Since Ms. Akins signed with Ms. Marini through a slightly less-than-normal route, I’m not going to post her query at the top of the interview. However, she did enter a round of “An Agent’s Inbox” last fall, so if you’d like to find out more about her novel, feel free to check out her entry.
As usual, Ms. Akins’s answers will appear in orange and Ms. Marini’s in blue.
KV: Ms. Akins, how did you first come up with the idea for
KA: Sigh. It came from a dream. Hubbykins was playing some Death Action Call of War Something video game with all sorts of futuristic weapons and grappling hooks. That night, I had a vivid, action-packed dream with a romantic plot twist. (I actually remember gasping in my dream. lol) I woke up and refused to get out of bed until I'd scribbled a page of notes. The story ended up being nothing like my dream, but the plot twist remains.
This is the blurb from PM:
“Karen Akins's LOOP, in which a time traveler accidentally brings a boy from the past into the 23rd century, only to discover he's already in love with her future self and is keeping his own set of secrets, pitched as HEIST SOCIETY meets BACK TO THE FUTURE, to Terra Layton at St. Martin's, in a two-book deal, by Victoria Marini at Gelfman Schneider (world).”
KV: Tell us a little bit about your querying experience. How many queries did you send? Did you send them in batches or all at once? Did you ever pull back and revise your query and/or your manuscript, and if so, why did you decide to do that?
KA: My experience would fall in the "do as I say, not as I did" category. I queried too soon--all no's--but thankfully, it was a small batch.
I stuck with querying in small batches. My goal was to have eight to ten active queries at any given point. And, actually, I rewrote my query yet again after the first batch because it still wasn't as clear as it needed to be. So the first ten queries, I didn't get any requests. After I rewrote it (with a lot of help from Elana Johnson's e-book From The Query To The Call), I had a 50% request rate, and those requests resulted in a R&R and two of my agent offers.
KV: How did Ms. Marini come to request your manuscript?
KA: She bid on it in the Baker's Dozen Auction. She didn't win it, but afterwards, she asked for the full.
KV: Ms. Marini, when you saw Ms. Akins's entry in the Baker’s Dozen Agent Auction, what caught your attention?
KV: Obviously, the manuscript met--or exceeded--your expectations. What did you love about
VM: Definitely the “voice.” I’m sure you’ve heard agents and editors talk about voice, and the impossible-to-pin-down qualities that make a voice successful.
KV: How quickly did you read Ms. Akins’s manuscript? Is that pretty typical of your response times on requested material, or do those vary?
VM: I can’t quite recall, but I think it was about three weeks. I read and responded to LOOP faster than I usually do because it had other offers of representation so Karen needed to make a decision by a certain date. It was exciting!
My response times vary depending on general work load, the number of manuscripts, the types of manuscripts, etc. I like to say it takes me about a month or so, but I suspect six weeks is a more accurate average, especially lately.
KV: Ms. Akins, now that you’ve reached the querying finish line, what do you wish you had known when you were back at the start gate?
KA: That the finish line is another start gate. Oh, and I'd go back and slap myself every time I had the thought, "Once I have an agent, I'll never have to write a query letter ever again!" So not true. I'm working on a new story, and while I was on sub, several of the editors wanted to hear more about it. The only difference was I had an afternoon to write and polish what amounted to a query letter rather than weeks. But I actually like this "query" even more than
KV: Ms. Marini, what querying tips do you have?
VM: The same tips I think any agent has: do your research. Don’t query a book that isn’t ready. Don’t spend your query telling me about the market, yourself, etc… Just tell me about your book.
KV: Any last words of advice or encouragement you’d like to share with us?
VM: Make an effort to stay positive, truly! Rejection is a part of this business (it’s most of this business for an aspiring author). You may see other people succeed where you believe you have failed; you may wonder whether you’re good enough. You’ll become discouraged. Practice resilience, patience, and generosity of spirit. Practice being happy for others. Keep going. And going.
KA: (Do you see why I love my agent?)
Okay, words of advice: Acquire critique partners whose feedback you have to take a deep, strengthening breath before reading. It's great to have some cheer-readers who love, love, love all your characters and draw kissy hearts all over your manuscript because, yes, they're encouraging. And the stuff they pick out that needs improvement probably *really* needs improvement. But they won't get you an agent.
And words of encouragement: Celebrate every victory along the way. Preferably with chocolate.
Thanks, Ms. Akins and Ms. Marini, for answering my questions. (I, too, loved Ms. Marini's advice, especially the part about practicing being happy for others. You'd be surprised how far a little of that practice will go...) And congratulations on the sale! Can't wait to get my hands on a copy of LOOP!