Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Guest Post: Frankie Diane & The Art of Query Wars

Do you guys know Frankie Diane Mallis from Frankie Writes? Head over there if you don't!

She got an agent in April for her book STOLEN, which she describes as a contemporary YA fantasy full of forbidden love, hot kisses, demon butt-kicking, betrayals, angst, mystery and magic, and the occasional face punch. She had me at hot kisses--LOL!

I was so excited when Christina asked me to guest blog and share my agent story with you all. Thanks for having me and I hope you find my story helpful and inspiring!

The Art of Query Wars

I signed with my dream agent, Laura Rennert of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, lovingly known as Agent Laura on my blog in April. Laura had basically everything I wanted in an agent, a good track record, a list of clients I LOVED, an organized way of working, she was super easy to talk to and develop rapport with, but most importantly....she got my story. While other agents loved my book, Laura was the first one to say that the core of my story inspired her. When she told me that, I knew she got was I was trying to achieve and so far, working with her and the rest of the agency has been a dream.

Here's how my dream was achieved...

I approached querying like a war (which is funny because I'm normally so peaceful). But anyway, querying to me was like gearing up for battle, and all good warriors know that you need three things to win:

1) Training

2) Weapons

3) Battle Plan


I know some people write their first book and start querying right away and sometimes they sign on with someone immediately and sometimes...it takes a few years.

I was not one of those people. I was the sort of person who waited...and waited...and waited...

I'm not sure what it was, but I always had a kind of intuitive sense about my writing--basically that it wasn't ready for anyone to see until this year. I knew from the start that I wanted to kick butt in the query wars, so I was very patient with myself, writing and rewriting, reading books in my genre, reading books on the craft, taking workshops and classes on query writing, joining SCBWI, forming a critique group, studying writing in my masters program, writing and rewriting some more, and...more writing.

Oh and let's not forget revising.

When I finally had my story the way I wanted it, and I'd revised the crap out of it and had it read by beta readers and gamma readers and delta readers...not to mention the ending was making me cry, I knew I was ready and it was time to gather my weapons.


The biggest weapon in your querying arsenal is always going to be your manuscript--awesome, shiny and polished to perfection--don't lose sight of this. You can write the most kick butt query letter in the world, you can have the world's most successful blog, you can be married to your dream agent's brother...

But if your story isn't ready for publication, none of that counts.

So once your manuscript is ready to go, you need a query letter--an intro to your book and yourself. My query training came from taking a query workshop with Janet Reid (Suzie Townsend and Joanna Volpe were also there) and an online query class with C.J. Redwine which was fantastic. I worked my butt off on my query letter, revising it over and over and over again until it was perfect.

Other weapons I used in battle were:

My blogs: Frankie Writes has been live since 2008 and First Novels Club has been live since 2009 (these weren't such big weapons, but were still nice to include in my bio and helped me connect to other writers in the training process)

Conferences: Several of the agents who ended up requesting my full and/or offering representation I had met at conferences and networking events--so I always made sure to remind them of who I was in my query so they could put a face to my letter. (Meeting agents at conferences doesn't guarantee you representation, but it does help you get noticed in the slush pile and get a quick response--at least this was my experience).

So if you've perfected your craft, perfected your story, spent several sleepless nights agonizing over your query letter (plus acquired any other weapons you plan to use--blogs, referrals, publication list) you're ready to create your battle plan.

Battle Plan:

OK, so here's the good stuff.

I queried a total of 16 agents. Every single agent on the list was there for a combination of the following reasons:

1) They represented books similar to mine, or had expressed an interest in representing books like mine (you can learn what agents are looking for--or what their wish lists are--by attending conferences, following agent blogs and stalking agents on twitter).

2) They represented books that I liked and authors that I respected (when my full was requested by the agent who represents my favorite author, I think everyone thought I was having a heart attack--but in retrospect I shouldn't have been surprised since we have a similar style).

