I wish I could write everyone but that’d be a list of 170+ names!)
I also am getting close with Kristy Acevedo and Ryan Dalton, whose debuts are this year from Jolly Fish Press. Ryan’s book already came out and dealt with twins (so we talked a bit about that), and Kristy’s book comes out just two weeks before mine (deals with anxiety, which is shared with one of my characters). I think Ryan and Kristy probably have more similar writing styles than I do with either of them.