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What are some important things for querying writers to consider when researching agents?
You have to remember that although it’s great to connect with an agent, you’re not looking for a best friend. You’re looking for a business partner. Be sure to ask them about current and past deals, communication methods, editing and revisions, basically everything. You’re trusting them with your book so you have to be sure before you sign on the dotted line.
Did you ever have a Revise & Resubmit? What should a writer consider when deciding whether or not to take one on?
I had an R&R for my debut novel and I think the most important thing to consider is whether you agree with the R&R. I know it can be really difficult because you’re so CLOSE that you’re willing to do ANYTHING to get that offer, but you have to remember that it’s still your book. Your baby. Because in the end, it’ll be your name on the cover and you have to be 110% happy with it. I ended up doing the R&R (which was just to add an additional scene) because I agreed with the reasoning behind it. Although I ended up not signing with that agent, I do still love the new scene she had me add. In fact, a reader recently told me that scene was one of her favorite scenes in the book!
What do you wish you’d known back when you were in the query trenches?
So. Many. Things. I think I broke every cardinal rule of writing and querying when I first started. Especially with my first book. It was WAY too long (140k YA time travel), had a prologue, began with a dream, and I sent my query to every agent I found without personalizing it. Now I’m actually quite surprised that I even got one full request. The most important thing that I wished I had done is more researching when I was in the query trench. Research writing, querying, and agents. That would have definitely saved me a lot of time and heartache.
Had you queried other books before the one that got you your agent?
I think THE WAY TO GAME THE WALK OF SHAME was the fifth book I finished and queried. But I’m actually glad because I felt like I learned something with each of the books. Whether in writing or in querying. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today had I not written and gotten rejected.
Are there any specific questions you’d suggest writers ask an offering agent during “The Call”?
If I were to do the call again, then I would definitely ask more questions about the business side of things. At the time, I mainly asked questions about the editing and revisions needed. Now I would ask questions such as the communication method (email, phone, how often, etc) and the submission process (where they think my novel would fit and how we would proceed with that). It also doesn’t hurt to talk about future projects and what happens if you don’t agree on a certain project.
How did you know your agent was the right one for you?
I knew she was the right one for me because it was like she knew exactly how to make my book better. Even though at the time, I had another agent who already offered and said we would probably go straight to submission, I still wasn’t 100% on board. Deep in my heart, I knew my book wasn’t ready. The second agent understood my characters and their personalities. And she had many ideas for revisions which included an entirely new ending.
How editorial is your agent? Is it what you expected?
I didn’t know what I expected, but my agent ended up being very editorial which I appreciated. I knew there was something wrong with my story, but couldn’t put my finger on it. My agent helped me work it out.
How did you know it was time to part ways with your agent?
Even though I felt like we were pretty compatible editing wise, she had a giant client list and I couldn’t help feeling like a small fish in a big pond. Something that made me very uncomfortable. I had many questions throughout the submission process and I felt like I was always bothering my agent whenever I asked even though I only checked in every few weeks. I feel like you need to be comfortable enough to ask your agent anything that you need within reason.
What was your submission process like?
Very very nerve wrecking. I checked my email ten thousand times a day and researched everything I could about the submission and acquisition process. I may have also twitter stalked the few editors I knew had my novel. It wasn’t healthy, but I think I would have gotten even crazier if I didn’t know anything that was going on.
What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?
Eat a lot of cookies and drink. Basically do anything you can to take your mind off of being on submission because it can take a LONG time. So take a walk. Watch some TV. Even work on a new project if you can.
How did you celebrate when you got the news about your book deal?
I went out to dinner with my husband to celebrate and I bought a new Vitamix. Lol I meant to go to Barnes and Noble to treat myself to a new book, but I stopped by Whole Foods and they were having a VItamix demonstration. Next thing I knew, I was carrying the huge box home. My husband told me I should have gone straight to Barnes and Noble.
What was the editorial process like with your editor?
It was awesome! Although a little scary at first because my edit letter turned out to be seventeen pages, but my editor reassured me to not panic. After I read over the edit letter a few times, we set up a phone call and talked through the changes that I was willing to make and why. My editor also made several good points that I hadn’t noticed before. After that, I felt like editing was a breeze because I had a clear plan on how to make my book better. Although by the time I finished with the copyediting and line edits, I didn’t want to look at my book again for months or I’d go cross eyed.
What have you learned about being a debut author?
I’ve learned that it can be everything you’ve dreamed of yet nothing like you planned. Everything is so new that you constantly have to keep pinching yourself to make sure this is actually happening. But it can also get very overwhelming at times and things might not turn out the way you wanted. I had a dozen things planned before my book release, but didn’t get a chance to do half of them. But that’s ok because in the end, you have a published book and you’ve achieved your dream!
What other 2016 debut books have you gotten to read? Did you get to read them early?
It was so cool to be able to read other 2016 debut books before their release dates because I felt like we were in some sort of special club. Yet I feel bad because I didn’t get to read as many as I wanted. Some that I loved were FIRSTS by Laurie Flynn, SUMMER OF SLOANE by Erin Schneider, and ARROWS by Melissa Gorzelanczyk.
Is there a lot of support among debut authors?
There was so much support between the other debut authors that it was so overwhelming. The other YA and MG Sweet Sixteeners are such wonderful people and it’s so reassuring to be able to talk to other people going through the same thing you are. Even if it’s to gush, vent, or cry. And we’ve learned so much from each other, too!
What was it like to receive your ARCs?
It was very surreal to be able to hold your ARCs in your hand. To have a story that used to be in just a part of your imagination now in your hands and in book form. It seemed so official that it took me ages for it to sink in that this is MY book. I never had a baby (yet) so I can only imagine this is how you would feel when your labor is over and you’re able to hold your baby in your arms. Much less painful though.