Monica is a middle grade author and her debut, BOUNDERS, is now available from Simon & Schuster/Aladdin! She is represented David Dunton of Harvey Klinger, Inc.
Get the book . . .
Now for Monica’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, going on submission, and being a debut author!
What advice would you give to querying writers?
After spending some time in the query trenches, I suggest that writers view the query process as fluid. Even after you’ve drafted, revised, and revised again with feedback from critique, your query may not be in the best form to land an agent. Query in batches and use the feedback from those queries—even if the feedback is silence or form rejections—to revise your query and try again.
How did you keep track of your queries?
I used a spreadsheet to track queries that listed the agent’s name, query date, response, response date, request, request date, etc. I also noted if I received personal feedback from an agent that I may want to reference if querying another manuscript. Keeping track of my queries in a formal, organized fashion helped me maintain personal distance and treat it like a business.
Are there any conferences you attended that really helped you move forward as a writer during this stage?
In Boston, there’s a terrific writer’s center called Grub Street. I attended a query and first five pages workshop there shortly after I completed my first manuscript. The content of the class and the personal feedback I received on my submission package were extremely helpful. Also, I’ve attended the New England SCBWI Regional Spring Conference annually going back to before I was agented. It’s a great conference, and a terrific place to build a writer support network.
How did you know your agent was the right one for you?
Even though I come from a formal business background and had a long list of professional questions prepped for potential agents, I had a real gut feeling about my agent, David Dunton of Harvey Klinger, Inc., from the beginning. Within the first few minutes of our phone call, David and I established a small world connection and really clicked. Although I’m sure I managed to get most of my questions answered, that moment of connection sealed the deal for me. I also wanted to make sure that David’s visions for Bounders were consistent with mine, and fortunately they were.
Did you sign as a client of a career agent or on a book-by-book basis?
I’ve seen this question many times, and I researched this issue when generating my list of agents to query. That said, I’m not convinced it’s a meaningful distinction. I think most agents would love to work with authors for their career, provided they agree on future projects and have success taking those projects to market. On the other hand, regardless of how an agency relationship is initially framed, all author-agent contracts should have reasonable provisions allowing either party to terminate for future books. It’s best to check your contract terms.
Once a writer has signed with an agent, what’s the next step?
I think that varies depending on the agent. David and I went through a brief round of revisions prior to submitting Bounders to publishers. In general, David made suggestions while giving me wide latitude in terms of how to implement changes. We had a few points we disagreed on, but after exchanging emails which resulted in some minor edits, we reached a place where we both felt confident about the manuscript and proceeded to the submission stage.
What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?
This is going to sound very cliché, but the best thing to do while out on submission is to keep writing. Ideally, you can work on something completely unrelated to your subbed novel without any pressure attached. There is no escaping the fact that submission can be an extremely stressful time. By working on a new project, you’re building your repertoire of work which is important whether this book sells or not. Also, I found spending time outdoors, engaging in other creative activities, and doing yoga to be very helpful.
How much contact do you have with your agent when you are out on submission?
I think this depends on what’s going on with your submission. In short, when there’s no news, there’s no news. I think it’s fine to check in with your agent from time-to-time, maybe once or twice a month. Also, it’s important to clarify expectations with your agent. Maybe you want to hear all news from editors, good or bad, when it comes in. Maybe you only want to hear when there’s potential good news. Maybe you’d prefer to have your agent email you once a week, or less frequently, grouping together any editor responses. There are lots of ways to handle submission news, so the key is upfront communication. Personally, I asked David to pass along all editor responses as they came in.
Did you know there was interest in the book before you got an offer or was it a surprise?
My offer was a complete surprise. I love telling the story of receiving David’s email letting me know I had a three-book offer from Simon & Schuster. I was alone in my kitchen, and when I read the message, I screamed and fell to the floor. After managing to recover, I thought how funny it was that no one witnessed my reaction, like a tree falling in the woods. I reenacted the scene later that day for my kids.
Have you met other debut authors through the process?
Yes! One of the best parts of the debut experience is connecting with other authors! I’m a member of The Sweet Sixteens, which is a large, online debut group of middle grade and young adult authors. I also participate in a few small, informal groups. Connecting with these writers has been awesome. We share information, pool marketing efforts, and support one another in many ways. It’s so cool to feel part of such an immensely talented group of authors!
What was it like to see your cover?
Two words: Blown Away. Truly, I am so blessed and grateful that the incredibly talented Antonio Javier Caparo was brought on to illustrate the cover for Bounders. When I first saw the image, my eyes filled with tears. It was an experience like nothing I’d ever known to see his visual rendering of something I created—like he had plucked the scene straight from my imagination. One of the highlights of my debut year has been connecting with Antonio and interviewing him about the cover illustration process.
What else are you working on along with all the promotion?
Bounders is a series, so I’m working with my talented editor, Michael Strother, to revise the second book and prep it for publication. When I’m not immersed in the Bounders world, I’m playing around with some new projects.
Thank you, Monica!