Query. Sign. Submit. Debut! with Annie Sullivan

Annie Sullivan Headhsot FINALAnnie Sullivan is a young adult author and her debut, A Touch of Gold,  is now available from Blink/HarperCollins! She is represented by Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis.

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What advice would you give to querying writers?

Do not give up. Every writer’s career timeline is different. Some writer friends who got agents after me got published before me. Others who started at the same time as me (who are AMAZING writers) are still looking for agents. So much is out of your control—market conditions, agent moods, agent clients who may have written something similar to your work. There’s no shortage of reasons why an agent will reject you. But if you stay with it and keep writing, I really think you can make it.

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

Really narrow down your list based on what you want. Is having an agent in New York important to you? Do you want an agent/agency that handles movie rights? If you want to write outside your genre, will that agent represent that (or will another agent in the agency)? Is the agent editorial? Do you share the same vision for your career? Having no agent is better than wasting time with a bad agent. Look into their sales records. However, don’t dismiss newer agents outright (assuming they are with a reputable agency) because they may have more room on their client list and may be being mentored by other big name agents in their agency.

What resources and websites did you use when querying?

I loved http://www.literaryrambles.com/. It had so many great interviews with agents, and even if that particular agent didn’t represent what I wrote, I could research the agency and see if anyone there might be interested.

How did you keep track of your queries?

I had a massive color-coded spreadsheet that kept track of every agent I sent to, when I heard back from them, and what their response was. This was instrumental in making sure I didn’t query someone twice—and when my first book didn’t get me an agent, I had all the info on hand to know about when I’d hear back from agents on my second book based on their previous response time.

I treated looking for an agent like a job, and it really helped. I highly recommend this approach.


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

While an agent probably won’t tell you everything they’d like to see revised before you go out on submission, I think it’s good to ask for general ideas of what they think you might need to revise. This way, you can see if your visions match up. It’s not going to be a good fit if they want drastic changes that you aren’t going to want to make.

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

It was crazy. I had gotten two offers and was trying to decide between agents. I was researching like mad and reaching out to clients to see what their experience was with the agents.

How editorial is your agent? Is it what you expected?

My agent is very editorial, which I like. I’m great with plot, and she’s amazing with making sure my characters really shine—so we make a great pair. Having an editorial agent makes me feel like I’m presenting my best work to editors when I go out on submission.

It is to some extent what I expected. But overall, I just love that my agent never mandates I make a certain change. She’s always open to collaborating and discussing the direction.

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

I pretty much just send her a draft when I’m done with it. Sometimes she asks me what I’m working on, but for the most part, I decide what I want to do next because I know if I’m not in the mood to write a certain story, then it won’t turn out well. I go where my imagination tells me to!


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

Always, always, always be working on the next book (unless it’s a sequel). There’s so much pressure to have a great follow up book that many writers freeze when it comes time to write their sophomore book. But, if you have something virtually ready to go by the time book 1 gets a deal, there’s a lot less pressure.

How much contact do you have with your agent when you are out on submission?

I like to know anytime we get news. My agent emails if I get a rejection and calls if I get an offer. Let’s just say I learned to hate the sound of emails coming through on my phone for a little bit there ;)

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

Hearing back from editors can seem like it takes forever. I refreshed my email so often in the days after we went on submission only to learn that it could take months to hear back from editors.

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

I knew there was interest, so it wasn’t a surprise. But I felt oddly at peace as I advanced through the process because I felt like this was finally really going to happen.


What have you learned about being a debut author?

While it’s so exciting to have a book coming out, it doesn’t change your life as drastically as you might think it will. One day you don’t have a book on shelves and the next day you do. So the best thing to do is write book 2 and keep working hard!

Is there a lot of support among debut authors?

There is so much support from fellow debuts. We all tweet about each other’s books and give each other advice. I love the community aspect of it so much because you don’t feel like you’re competing with anyone. You just feel like you’re all on this journey together.

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

I went to BookExpo and BookCon this year, and I had the time of my life!!! Since I’m a reader at heart, I was right there in line with everyone else fangirling over Rick Riordan and Marissa Meyer and so many other famous authors. Gail Carson Levine even asked me to come sit with her. I was over the moon and didn’t want to leave. Also, did I mention free books? I felt like a kid in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory!

What was it like to see your cover?

I nearly cried when I saw it! I love the gold coming down from the top, and the gold hand holding the rose really just highlights the story well.

Thank you, Annie!

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