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I’m going to be a Pitch Wars mentor!

i'm a pitch wars mentor!

I’m so stoked to finally announce that I’m going to be a 2018 Pitch Wars mentor! I’m co-mentoring with my friend R.F. Kuang (you might know her as the author of The Poppy War).

The most I’m allowed to say right now is that we’ll be mentoring Adult fiction, and that we are both super super excited about reading all the submissions that’ll be in our inbox soon!

An update from the festival trenches: YALLWest and BookCon!

I’ve now been to two (!!) bookish festivals and conventions, and honestly, the experience was amazing.

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First up was YALLWest, hosted in Santa Monica, California. YALLWest is a one-day event, and it was wild. The weather was desperately hot, but there were plenty of food trucks with cold bubble tea and fancy grilled cheese to tide one over.

The ARC lines were crazy long, but I managed to snag a few, including THE CHEERLEADERS by Kara Thomas (which was amazing, by the way, and you can find it on Goodreads here). I’d been to visit my agents Holly and Taylor the previous week, and they’d also hooked me up with badass ARCs like CITY OF GHOSTS by Victoria Schwab and THIS SPLINTERED SILENCE by Kayla Olson. I highly suggest preordering these, too. City of Ghosts is a dark middle grade about a girl who can see ghosts and her spectral best friend, and This Splintered Silence is a fast-paced, lyrically-written space suspense.

I actually ran into Kayla at the festival. We’re agent sisters, and stuck together for a while wandering the stalls and picking up new books, fun book sleeves by Book Beau, and making sure we had plenty of A+ instagram moments. We found our other agent sister Rachel Hawkins promoting her new book, ROYALS, and managed to get this badass Root Lit group photo:

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There were a couple writer parties we went to, as well, which were super fun. I spent some time hanging out with Twitter friends (and fellow #novel19s), but also met a bunch of new and incredibly interesting people who had great things to say about the industry and process in general. Honestly, that was my favorite part of both YALLWest and BookCon–the people!

…well. And this matcha passionfruit donut:

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BookCon was a whole different beast.

BookCon is a reader-focused spinoff of BEA (BookExpo America), and it was VERY CROWDED. Think Comic Con for books. I signed up for four autographing sessions and went to precisely zero of them. I did catch a few panels, though–like this one worldbuilding panel with Renée Ahdieh, Sabaa Tahir, Scott Westerfeld, Leigh Bardugo, and Marie Lu, in which I actually (!) took notes.

Seriously, though, I can’t even tell you how many ARC lines I stood in only to get to the front and realize the person right before me took the very last book.

I did manage to snag CAMPFIRE by Shawn Sarles though! I’m really excited. I love horror. So.

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I was lucky enough to run into several of my agent siblings at BookCon. I got dinner with Marisa Kanter and Natasha Ngan (whose book GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE is coming out this fall–check it out!), who share Taylor as an agent. I also briefly chatted with V.E./Victoria Schwab, who is a Holly agent sister. Ash Poston (HEART OF IRON, GEEKERELLA), also a Holly client, met up with me and we ended up going to dinner with Kaitlyn Sage Patterson (THE DIMINISHED), where we talked about the industry but also about living as an immigrant/expat abroad and being from the US South and creation myths. (Listen. You had to be there. It was great.)

…Seriously. Holly and Taylor have a well-refined affinity for knowing which of their clients are going to get on like houses. Although I’m starting to suspect all their clients are just amazing people.

Speaking of Holly and Taylor, I got to meet up with them both at a party hosted by my publisher on Thursday, during BEA (which I didn’t attend, except for the parties, haha). I honestly felt very adrift in this massive crowded industry party on the roof of this fancy Times Square hotel before H & T showed up as familiar faces.

The venue was freaking gorgeous, though. They had these market lights strung up over the patio, and you were surrounded by skyscrapers so high you couldn’t see their peaks for the fog. And the drinks were….yea. They were good.

I had the privilege of meeting my editor, Jason, and some other people from the Skyscape team. It was great to finally put faces to names…although since I’m faceblind, I hope they forgive me if I ever run into them in some other context and don’t recognize them. (This goes for everyone I met at BookCon or YALLWest actually. I’m sorry in advance!!)

Finally, the Novel Nineteens (2019 YA debut authors) met up for lunch on Sunday, and we managed to take this weirdly-imbalanced but still-good photo together:

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And…that’s it!

It was a great experience overall, for both cons, and I can’t wait to attend next year…this time, with a published book.

Good news – THE FEVER KING is going to be published!

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I’m so thrilled to announce that THE FEVER KING–the book of my dark, twisted little heart–is going to be published by Skyscape in Spring 2019!

After over two years of writing, rewriting, and revising this book with the help of CPs, Pitch Wars, and my wonderful agents, I’m delighted to have the opportunity to introduce the world to these characters and their story.

THE FEVER KING will appeal to you if you like:

  • Antiheroes
  • Moral ambiguity
  • Revolutionaries
  • Enemies-to-lovers

I’m also really excited about the fact that all three of the main characters in this book are Jewish. I’ve been missing good Jewish rep in fantasy…so I wrote it!

THE FEVER KING is already up on Goodreads. You can add it to your to-read list here!