3) I got along with the agent in person and/or I got along with their clients or thought we'd mesh based on online contact. Agent Laura also represents Jay Asher and Maggie Stiefvater--2 authors I not only love, but also have hung out with in person. I knew if I got along with Maggie and Jay and they got along with Laura, it was pretty likely I'd get along with Laura too.

I can't stress enough how important the above combination is. Out of the 16 there was only one agent I queried on a whim--and they were the only one to not respond to me. Everyone else replied anywhere from within 5 minutes to 2 weeks tops.

I started out with just 7 queries in the world, and every time I got a response from an agent whether it was good or bad, I would query another. INTERESTING! In the end of I queried for 30 days, 16 agents, with 8 full requests and 3 offers of representation. UM, Frankie that was so quick I don't think you had time to blink! Seriously!


Yeah, querying was stressful, but it was also mostly fun and exciting--and I think I felt that way because I was prepared.

If I'd stress anything about the querying process, its this--don't be afraid of querying, don't be afraid of agents--be prepared to meet them head on in battle. You'll get what you put into the process and when you're prepared for battle, you're far more likely to walk away from the field as a victor.

Good luck to any warriors about to enter the trenches of query wars!


Wow, her story was so different than Rachele's story from last month. I guess it shows how very different everyone's journey is.



Unknown said...

Can I just say you two rock!!! Thank you so much Frankie for sharing your fabulous story with us. I like your outlook on things, and though I'm still a ways away from the process this will be one guest post I'll remember.

I'm revisions right now and I can relate it to the same way. You know when something works and when it doesn't. For the first time I'm having fun with revisions and it's because I was ready. I think the same will go for when I query as well, and I loved your insight!

Congratulations on snagging a fabulous agent!

Frankie Diane Mallis said...

Thanks for having me, Christina!

Maddy said...

Wow! Thank you for sharing your jouney with us! That's amazing and so inspirational. I think a lot of people (no matter what your "dream" may be) think that your dream opportunity is just going to land on your lap. It takes a lot of hardwork, research, planning and preparation...as you outlined in this post! Glad you were able to find your dream agent and one step closert to living out your dream :)

S.A. Larsenッ said...

Frankie, thanks so much for this post. You've broken it down, making it seem less scary. Where did you find that online query workshop? I live in the sticks, where people pretty much don't exist. I've been looking for something like that.

Laura S. said...

Awesome! I love hearing about other writers' journies to their agent. It's encouraging to know there's no "right" way, that every path is unique!

JEM said...

Great post! I think the best part about this post is the message to BE PREPARED. Like Scar in the Lion King, only without the murdering. And I love the part about her ending making her cry: it's good to remember that your story needs to excite YOU, TOO. Thanks, Frankie and Christina!

Frankie Diane Mallis said...

Salarsen, then online workshop is run by CJ Redwine--here's the link to her workshop site--def recommend!!!


Glad you guys are enjoying the post!

Matthew MacNish said...

Frankie is so cool! Thanks for sharing her BATTLEPLAN on here Christina.

Tina L. Hook said...

Very cool. I will most def check out that workshop.

Anonymous said...

Great advice about the query. Having done this torture query thing a lot (sucessful and non), writers are lucky to have your ideas.

Tahereh said...

wow what a terrific post. thanks so much for taking the time to share!!

and a huge thanks to christina for hosting!!

Lydia Kang said...

Great advice. Thanks to both of you for posting this!

Melissa B. said...

So interesting! And Bravo! to those of you who have the patience and the ability to write a book, much less market it. Some day...I keep telling myself...some day...

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Frankie, that was awesome! I love the way you took us through, step-by-step, providing strategies along the way - so helpful! I am thrilled for your success, but it clearly wasn't accidental or shear luck. You EARNED it, girl! :-)

Susan Fields said...

Thank you to Frankie and Christina for this awesome post! I love Frankie's battle plan. :)

Frankie Diane Mallis said...

Yay, Im so glad you guys enjoyed the post--I had a lot of fun writing it. Thanks again, Christina!