I'm lucky (or cunning) enough to have lured yet another successful writer over to my blog for an SAT- Successful Author Talk. SAT authors have conquered the query, slain the synopsis and attained the pinnacle of published. How'd they do it? Let's ask 'em!
Are you a Planner or Pantster?
I’m both, or in between. I plan out with running lists or chapter titles, which I call a “Set List.” However, I don’t do too much planning. Finding out what happens next is what brings me back to every story.
How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?
This can vary dramatically. It can take two years, it can take 6 months. I typically take longer than most of my peers, from what I can tell.
Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?
I’m a multi-tasker. I’m usually working on a couple of projects; however, I tend to research for one project while drafting another. Drafting two novels at once doesn’t seem to work for me.
Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?
Not really. I’ve been writing since high school. Back then, I wrote poetry about famous athletes. Yeah, it was terrible. But I was writing and it felt good, even back then.
How many trunked books did you have before you were agented?
I self-published a book called The Color of Bones. I then found an agent with my next book, which came to be known eventually as Soar.
Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?
I have several half-baked manuscripts. I know it’s time when I stop thinking about it. That’s my writer brain telling me to move on. If a story captures me completely, you can find me walking around in a fog, which is then not good for my other professional life.
Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?
My agent is John Rudolph of DGLM. I sent a query to him for a novel called Bird Nerd. He loved it and I signed with him. We worked on the book for at least six months, then he submitted it to editors. We received two rounds of rejections. I then changed the title to Might Fly Away, right before the third and final round of submissions. I had reservations about Bird Nerd as the title, because the story was more “literary” than the title suggested. This time, the novel sold to Aladdin/S&S. Once the book sold, with the Aladdin team’s guidance, we changed the title again, this time to Soar.
How long did you query before landing your agent?
I sent over 100 queries for The Color of Bones. I had a lot of requests for my full manuscript, but no one ever wanted to represent me or that book. With Soar, I also sent at least 50 queries before an agent loved it.
Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?
Keep querying. It’s a numbers game. Liking a story, or book, is one of the most subjective ideas on the planet. There’s the premise, the writing, the characters, the setting. There are so many moving parts, readers are bound to not like something about your story. Be persistent, but always remain professional. Don’t query the same agent with the same project more than once. That’s just being unprofessional.
How did that feel, the first time you saw your book for sale?
When strangers read your book, it is just that… a strange feeling. As far as seeing your book for sale, it’s an out of body experience, one I’ll probably never get used to.
How much input do you have on cover art?
I asked my editor to not put a kid on the front cover. I’m not a fan of cartoony looking kids on covers. Now, silhouettes of kids on book covers are all the rage. I’m so happy that Brian (Biggs) and the Aladdin team created something different, a kid’s shadow, which also communicates a meaningful action.
What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?
It takes a long time. Longer than you will ever think.
How much of your own marketing do you?
When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?
You should be connecting with people professionally from day one. Don’t wait until you’re published. Entrench yourself in the writing and book communities. It will pay off when the time comes.
Do you think social media helps build your readership?
Yes. Educators and book lovers are all over social media. You just have to spend time finding them. Then once you find them, you have reach out and make connections with people. Social media connects everyone, make it work in your favor. And always say positive. If you don’t have anything positive to say, bite your tongue.