Friday, January 6, 2012

Agent-Author Chat: Tricia Lawrence and Adam Heine

Today’s interview features an awesome agent-author duo, Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy Literary Agency and one of her newest clients, Adam Heine. Ms. Lawrence and Mr. Heine came to work together in a slightly unorthodox way (which you can read about below), so instead of focusing on his query letter, we’re going to hear a little more about Mr. Heine’s overall querying experience--and how Ms. Lawrence came to be a part of it.

BUT if you’d like to check it out, you can find Mr. Heine's query on Matthew MacNish’s helpful and informative blog, The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment. (And guys, it’s a good query. You’ll want to check it out.)

All right, back to the interview! Mr. Heine’s answers will appear in orange and Ms. Lawrence’s in blue.

KV: Mr. Heine, how did you first come up with the idea for AIR PIRATES?

AH: The world was a conglomeration of a bunch of things. I wanted airships, like Miyazaki's CASTLE IN THE SKY. I wanted cool characters with dark pasts, like COWBOY BEBOP (this is all anime, if you're not tracking yet). I wanted pirates like, well, Disney's PIRATES.

But my viewpoint character, for whom the world of airships and pirates was brand new, became this cowardly bookworm who believed he wasn't good at anything and never would be--everything I was as a teenager. And I realized I wanted to take him on the same journey I took to learn that he can be good at anything if he really wants to (though his journey involves a lot more sword fights and explosions than mine did).

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?

AH: So I originally wrote and queried AIR PIRATES as an adult novel then, after about 50 rejections there, revised it as YA. There are a LOT more YA agents than adult SF/F, and I knew very little about most of them, so I ended up sending out 140 more queries (do I wish I had sent fewer? Oh, yes). I most definitely sent them in batches.

I tweaked the query occasionally (like if I got feedback from, say, an Agent's Inbox contest), but for the most part I made sure my query was as good as I could make it even before I queried the adult version. I'd already made the mistake with my first (trunked) novel of sending a lame query to my top agents. I wasn't about to do that again.

KV: How did you learn about Ms. Lawrence?

AH: About four days before she offered representation ;-) I first heard about Tricia when Ammi-Joan Paquette, whom I actually queried, passed on my manuscript but said the newest agent at her agency might be interested.

As it turns out, I couldn't have queried Tricia even if I wanted to. For one, Erin Murphy Literary doesn't accept unsolicited queries (Ammi-Joan contacted me after reading my entry in one of Nathan Bransford's contests), but more than that, Tricia wasn't an agent until after I'd sent out my last query letter.

KV: Ms. Lawrence, when you received the referral for Mr. Heine's manuscript, what caught your attention?

TL: Ammi-Joan Paquette, my fellow agent, forwarded me Adam's query and manuscript and told me that she was so, so, so, so close, but it wasn't quite for her and would I be interested in taking a look. I took a look and was immediately intrigued. The first chapter alone makes you want to know what in heck is going on in this story. Joan also sent it to my boss, Erin Murphy, who immediately said that she would definitely take a look after me, if I decided to pass (yes, I got first dibs! and I'm so happy!). So, what got my attention? An excellent referral, and a fantastic first chapter.

KV: Obviously, the manuscript met--or exceeded--your expectations. What did you love about AIR PIRATES?

TL: I loved that I cared immediately for the main characters and that the writing gave me perfect details--just enough to get me to read, but not so many that I didn't have to use my own brain to imagine it in my head. Plus, I loved the idea of air pirates. Who wouldn't? And in Adam's version, we've got Jack Sparrow and Malcolm Reynolds and Gandalf the White all wrapped up together in a bow.

KV: How quickly did you read Mr. Heine’s manuscript? Is that pretty typical of your response times on requested material, or do those vary?

TL: I read very quickly (within two or three weeks) and that is not typical at all. Our typical response times on requested full manuscripts is about four months, but I am attempting to improve on that. We're always attempting to improve response times; it's our constant resolution, New Year's or not. Agents and editors are deluged; that's just the plain truth.

KV: Mr. Heine, now that you’ve reached the querying finish line, what do you wish you had known when you were back at the start gate?

AH: I wish I'd known the third query I sent out would be the one ;-)

Seriously, I wish I could've been smarter about who I queried. For a lot of agents, there's only so much information out there, and I didn't want to limit my options by not querying someone, but if I could do it again, I'd make a short list (you know, like less than a 100) of agents I actually wanted instead of querying everyone under the sun. (Then again, I don't think I could've made that list until now, so I don't know what to tell you).

KV: Ms. Lawrence, what querying tips do you have?

TL: A query should interest me so that I ask for more material. Your promotional plans and your previously published work doesn't really matter until I've seen your writing. Show your stuff in a query; write what you think should go on a book jacket if your book was on shelves, or what Amazon gives as the blurb when they are selling your book. Interest one person and you just may interest a wider audience!

KV: Any last words of advice or encouragement you’d like to share with us?

AH: Don't let rejections discourage you for more than a day (for easy ones) or maybe a week (for hard ones). The pain does go away, and you can use it as motivation to do better next time.

TL: If this is your dream, do everything you can to get it. Read, read, read. Study, study, study. Practice, practice, practice. Submit, submit, submit. Don't give up. Dig deep!

