Query.Sign.Submit.Debut! with Ami Allen-Vath & Victoria Lowes

Ami Allen-Vath author pic

Ami is a young adult author and her debut, LIARS AND LOSERS LIKE US, is now available from Sky Pony Press! She is represented by Victoria Lowes of the Bent Agency.

Connect with Ami . . .

Website * Twitter * Facebook * Instagramliars-and-losers-like-us_cover

Get the book . . .

Signed/personalized copies of Liars and Losers Like Us can be purchased and shipped from Little Shop of Stories. 404-373-6300

IndieBound * B&N * Amazon

Victoria_LowesVictoria represents Historical Fiction, YA Literary Fiction, Romance, Thrillers/Suspense, Mystery, and Women’s Fiction

To connect with and learn more about Victoria . . .

Website

 

 

Query into

QUERY

Ami:

What advice would you give to querying writers?

The biggest advice I have is to make sure your manuscript is ready. If you’ve only done a few rounds of skimpy revisions and edits, it isn’t ready. If you haven’t had a critique partner or beta reader read through your ms, you are probably not ready. Also, a CP or beta should be another well-read writer within your category and preferably in your genre as well. Having more than one CP (but not too many) is a huge plus! As excited as you are about your work and the feedback you’re hoping to receive, my strong advice is DO NOT send it out until it’s been read by someone other than yourself and your biased friend or family member.

What are some important things for querying writers to consider when researching agents?

I think it’s important to find an agent that knows what they’re doing. If your agent doesn’t have a strong client list with sales under her belt, make sure she has the experience and guidance. In my opinion, it would be a big gamble to go with a new agent who is also working at a new agency. My agent, Victoria Lowes, was pretty new to agenting when I signed with her. However, she’d interned with another agency, assisted Jenny Bent with her clients and deals, and was still working with her. I also knew that when Victoria started sending out my submissions, even if she didn’t have a strong, working relationship with the editors, they would already know of The Bent Agency and the reputation it has.

How did you keep track of your queries?

The website QueryTracker was amazing. I was absolutely obsessed with keeping track of what I sent out and the responses I received. It was incredibly instrumental in researching agents as well. I highly recommend it and although it’s free, the upgraded service is well worth it.

If querying was a long time ago for you, what do you remember most?

I remember how exciting it was. I also remember the painful punches to the gut whenever a rejection would come in. The plus to all this is that it prepares you SO MUCH for hearing no and getting critiques later on.

Had you queried other books before the one that got you your agent?

I feel very lucky to have signed with my agent on my first novel.

What helped you get though the query trenches?

Posts like the ones you do are awesome. (Also see Amy Trueblood’s blog and Michelle Hauck’s blogs) I read getting my agent/pub deal posts like crazy. It was almost an addiction. They were so inspiring and made me feel like OMG IT HAPPENED TO HER---A REAL LIVE PERSON SO YES, IT COULD HAPPEN TO ME TOO! But the best thing for the query trenches, in my opinion, is writer friends. Writer friends are the best. They know the struggle, they know your pain. They will be there to commiserate and lift your spirits during the crappy times and they will be there to throw confetti and celebrate with you for the successes.

Are there any conferences you attended that really helped you move forward as a writer during this stage?

Conferences sound amazing but I have yet to attend one, so don’t feel bad if you can’t make it happen. I would’ve loved to go and make personal connections in the industry prior to getting my agent and deal, but it just wasn’t doable. But if you have the time, money, and or childcare to make it happen, definitely go!

Victoria:

What was it about Ami’s manuscript that drew you in?

The voice. I loved the concept and thought all of the elements were there but the voice was just so authentic and funny and just perfect—that’s what pushed it over the edge for me.

What does it take for you to offer representation?

Well first I need to feel confident that I know where the project fits in the marketplace and that I can successfully place it with a publisher. But I also need to fall in the love with the project as a reader—that subjective, just know-it-in-my-gut kind of love. There’s both the practical and the impractical.

SIGN

Ami:

Are there any specific questions you’d suggest writers ask an offering agent during “The Call”?

