Hello RadDom readers! Today I have my second guest of the #Amquerying series, Pitch Wars 2015 mentee Michael Mammay! For those of you who don’t know, querying is the process of procuring a literary agent and it can be equal parts soul crushing and fantastic. I am smack in the middle of my querying journey and thought it would be great to share stories from already agent-ed authors with you all. You can follow Michael on Twitter here and read below to find out how he got his agent, his advice for writers and more!
How did you prepare for querying?
I am a total data nerd, so I had a process. I got a list of all of the agents who represent adult SF from querytracker, then I put them in a spreadsheet, then I looked each agent up in Publisher’s Marketplace to see what books they’d sold, especially SF books that they sold, and to what publishers. From there I ranked them into three groups – top, second-round, and for consideration. I also ranked agents inside the same agency in order, so I could query the best fit first. After that I looked at things like MSWL, and adjusted my list based off of agents who appeared to want what I wrote (for example, my book is military sci-fi, so any agent specifically looking for that moved up on my list.)
Was the book you got your agent for the first book you wrote/queried?
No, it was my second. My first book is a fantasy that you will never see. In fact, I’m not 100% sure it even exists. Scholars have long wondered, but there is no evidence to prove it.
What was the process like for you? Can you share stats? Can you share the timeline?
My process wasn’t too typical. My book got into Pitchwars, where Dan Koboldt was my mentor (He wrote THE ROGUE RETRIEVAL ) But I didn’t get my agent via the contest, so I queried immediately after that.
I queried 32 agents.
I got 5 requests
4 of those requests got upgraded to fulls
I got 2 offers.
I started querying on the 5th of November and signed with my agent on the 2nd of March. So right about 4 months. In the end I got offers from two agents who were in my initial top 5 – so quality, not quantity for me. I signed with Lisa Rodgers of JABberwocky Literary, and I couldn’t be happier.
How did you feel during the process of querying? Anxious, stressed, cool?
Definitely something other than cool. It kind of varied from day to day, where some days I was anxious about it, some days I was a little better. So what I tried to do was on the days where I felt good, send a bunch of queries. That way they were out there, and I could just wait. And then high and low. I got a lot of rejections early, and started to wonder if maybe this wasn’t the one. My requests came mostly later in the process, and as they came I started to have a bit more hope.
How did you cope with the emotions involved with querying? Did you keep busy doing anything else?
I wrote. And I did a lot of critiques for other people. Those are the two things that I think make you a better writer – writing and reading what others write. And I was starting to move on to the next thing, in case this one hadn’t worked out, so I just wanted to get better. Plus those are just two things I love to do.
Anything unexpected about the querying process for you?
How fast it went at the end. I went more than 3 months where things were very slow. Then all hell broke loose. The first agent to offer requested a partial, then requested a full the same day, then emailed to set up a call like 2 days later. So I went from pretty much nothing to GAAAAHHH in about 72 hours. I then set a deadline for other agents to respond, and the second agent asked for a full and got back to me the next day to set up a call. It was a crazy week.
If you could give querying authors one piece of advice, what would it be?
I have two. Can I do two? I’m doing two.
- Take your time. I’ve known literally hundreds of authors who have queried. Many, many of them will tell you ‘I queried too early’ (including me with my first book.) I’ve never once heard anyone say ‘I queried too late.’ You want to query agents with the best possible book you can write. Get critiques, then revise, then get more critiques. Find critique partners who hurt your feelings. Too many people, when they send stuff for critique, want someone to tell them how good it is. NO! You want someone to tell you what’s wrong, so you can make it better. You get one chance with an agent…make it the best chance. (For more on critiques, read this awesome post from MK England )
- Find your people. All that stuff up above about CPs and Beta Readers? You can’t just do that overnight. You have to get out there and meet people, swap chapters, figure out who you work well with. Not every reader is going to work out for you, so you’ve got to keep at it. And when you find good ones, do everything in the world to keep them. It takes time, but eventually you’ll have folks. When I re-wrote my first chapter after I got into Pitchwars, I contacted four people and was like…hey…can you read this for me…and oh, by the way…I kind of need it today. They all did it. Of course they did. They’re my people.
Did other writers come into play in terms of helping to manage stress/share good or bad news/revise your query or opening pages?
Oh, hell yes. So many. First off, my brother Steve reads everything I write before anyone else gets to see it. He’s not a writer, but I know he’ll tell me the truth if it sucks. This isn’t a critique – it’s just a little mental thing for me – and he always has one or two great ideas that I incorporate. After that I had about 8 or 9 readers on this project in three or four different rounds. I have three CPs who I’ve been with since I started getting serious about writing: Red Levine, Becka Enzor, and Colleen Halverson (Her book is awesome ). And along with them I had other great readers like David Kristoph, Jess Bloczynski, and Tahani Nelson, and of course Dan Koboldt made more notes during Pitchwars. Overall I did 4 revisions, plus a 5th revision on the third act. And then while I was querying I had the group with all the Pitchwars mentees, which has been invaluable for support. Probably the coolest thing about my query experience was that Becka and I got offers at the same time, so I got to share the entire offer/call thing with a long time CP who was going through it at exactly the same time.
When did you get the call? Can you describe that day or moment for us?
Lisa emailed me to set up the call, which I set for after work. She discussed the revisions she saw for my book, which were so good that I kept interrupting her because I was excited about incorporating them. And she told me about the agency and all the awesome things about it (seriously…go look at the client list…it’s incredible.) What most impressed me is how much of a team they seem to be. Other agents read my book as well as Lisa, and one offered additional brilliant notes, one of which solved a problem I’d been trying to fix since my rough draft. It just felt like they were all on board and behind my project, and I knew that’s where I needed to be.
Describe the querying process in 3 GIFS.
Sending my first queries
Getting the email
Authors, want to be featured in the #Amquerying series?
Email me at Claribelortegaauthor@gmail.com!