Query.Sign.Submit.Debut! with Rachel Bateman

RachelBatemanRachel Bateman is a young adult author and her debut, Someone Else’s Summer is now available from Running Press! She is represented by Liza Fleissig at the Liza Royce Agency.

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QUERY

What advice would you give to querying writers?

Take a breath, go for a walk, close your inbox. It's so easy to drive yourself crazy checking for responses and updates, but these things usually take a bit of time. Common advice is to get working on the next book - and I definitely don't disagree with that, but if query anxiety makes it too hard to write, it's okay to take a break for a while. Live life and try to focus on some non-writing things for a bit. Whatever helps you recharge, do it.

But seriously, don't check your email for a while!

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

Do they have a good sales record in your genre? Recently? Talk to a few of their current clients and see what their working style is like. They could be the best agent in the world, but if their style and personality won't work well with yours, you won't be happy partnering with them.

If you can, find out who a couple former clients are and talk to them. Current clients tend to want to sell their agent to you - as they should, because hopefully they love working with the agent and want to sing their praises. Former clients may give you more of the gritty reality, though. Find out why they are no longer working together. Learn of any issue they may have had, then take some time to decide - really decide - if those issues are something you are able to work with. What is bothersome for one person may not be an issue for you at all, but it also may be a deal breaker.

Now. All that said, sometimes you just know. Don't discount your gut feeling. Try to do due diligence and make sure you're going into a great partnership, but a lot can be said for following your instincts.

What was your method for querying? Small batches? Query widely? Wait for feedback?

My situation was a bit unique in that I never really queried. I have always been almost hesitant to share my story with other writers because it is so not the norm. I self-published my first book, having never queried it, because it felt like the right thing to do with that book. When I wrote Someone Else's Summer, I always figured I'd eventually query it, but in the end...

I'd been sitting on the book for more than a year. My fabulous critique partner kept telling me I needed to get my butt in gear and do something with it - whether that be query, or submit it to Swoon Reads, or self-publish. Just something.

I happened to be on Twitter for the first time in forever on the day Pitch Madness submissions opened, and I thought, 'Why not?' So I took five minutes to write a quick pitch, uploaded my first 250 words, and promptly forgot about it. Imagine my surprise when, not only was I selected, but I got five agent requests! My lovely agent, Liza Fleissig, has loved Someone Else’s Summer since those first 250 words.

In the end, while my story is very exciting, and I'm thrilled how well everything has turned out, it's probably not terribly helpful to other writers.

SIGN

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

I just knew, if that makes sense. Liza was super enthusiastic about my book from day one. She won the Pitch Madness round, which meant I got to send the full book to her two days before sending to anyone else. Well, she came back before that two day window was over telling me how much she was loving it, so I went ahead and sent to the other agents early to give them time with it. Sure enough, Liza offered representation the very next day.

Now, I was a good little author and did things right. I told her I needed two weeks then told the other agents that had it (there were five others who requested the full) that I needed to hear one way or another within those two weeks. I talked to a couple of Liza's other clients. And I waited - the waiting part sucked. I talked to my husband and my critique partner for what seemed like forever, weighing all the options.

One day, they both said essentially the same thing: "I think you've already made your decision, and you're just waiting because that's what you're supposed to do." And they were totally right. I knew in my gut that I wanted to sign with Liza - I'm pretty sure she loves my book even more than I do! - so I emailed the other agents to thank them for their time, and the rest is history.

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

I signed for my career. The contract, officially, is actually worded for Someone Else's Summer, but then left open-ended after that book. Much like a lease agreement where you're locked in for a year then go month-to-month, I contracted for the book but the agreement goes on after Someone Else's Summer unless one of us terminates it. It was understood from the start that the official contract being worded for the single book was just legal mumbo jumbo and that both Liza and I were in it for the long haul. I want an agent who wants to nurture my career, not just shop a single book, and Liza is thrilled to do that.

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

This varies so much for each scenario, really. Some agents are highly editorial and want to go over the book a few times before taking it to editors. And some books need that extra bit of attention before going on submission.

For me, the next step was to send Liza over a list of editors I was interested in working with, and she sent a list of editors she felt were a good fit for my book. Together, we came up with a submission plan, and went at it. It was all a whirlwind!

