Tobie is a young adult author and her debut, EMERGE, releases from Month9Books on April 19. She is represented by Jennifer Unter of The Unter Agency.
Get the book . . .
Now for Tobie’s insight 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’m a firm believer in querying widely—but only once all your materials are polished. When you send that first query, you should feel as confident as possible about the query, the synopsis, the first three chapters, and the full manuscript itself. I know, I know—much easier said than done. For me, the key to getting to that level of confidence was contests. Contests like Pitch Wars (which was so helpful to me) often offer a lot of feedback—both from the people running the contest and from the other applicants, who you can meet on Twitter. When I did Pitch Wars, I swapped materials with quite a few of the applicants, and now several of them are in my debut group of authors with novels coming out this year.
That feedback, along with feedback from other critique partners, helped me so much. By the time I started querying, I knew my materials were the best I could make them. That was so important because, as rejections start to stream in, they’ll mess with your head and make you doubt your work and the viability of your goals. The more polished your materials, the more you’ll be able to tell yourself that the rejections are coming because of reasons outside your control (the agent’s personal taste, existing list, etc.) and not because of the quality of your writing. This is essential to keep you from giving up. Remember, all you need is one agent to say yes!
Had you queried other books before the one that got you your agent?
Actually, Emerge (my debut) was not only the first book I queried but the first book I ever wrote! I know that’s not the norm, and I feel incredibly fortunate. I think it’s worth mentioning so that writers who are querying their first books know it really can happen!
Are there any specific questions you’d suggest writers ask an offering agent during “The Call”?
I googled different lists of questions in advance and used them to compile a list of my own. I highly recommend doing that because, if you’re anything like me, during the call itself, you’ll be nervous; the list of questions will give you something to focus on and will help ensure you don’t forget anything. Also, agents want to know that you understand publishing is a business, and having a list will show that you’re a professional.
How did you know your agent was the right one for you?
First and foremost, she loved my book and she was genuinely excited to pitch it to editors. She was also interested in my career long term. During our phone call, she was the perfect mixture of passionate and professional. I’d say the number one thing to keep in mind is the agent’s communication style leading up to the call and in the week or so afterwards when you’re considering your offers. In my experience so far, I’ve found that how effectively an author and an agent communicate is a key factor in how successful their relationship is and how happy they both are with that relationship.
Do you see the feedback from editors?
Yes, I do. My agent actually forwards me each editor’s response. I know that’s not something every writer is comfortable with—and it can be hard—but I like being fully informed. It has helped me learn about the industry and (since submissions can be a long process) it reminds me that things are moving forward. I actually found it somewhat comforting to read the rejections because quite a few of them said things about the editor loving the book and the writing but having to pass for other reasons, like the current direction of her imprint’s list or the types of books her house’s marketing team was currently focusing on. That helped me realize that a rejection wasn’t necessarily about my writing; so many other factors come into play. I tried to see each rejection as bringing me one step closer to the editor who would make my manuscript a book.
Did you know there was interest in the book before you got an offer or was it a surprise?
Actually, yes. Georgia McBride, who bought my book, emailed my agent while she was still reading to say how much she loved it so far. Then, when she finished reading, she emailed to ask about my social media involvement, so we knew she was interested. I was active on social media at that point (especially in the writing community), but I certainly didn’t have tens of thousands of followers, so we sent in the information and kept our fingers crossed! Later that day—just 3 days after my agent first sent her my manuscript—Georgia emailed to say she was going out of town, but that we could expect an offer the following week. It was the longest, most jittery week of my life!
What else are you working on along with all the promotion?
I’m currently working on Book 2 in the Mer Chronicles, entitled Submerge. On the days I’m not stressing about the Book 2 deadline, I’m actually really grateful for it because it gives me something to focus on that I have complete control over. I generally get my writing done in the morning and concentrate on promotion later in the day, once the writing is done.
What special things do you get to be a part of as a 2016 debut author?
The most rewarding new thing I’ve experienced so far is having complete strangers message me about how excited they are for the book—or even post fanart online. It’s surreal! I’ve also gotten so much support from other authors. Both my fellow Month9Books authors and the members of the Sweet Sixteens debut group have been so welcoming and wonderful. I can’t recommend a debut group highly enough; it’s an unparalleled opportunity to not only learn about publishing but also to form strong, lasting friendships with authors who are going through the same experience you are. And reading their advanced copies has exposed me to many truly great books. I’m also going to be speaking on panels and doing signings at various events around the country this spring, so that’s a brand new experience I’m really looking forward to!
What was it like to see your cover?
I LOVE my cover! The first time I saw it, I was checking my email on my phone during a morning workout. I hadn’t heard anything about my cover yet, so it was a total surprise. I opened the email from my publisher and fell off the elliptical! Then, I ran downstairs (workout forgotten) so I could see it on my computer screen. We’ve made a few tweaks, but the cover on the book is remarkably similar to that first version. I’m a big fan of girl-in-gown covers (when they suit the book and the character), and I love how magical and ethereal Emerge’s cover is. Seeing it for the first time was a dream moment.
Thank you, Tobie!