And there you have it! Thank you, Ms. Lawrence and Mr. Heine, for sharing your insights and experience with us. You’ve given us a lot to think about.

I’m sure all you YA and MG writers wish you could query Ms. Lawrence, so take a nod from Mr. Heine: Participate in the online writing community. Share tiny pieces of your work through contests and other forums. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll get a bite.

Have a great weekend, all!


Siv Maria said...

Very good interview! Came over here from Matts place to snoop around and like what I see. Nice to meet you :)

Matthew MacNish said...

What fun! Such an excellent glimpse into the process. Knowing Adam, I will completely agree that one of his biggest (writing) strengths is knowing just how much to say. He can convey so much in so few words.

Congrats, again, my friend.

And thanks, Krista, and Tricia, too!

Escape Artist said...

Wow! I can't get over the 140 queries! Gosh, I've got a such a very, very short list. I might have to bump it up a bit!
I know what you mean about the importance of tweaking and sending in batches. Can't recommend that enough!
Congratulations and all the very best.
Happy new year everyone!

Kelley said...

Great Interview! Thanks so much!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Wonderful interview! They sound like a great team. :)

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

Great interview! How exciting for both parties!

Janet Johnson said...

I love hearing these stories. Thanks so much for sharing!

Adam Heine said...

Thanks for the opportunity to do this, Krista.

And, Escape Artist, don't bump it up too much. If you know your agents, and you're confident in your query, a short list is probably a very good thing :-)

Kelly Bryson said...

140 Great interview and thanks Adam and Tricia for sharing.

That story sounds great- I'll be watching for it!

Myrna Foster said...

Thanks for this interview! I can't wait for Adam's story to sell and hit the bookshelves. His characters are fantastic.

Becky Lees said...

Great interview. Love hearing these stories and I can't wait to see your book on the shelves Adam!

Krista V. said...

Nice to meet you, too, Siv Maria! Welcome!

Matthew, I like these behind-the-scenes glimpses, too.

Linda, Adam's story does illustrate a good point: Most writers probably give up too soon on their manuscripts. By the time you've sent out 20 or 30 queries, you've only scratched the surface.

You're welcome, Kelley! Thanks for stopping by.

I thought so, too, Susan:)

Sarah, these interviews give me hope that maybe, just maybe, I'll manage to find an agent, too.

You're welcome, Janet! I love hearing them, too. (I especially love hearing what the agent loved about the manuscript. That's got to be so nice, to hear an industry professional gush about your work like that.)

My pleasure, Adam. Can't wait to read AIR PIRATES! Tell Tricia to sell it fast!

Hey, Kelly! Good to hear from you! I hope life has settled down for you a bit.

Myrna, you have read AIR PIRATES, right? Jealous, jealous! :)

Thanks for stopping by, Becky!

Mindy McGinnis said...

Great interview, Krista! I love this series, it's so cool to see things from both perspectives.

maine character said...

Thanks for the tips on queries and sheer perseverance.

And so interesting that you got noticed at Nathan's - I read just the other night that agents do scout for good material, and it's great to see it happened to you.

Jenilyn Tolley said...

Jack Sparrow, Malcolm Reynolds, and Gandalf all rolled into one? AND Miyazaki influences, too? This sounds awesome! I can't wait to read it. Thanks for the great interview!

Suzanne Warr said...

Thanks for the interview, and what a great story! Congrats to all!

I'm also appreciative of the feedback on EMLA response times since I have a partial in with Ammi-Joan Paquette! ;)

Myrna Foster said...

Twice. And it was hard to put down both times. :o)

Christine Fonseca said...

great interview! And the book sounds awesome.

Krista V. said...

Thanks, Mindy! I like hearing both sides of the story, too.

Maine character, Adam is a wonderful example of perseverance, isn't he? I, for one, appreciate that.

Isn't that the most awesome comparison ever, Jeni? It makes me want to read AIR PIRATES even more!

That's the major reason I include that question in the interview, Suzanne - to give querying writers an idea of when they might hear back:) (Especially since I want that information as much as the next writer.)

*blows a raspberry at Myrna* :)

Thanks, Christine! Good luck with your own querying adventures!

Anonymous said...

Good work . . . thanks for posting:) Very interesting to me since I just sent out queries on Wed *fingers & toes crossed (even after a rejection already).

Krista V. said...

You're welcome, jamieayres. Good luck with those queries!

Ellis Shuman said...

Just discovered your site by following up on Adam's success. I found it very interesting to read this interaction between author and agent = very informative!

D.G. Hudson said...

Interesting post, thanks for sharing, Adam and Krista.

It's always nice to have an inside look at the agent-author relationship and learn a little about another writer's path to being published.

That is a sharp query letter at Matt's blog, too!

Krista V. said...

Thanks for stopping by, Ellis! I'm glad you found the interview informative.

D.G., you're welcome! I love these behind-the-scenes looks, too.

Jade Hart said...

Awesome interview :) Very informative. Thanks so much for sharing. I did the same, I queried my top dream agents with a MS that was dreadful and a long rambling query letter that made no sense. I'm now working on a new MS and determined not to make that same mistake! :)