I think it’s very important to know what the offering agent thinks your book should look like when they start sending it out on submission to editors/publishers. What kind of work is ahead of you as far as revising and editing goes? Do they see the book the same way you do or would they want to change things that you wouldn’t be comfortable with? It’s better to know now than to be blindsided later.

What was the week surrounding your offer(s) of representation like for you?

It was a craaaaazy week. Knowing that someone loves your book is one thing but then to wait to hear who else might love it or who else is going to reject it, is stressful. And yet, still so exciting!

How did you know your agent was the right one for you?

I was so excited for the offer and felt like it was meant to be but there’s never a real way to know until you’re actually working together. Since signing, there have been so many little things to assure me that Victoria is the best agent for my career, my books and me.

Did you sign as a client of a career agent or on a book-by-book basis?

Career. I can’t imagine finding an agent for each book. I’m very glad (and relieved!) that Victoria was interested in repping future works as well as Liars and Losers Like Us, the book we signed on.

Once a writer has signed with an agent, what’s the next step?

For me, it meant doing two revisions to get my book nice and shiny! I believe it took about three months but I’ve known of others who’ve taken a couple weeks and others who have been close to a year. That’s probably why it’s good to know what sort of work your agent thinks the book will need before sending it off. ; )

What is the revision process like between you and your agent?

It’s pretty back and forth until it’s ready to go. I write it, she sends it back with notes, I do my best to revise according to the notes and then I send it back and hope I got it right! Right now I am working on my third revision for the book I’d like to go on sub next. I’m taking my time because I don’t want to rush but I can’t lie, I’m dying to have it done and polished so she can finally say “Yay! It’s ready! Let’s try to sell this thing!”

Do you send sample chapters to your agent or do you wait until the manuscript is finished?

I’ve done both. Victoria is pretty editorial, on point, and always asks the good questions so whether I’m sending her the first few chapters or the whole book, there’s going to be work to do.

Victoria:

What is the revision process like when you’re working with a client?

I usually do two phases of revisions. The first focuses on developmental editing—on the big picture stuff like character arcs and development, pacing and plot structure. The second phase is the line edits. How many rounds we do of each varies from project to project.

SUBMIT

Ami:

What is a typical first round like once a writer goes on submission?

I remember thinking “Oh my god. My agent believes in me and my book enough to be sending it to these amazing editors/publishers.” For me, it was exhilarating. And then you don’t hear anything for a while and then it’s pretty OMGWHATISHAPPENING?!

Do you see the feedback from editors?

Yes, because I wanted it. I’m the kind of person that wants to know the good—of course—and also the bad. I don’t know why, but I do!

What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?

I know everyone says to write the next book and while I agree, I also say take a break if you want/need it. You’ve worked your butt off to get to this point. Enjoy a little celebratory free-time.

Can you check in with your agent if there hasn’t been any news in a while?

Absolutely. Victoria is awesome like this. She is very responsive and never makes me feel like I’m bugging her. I’m definitely not the kind of writer that is demanding or checking in every other day, though!

Is there anything you learned while being on submission that you didn’t know before?

I had no idea how excruciating and highly emotional the waiting could be. Being on sub is a lot like querying but the stakes are higher. If you get a no on your book from an agent, there’s always the hope that the next one might like it. There are SOoooooOO many great agents out there and so many more to research and look into. But with submission, there are only so many your agent is going to have on her list. There are WAY more agents than publishers out there. So when I got a no from an editor/publisher, it felt a lot more heavy. There are only so many “Nos” you can get before you’d have to shelf your book.

Did you know there was interest in the book before you got an offer or was it a surprise?

It was a total surprise. And honestly, I’m glad it was. My book did go to acquisitions during the submission phase with another publisher as well, and let me tell you, the waiting was AWFUL AWFUL AWFUL. Note to self/Note to Victoria: I like to know all the good and the bad. However, next time around, I think I’ll pass on knowing if my book is about to go to acquisitions. I would rather know at the end, when it’s a YES or a NO than to wait like that. I don’t want to experience that kind of slow death again.

How did you celebrate when you got the news about your book deal?

It was my son’s thirteenth birthday! My family was living in New Jersey and we all hung out at the boardwalk, shopped and then had a great dinner and cake. Yes, the day belonged my son, and yes, him becoming a teenager was a big deal, but OH MANNNN, what a high I was on. I can’t even explain it. It was this crazy beautiful mixture of shock and awe. I hope I never forget that feeling.