Querying Resources: Questions to ask an agent on a call

Congrats, you got The Call!

This is a very exciting time, and you should be extremely proud of what you’ve accomplished in even getting to this point. You wrote a book! That another human loves! Enough to read it fifty zillion more times and try to sell it! Yay!

But, okay, now what?

Lucky for you, with the help of my friend and fellow PitchWars mentee Ian Barnes, I’ve managed to accrue quite the list of questions to ask agents on an offer call. You may find agents answer these spontaneously, without being asked, while they’re telling you what they love about your book and what they’d want to change about it, so these are just guidelines more than a script.

It’s also worth saying that I’ve referred back to the notes I made on these questions from my call with my current agents at least ten times since I signed with them. It’s super helpful when you’re, for example, mired in the pit of revisions and want to remind yourself that there are nice things about your book, to go back and reread what your agents said in response to the first question.

Here we go:

 

What about my book did you respond to?

Do you have editorial feedback?

What’s your editorial style?

How many clients do you have? (If new: How many clients would you like to have?)

Are you interested in representing only this book or all future books? Career or just this project? Prom date vs partner?

Author brand support beyond this book/series? How many books a year?

What sort of timeline do you envision for this book if I sign with you? Edits first? When would you want them by? When would we go on sub? How involved in the planning/drafting stage do you want to be?

What’s your submission plan? Small rounds? Big? How many?

Do you keep your authors informed about sub? Rejections, offers, who submitted to, etc.?

Where do you think my book fits in the market? How would you pitch it?

After a book sells, how actively involved do you stay in consulting on the publication process?

What if the book doesn’t sell? Or series doesn’t do well?

How do you handle idea generation? Do you want your authors to pitch ideas to you and you vet them? What if you don’t like my next idea? What if another client and I approached you with a similar idea?

What’s your preferred method of communication? Typical response time? Turnover rate on reviewing manuscripts? How often do you want authors to check in with you, and how?

Favorite recent non-client [category/genre] books?

How do you handle foreign rights? Film?

Do you work with a publicist? Do you do any publicity yourself?

Agency agreement: Can I see a copy prior to deciding? Is it per book or client? Would I be signing with the agency or with you? (i.e., if you change agencies, do I go with you?)

What kind of support staff do you have?

How does your agency support the client?

Can I speak to one or two of your clients about their experiences working with you?

(Ideally, someone who has sold and someone who hasn’t yet.)

Average duration of contract negotiation when selling a book?

Do you make any decisions on behalf of the author when evaluating offers from publishers? Will I have the opportunity to review any publishing contract before I sign? And would you or someone at your agency be able to walk me through any of the clauses I might not understand?

(Answers should be no/yes/yes)

If, down the line, you leave your agency for another, what happens to your clients? Do they come with you too or stay?

Do you audit royalty statements?

(Answer should be yes.)

Do you bill me for any submission supplies or costs? Do you take standard 15% commission?

BONUS ROUND

What % of your clients make their living solely from writing?

Why should I sign with you as opposed to another agent?

Querying a complicated book: Dissecting the elephant

Hey guys! I’ve been busy getting back into the grad school semester and moving into my new house (!!!) so this post got delayed quite a bit. But I’m desperate to procrastinate on data analysis, so here we are, at long last.

As promised, in this post I’m going to go through my successful query letter line by line and talk about why it worked. But before I get into that, I want to talk more broadly about what you’re trying to achieve with your query, the basic guidelines for what needs to be in there, and some faux pas to avoid.

This post will be particularly helpful for you if you’ve ever said anything like, “I don’t know how to write a query for this book, it’s too complicated.”

NOPE. WRONG. No book is too complicated to query. Trust.

THE FEVER KING is complicated. It’s a character-driven literary fantasy, with a couple subplots that tie in so closely to the main plot that they were impossible to leave out of any summary. Plus, I had to take care to make sure my setting didn’t come across as too dystopian (the book is not, in fact, dystopian, but it’s hard for it not to sound that way in limited space), and to tease out what made my magic system and the magic-training-program elements of TFK fresh. Cause I mean. We’ve all read about viral magic and magic schools before. What made my book different? That was something I had to bring out in the query.

I got my agents through cold querying with this query. This query also had a near-perfect full request rate. That’s a little unusual, and is likely in part because I had a line about being in Pitch Wars in my query, and also because I got a fast offer and nudged people who hadn’t responded yet. So keep that in mind.

What is a query supposed to do? 

Put simply, a query is supposed to get an agent to read your pages. That’s it.

Forget gimmicks and fancy conceits–you just need to convince an agent that you have a good story, and you can tell it well. Well enough for them to spend five to thirty minutes reading your attached material, anyway. (nb: Some agents request you don’t send any attached material, actually–so for these people, you’re trying to convince them to request a partial or a full, not just read your pages. But no pressure.)

This means making sure your query shows that you’ve got the following:

An interesting character in an interesting world with an interesting problem.

If you’re writing contemp, replace ‘interesting world’ with ‘interesting setting,’ but the point is still the same. (You’ll also notice these are the same ingredients that I previously said are super important for your first pages.)

Why are these important? Well, that’s a longer post for another day, but in brief:

Continue reading “Querying a complicated book: Dissecting the elephant”