Brooks is a middle grade author and his debut, MY SEVENTH-GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS, is now available from Delacorte/Random House! He is represented by Uwe Stender of TriadaUS Literary Agency.
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Now for insight from Brooks on querying, signing with an agent, going on submission, and being a debut author!
What was your method for querying? Small batches? Query widely? Wait for feedback?
I kind played it safe with my querying. I picked the absolute top agents I wanted to work with and sent out a batch of like five emails. And then I waited. For what seemed like forever. And when I got two rejections I’d send more. So in the span of a few weeks I ended up sending probably around twenty five or so emails.
What helped you get though the query trenches? Inspirational posts? Writer friends? Writing another book?
Keeping my mind off the queries I’d just sent and on a new project I was working on. As soon as I hit send on my queries I began a new project and tried to focus every bit of energy into that. And when a rejection would trickle in, writer friends were always there to give me a pat on the back, a pep talk, or to make me laugh. Jackie (my wife) was probably my biggest cheerleader during this time. At one point I was ready to give up, but she wouldn’t let me. If it weren’t for her, I would’ve never found my agent.
Are there any conferences you attended that really helped you move forward as a writer during this stage?
Yes! I attended my very first conference shortly after I decided to try writing a book. I went to the Midsouth SCBWI conference and met my very first writer friends (thanks to Gail Nall who introduced me to literally every person there). It was that conference that introduced me to the publishing world. I go back to it every single year.
Are there any specific questions you’d suggest writers ask an offering agent during “The Call”?
Definitely ask your agent which editors specifically he or she has in mind, how many editors he or she will sub to at a time, and what sort of sales record he or she has with your type of book. I was so nervous talking to the agents who had offered and I felt like if I asked something like that it’d be too personal, too rude. But once I did they were all so happy to tell me. Agents expect you to be curious about their plans for your work. They’re excited about your work. They love your work so don’t be afraid to ask them those questions.
How editorial is your agent? Is it what you expected?
Uwe is highly editorial which I love. I was looking for an agent who could help me chop, shred, and rebuild my manuscript to make it as good as it could be. And Uwe definitely did that. We talked on the phone about ideas to make it better. He’d ask questions, offer suggestions, and listen. It was truly a team effort. I was expecting him to give me notes, but I didn’t know he’d be so willing to talk about them like he was. It was truly refreshing.
At what point do you share new story ideas with your agent?
I’ve sent Uwe first chapters and I’ve also pitched him ideas over the phone. One of the things I love about him is how excited he gets when he hears or reads something he likes. It’s such an infectious sort of enthusiasm and I always leave so jazzed about whatever it is I sent his way.
What is a typical first round like once a writer goes on submission?
So. Much. Waiting. You’ll find out which editors are reading your work and you’ll wait. You’ll ask your agent for an update and he or she will tell you that no news is good news and you’ll wait. You’ll Twitter stalk the editors and see if they’ve posted anything telling and you’ll wait. And then if one of them passes, you digest any feedback they’ve offered and you’ll wait some more.
What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?
I’d suggest writing. The waiting can be so distracting and if you’re like me, it’ll completely consume your day. So what I’d suggest (and what I’d bet any agent would suggest) is to read as much as you can and begin that next project that your agent will fall in love with.
Did you know there was interest in the book before you got an offer or was it a surprise?
I did! Wendy Loggia, my incredible editor, emailed Uwe to let him know she really loved what she’d read so far. After that I floated through the week and never stopped smiling. And then on Friday, I got the email from Uwe. It was a pretty spectacular day.
How did you celebrate when you got the news about your book deal?
I immediately showed my wife the email and read it with her so she could verify that it had really happened. Other than dancing around a little and getting some pretty severe face cramps from smiling so much, I didn’t do a lot of celebrating. I did eat pizza, though, and pizza’s always a good thing.
What else are you working on along with all the promotion?
I’m working on another MG right now. It’s tentatively titled THE MOSSY HOLLOW FORTUNE TELLER’S CLUB and has been a blast to write so far!
What other 2016 debut books have you gotten to read? Did you get to read them early?
Oh my gosh, I’ve read SO MANY. I signed up for literally every single book on the ARC tour. If I had to pick a top ten then they’d be Marieke Nijkamp’s THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS, Jen Maschari’s THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF CHARLIE PRICE, Laura Shovan’s THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY, Lois Sepahban’s PAPER WISHES, Victoria Coe’s FENWAY AND HATTIE, Melanie Conklin’s COUNTING THYME, Kali Wallace’s SHALLOW GRAVES, Kelly Zekas and Tarun Shanker’s THESE VICIOUS MASKS, Kurt Dinan’s DON’T GET CAUGHT, and Shannon Parker’s THE GIRL WHO FELL. Actually, I could probably list every single galley I’ve read because they’re all so good, but these were the ones that melted my heart in one way or another.
Is there a lot of support among debut authors?
There is so much support. The Sweet Sixteens and the Class of 2K16 groups that I’m a part of have been so wonderful about helping to promote everyone’s work. Without them this journey would be so lonely and not near as much fun.
What was it like to receive your ARCs?
It was an unbelievable feeling. Holding your book for the very first time is so surreal. I actually shot a quick video of the moment when we found them sitting on the deck.