SUBMIT

Do you see the feedback from editors?

I did get to see all my editorial feedback. Not all agents share that - and not all writers want to see it - but Liza is very straightforward about everything. It's one of the things I love about her. So she sent along any editorial feedback we got, good and bad. I'm the kind of person who wants to know the details, but if I didn't, I could just say so and she'd only tell me the basics of who passed and who wanted to see more.

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

Absolutely! We’ve never gone terribly long without news, and Liza tends to check in just to say hi if it’s been a while, but every author should be able to check in. I mean, try not to pester and nag, but if you've not heard anything, send a quick email. You're in a partnership here; you should 100% feel comfortable asking for an update from your agent, and if you don't, that's a big red flag about your relationship.

Sometimes agents get busy, and almost all the time publishing is slow. There will be times when you don't hear anything for a decent stretch of time. But if you're curious to know what's going on, reach out and see!

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

I knew there was interest. All the editors we submitted to were very positive about the book, even when they were passing. But Liza had a feeling about Julie from the start. When we were putting the list together, she sent me a note saying, “I’d really love to send this to Julie Matysik at Running Press. I think it’s perfect for her.” I was unfamiliar with Julie, so I did a bit of searching to see what else she’d worked on, and agreed. Shortly after, Liza let me know that she was getting good feedback from Julie and that she wouldn’t be surprised to get an offer soon. It was still crazy exciting to get the official call, but I was expecting it.

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

Liza called me with the news while I was on my way to meet my sister and a friend for dinner. Nothing was official yet, so I couldn't make big announcements, but I was allowed to tell them. I get to the diner, and I figure I'm about bursting with excitement so of course they'll notice and ask why, but they don't. So I just sit all giddy-like trying not to say anything. Then the diner owner comes out and asks me if there's any news with the book. I try to play it all cool and say, "Well, since you asked...," but pretty much I just gushed everywhere. She tried to give me all kinds of desserts to celebrate, but I had just started a zero-sugar challenge, so I celebrated with a delightful bowl of cherries.

Later, it's silly, but I got a new audiobook (The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson, which is SO GOOD), got in my car, and drove into the night. It was my normal writing group night, which means my six-year-old and my husband had a planned boys' night anyway, so I took off for the evening. Me, my book, and a bit of sugar free ice cream. Because what's an impromptu road trip without snacks, and what's a better snack than ice cream? Except maybe when you're driving, but whatever. And I drove and drove and drove, through a bunch of little towns north of here, listening to the book and enjoying the evening.

The next day, we went out to dinner and had a real celebration, but that was my mini celebration.

Now, a year later, that little diner where I first shared my news is hosting my launch party.

DEBUT

Have you done any conferences, book festivals, or events as an author? What was it like?

I had planned to do several fun events (LDS Storymakers! YallWest! BookExpo!), but then instead I had a baby, so timing was super bad for all of them. Boo. :( Running Press had a fun time with my book without me at BookExpo, though!

Here in Montana, I had a super fun event for my book launch. A local hamburger joint, The Roadhouse Diner (you may have seen Tara, the owner, on Guy's Grocery Games on Food Network - she totally won!), hosted a party for me, which was a complete blast. We had burgers and talked books. The local news was there, and if you're wondering if signing books with a giant camera in your face is awkward, it is. It was so great seeing all the excitement and support from people in my hometown.

What was it like to see your cover?

Oh my gosh, so amazing. I was very nervous about this, I won't lie. I come from a self-publishing background (both with my own work and with helping others get their books out), and I'm used to having complete control over things like this. Giving away that control on something as huge as cover design was nervous making. But I totally shouldn't have worried at all. The designer, T.L. Bonaddio, nailed it on the first shot. (Well, the first shot I saw at least.) I had one tiny suggestion, and Running Press was super happy to accommodate it. I am still so ridiculously in love with the cover.

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

Enjoy it! Keep working hard to get published and reach your goals, but don't forget to slow down and really savor how amazing this all is. It's easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of promotion and all the work that always has to be done, but you only get your debut once*. Take time to soak it all in.

*I guess, technically, I got my debut twice. Once as a self-pubbed author and once traditionally publishing. The two can be SO different, though, that I still feel like a brand new baby debut with this book.

Thank you, Rachel!

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