Hello nerds! Today I have my third guest of the #Amquerying series, the very ass-kicky Michelle Hazen! 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. Michelle will be an adult/new adult mentor in this year’s PITCH WARS so look out for her if you’re hoping to enter! You can follow Michelle on Twitter here and read below to find out how she got her agent, the deal with her science-tortoises and more!
How did you prepare for querying? Did you use query tracker or any similar tools?
For the first book I queried, my only resource was an outdated Writer’s Market that I got from the library. For the second book I queried, I researched more widely on the internet at large. For the third book I queried, I joined Twitter, and suddenly the world exploded into a fountain of publishing information and contests, and I learned REALLY fast how many things I was doing wrong.
Writers? I hate social media, too. I’ve spent most of my adult life in the internet-less wilderness and most people’s great-grandparents got a smartphone before I did. But if you want to be an author, repeat after me…Just. Join. Twitter.
Was the book you got your agent for the first book you wrote/queried?
Nope. I wrote 13 and queried 3 before I landed an agent.
I know you have a background in fan fic writing, can you tell me about that? Did it affect your querying process at all or help you stand out to agents?
Fanfiction helped me learn to write, and it gave me a chance to connect with readers and know how heart-swellingly awesome that could be, which helped me through the heartbreak of the querying process. However, I’m an odd fanfic writer in that Amazon Kindle Worlds gave me an opportunity to legally publish my fanfic and share my royalties with the copyright holder. So I had some publishing credits, sales numbers, and marketing experience in my back pocket before I started shopping my original fiction around.
What was the process like for you? Can you share stats? If not, can you tell us a timeline of how long it took for you to get your agent?
I queried my first book in 2005, to somewhat less than trumpeting fanfare because I was making a lot of noob mistakes I didn’t realize were mistakes. I queried Book 2 for several months in 2014, and I meant to write its sequel but instead I guiltily wrote this other book that was jockeying for my attention. I hadn’t exhausted my options for Book 2 yet, but I was SO excited about Book 3, so I started querying it and entering it in contests. Right away, it got more requests than I was used to, and I had my offer in hand within 6 weeks of sending my first query.
How did you balance querying with your other activities? I know you climb rocks and work with large tortoises for science.
Small tortoises, actually. For science. LOL! I have a load of hobbies, and I’ve never gotten super good at any of them because I have so many…and then writing came along and ate my life. It’s even harder to keep up with all my other interests now because I devote an incredible amount of time to writing. But I find that one of the kindest things I can do for myself during either the querying process or the being on submission to publishers process is to GET AWAY FROM THE INTERNET.
I just got back from a week long, girls-only rock climbing trip, and seriously, it is so wonderful to not be thinking about if you have writing news or if you don’t have news, and why you don’t have news, and if you don’t have news because maybe you’re a terrible fraud and a hack and should maybe drown yourself in Cheez Whiz and White Out. Plus, if you go to the wilderness, not only do you get away from the refresh button (irony), but you remember that you have a whole life and a lot of talents that aren’t at all connected to writing. So maybe when you get that next rejection letter, you’ll remember there are parts of you the publishing industry is not even ALLOWED to pass judgment on. That can feel really good—almost like being a stable, well-balanced person. Almost.
How did you feel during the process of querying? Anxious, stressed, cool?
Oh, super cool. I was fine, thanks, totally expected rejection, was super zen, practically spouting green tea from my ears and thoughtfully pruning bonsai trees with machetes to pass the time. Ha freaking ha.
No, honestly through most of the querying process, I was teeth bared, JUST TRY AND STOP ME I WILL WRITE BOOKS UNTIL YOU ARE BURIED IN BOOKS AND THE WORLD RUNS OUT OF PAPER FOR YOU TO WRITE REJECTION LETTERS ON. My life story is a long list of pulling off crazy, unlikely shit because I was too stupid to give up. Writing is sort of perfect for me.