Victoria:

What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?

Definitely keep busy! I usually tell my clients to either focus on the other aspects of their life that were put on the back-burner while we were working on the project or even start working on their next manuscript.

What is it like to tell a client there’s an offer on the book?

It’s just the best. I LOVE being able to deliver such amazing, life-changing news.

DEBUT

What is the best thing about being a debut author?

There are so many incredible things and feelings that happen from the time you get the offer to the day your book releases but honestly? I can’t lie; the very best thing is knowing that one of my dreams came true. It actually, actually happened. I didn’t truly realize this until after my book released but when I did, I was a sobbing mess!

What have you learned about being a debut author?

I’ve learned that SO MUCH more goes into being an author (debut author) than just writing the book!

What’s involved in promoting a book?

It can be as little or as much as you want, but obviously, you really should be doing what you can to spread the word about your book. For me, I’ve done a lot of interviews and guest posts. I’ve kept up with my social media sites and have done my best to reach out or respond to anyone that’s expressed interest in my book. I also was very lucky to participate in the NYC Teen Author Fest the week before my book released, and then had an amazing launch party at Addendum Books in St. Paul, MN. I’ve also asked my publicist to pitch me for certain events. In working with her, I’ll be signing copies of my book at B&N in Marietta GA for B-Fest and will also be participating in the Decatur Book Festival in GA this September.

What special things do you get to be a part of as a 2016 debut author?

Along with a few other debut groups, I’m part of the awesome group The Sweet Sixteens. If you’re about to be a debut author I STRONGLY encourage you to get involved with a debut group. There are so many different things to deal with in debuting (the highs the lows the awesomeness the stresses the small and large details!) that you really need a group of peers and friends to navigate this experience with.

What other 2016 debut books have you gotten to read? Did you get to read them early?

A huge perk in debuting with a debut group like The Sweet Sixteens, is getting to read ARCs of books! Some of my favorite reads this year from other 16ers have been AMERICAN GIRLS by Alison Umminger, SUFFER LOVE by Ashley Herring Blake, GIRL IN PIECES by Kathleen Glasgow, and UNSCRIPTED JOSS BYRD by Lygia Penaflor.

Is there a lot of support among debut authors?

So, so much support. I really don’t know how I could’ve made it through the past year (and then some) without these amazing authors and friends by my side and cheering me on.

What was it like to see your cover?

It was very surreal. I couldn’t believe that work was being done behind the scenes for something I wrote!

What was it like to receive your ARCs?

Still VERY surreal. Like, “Is this happening?” “What????!!” “This is MY book?” I did my best to hold back tears.

What was release day like?

It was my moving day so it was bananas. Yes, moving! We were leaving NJ to move to GA, however, we were going to MN first for my launch party that would happen a few days after. It was such a busy and exciting and stressful time. It was definitely not planned to happen at once, but it did. Honestly, I’m glad it’s over and it all worked out so well that I would not have it any other way. Release day was a day of every single emotion! And SO much wonderful support from readers, bloggers, writer friends and family.

What do you wish you had known about being a debut author?

I really wish that I would’ve known how much advance planning and scheduling I should’ve done. I really should have done better with pacing out and scheduling guest posts and interviews. I really love doing them but it got a little (A LOT) overwhelming when I had about 20 posts due in a 6-8 week time frame!

What advice would you give to writers who are working hard to get to their own debut year?

Please, please, please remember that you are not alone! If you only have writer friends who are already published or already agented or already finished with their firsts drafts or whatever, find another writer friend or a few that are in the same place you are. I just debuted, and if I look around on social media, it looks/feels/seems like everyone else already has another book coming out in 2017 or just secured a book deal. I am not one of those authors. I’m still working on revisions with my agent for the next book that will go on submission. And guess what? Behind the scenes I know SO MANY other authors who are in the same place as I am. Just knowing that I’m not alone helps to take a lot of the pressure off. Not all, but a good chunk of it. Keep working, keep learning, keep writing, support your writer friends, keep the ones that support you close, and YOU WILL GET THERE!

Thank you, Ami & Victoria!

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