How did you cope with the emotions involved with querying? Did you keep busy doing anything else?
Yes. See Number 5: Backing Away From the Internet.
Anything unexpected about the querying process for you?
I didn’t expect it to end so soon! LOL. Honestly, there are so many blow-your-mind talented authors in the querying trenches, some of whom I’ve seen get agents lately and some of whom are still looking, and I sort of expected to be the one who had to query 20 books over a period of 35 years while selling baskets on eBay woven of my graying hair and lined with the tear-moistened paper of rejection letters.
But I suppose in another way, the querying process is never over. You have to land a book deal for each book you write, even after you get an agent, so the process continues: you just happen to have the support of a seasoned industry professional who deeply and truly believes in you. Which, I’m not going to lie, is awesome.
If you could give querying authors one piece of advice what would it be?
RESEARCH! I mean, as an ex-counselor, maybe I should be giving you some emotional management tips, but really, you wouldn’t need nearly as many of those if you would RESEARCH. If you’ve never had anyone read and give you feedback on your work, stop querying right now. If you haven’t done dozens of hours of research on querying and what agents are looking for and what the most common errors in querying are…stop querying right now and start researching. I’ve seen too many really promising books burn all their agent chances because they were making some small, fixable errors. Don’t do this.
The piece of advice I usually give querying authors is this website:
Did other writers come into play in terms of helping to manage stress/share good or bad news/revise your query or opening pages?
When I was writing fanfiction, I found a really talented author and basically bullied her into being my critique partner. She’s helped me with every line I’ve written and every day I have dragged myself through ever since. I hit the jackpot with her, and then spent YEARS testing out other CPs and beta readers. I now have a great group of beta readers and two flat-out amazing CPs who are a huge support to me in my writing and personal life. Those girls are funny, sweet, crazy talented, and they know when to kick my ass and when to send me Texas coffee or tree air fresheners.
I think you really need writing friends, because the world at large doesn’t understand the agonies and ecstasies of the publishing industry, and you need people who GET what you’re going through. Plus, their good news is just as exciting to me as my good news, so really it’s like you multiply the amount of good news you get, and that’s badass.
When did you get the call? Can you describe that day or moment for us?
I was in New Orleans, eating bbq while a construction crew jackhammered the sidewalk next to us. When I saw the email from my future agent wanting to schedule a call, I froze. I wasn’t sure if I couldn’t think because of the freaking jackhammer, or maybe because my entire life had changed.
Describe the querying process in 3 gifs.
Tell us a little about your upcoming book/what’s next for you.
Right now, my agent is shopping around a NA rocker romance series, I’ve just written a Thing that no one can pin a genre on that shows an interracial couple’s journey through trauma and love mirrored in the city of New Orleans. And I’m about to start a romantic suspense series about female Spec Ops soldiers. Can’t wait for that one!
Michelle Hazen is a nomad with a writing problem.
Years ago, she and her husband ducked out of the 9 to 5 world and moved into their truck. She found her voice with the support of the online fanfiction community, and once she started typing, she never looked back. She wrote most of her books in odd places, including a bus in Thailand, an off-the-grid cabin in the Sawtooth Mountains, a golf cart in a sandstorm, a rental car during a heat wave in the Mohave Desert and a beach in Honduras. Even when she’s climbing rocks, riding horses, or getting lost someplace wild and beautiful, there are stories spooling out inside her head, until she finally heeds their call and returns to her laptop and solar panels.
Michelle was awarded first place in the 2015 NTRWA Great Expectations Contest, New Adult genre. Her work is represented by Naomi Davis of Inklings Literary. Michelle is the Amazon bestselling author of Kindle Worlds titles: the Desperate Love Trilogy, the In Time We Trust Trilogy, Happily Ever After: Salvatore Style, and Sanguine Veritas. Find her on Facebook or Goodreads as Michelle Hazen, or follow her on Twitter @michellehazen.
Official site: http://michellehazenbooks.com/