Today is the sixth installment of my Friday series on successful authors from QueryTracker. Some of the authors I'm spotlighting have agents, others have found success in less conventional ways. But one thing they all have in common is the utilization of the QueryTracker website to help make their tracks in the publishing world.
Today's guest is somewhat of a legend among my fellow QTers. Anna Zagar of Scarlett Prose (aka purpleprose on QT), sent out queries, received four offers of representation, decided on the fabulous Lucy Carson for her agent, revised her MS, and snagged Feiwel & Friends as a publisher (her debut YA Fantasy, OF POSEIDON, will be released in Spring of 2012), all in the whirlwind span of less than two months. Add a cruise and some family health scares into the mix, and you have one crazy climb to the shelves! Let's take a moment of silence to let that sink in.
Okay, enough with the hero worship. Let's welcome the lovely Miss Anna Zaga to the interview box.
Anna: First of all, thankyousoverymuch for having me on your blog today! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your efforts to help new writers—both published and working toward publication. You’re an asset to the writing community.
AGH: Thank you, Anna. And I could say the same for you. You've been one of my biggest cheerleaders behind the scenes while I'm out on submission, and I know you've helped others besides me along the way. I'm honored to have you here! I know everyone's excited to get to know you, so let's get started. What genre(s) do you write?
Anna: I write YA Sci-fi/Fantasy and Adult Sci-fi/Fantasy. Every story I write will always have a romance in it though. Because I’m girlie like that.
AGH: Could you give us a quick summary of the book which snagged your agent?
Anna: Sure: A merman prince exchanges his fin for high school, hairy legs, and flip flops in order to help a human girl change into the fish he knows she is. She has a particular gift which can ensure the survival of his kind as long as she mates with his older brother, the Triton king. Keeping his loyalty to his kingdom gets tricky when he starts to fall for her; the sooner she turns into a fish, the sooner he can turn her over to his brother and put some distance between them. But will she give up everything she cares about—her mother, scholarships, cheesecake—to save a world she’s never known? And—what’s taking her so long to sprout a fin, anyway?
AGH: Sounds so fun! And a little fishy. Hmm. How long did you query it, and what were your stats?
Anna: I started querying the first of January, and received an offer of rep on January 27th. Lucy told me to notify other agents of my offer, so I did, and received two more offers (there was also an unofficial offer, like an offer to offer if I’d make some changes, so I don’t count that one). Here are my stats:
60 queries total:
11 requests for fulls (3 of which came from partial requests)
3 partials (included in full requests above)
8 who never received the darn thing
8 closed/no response
AGH: Incredible stats! What inspired your book idea?
Anna: I’ve always been fascinated with the ocean (did you know that only approx. 5% of the world’s oceans have been explored/seen by human eyes?). One day I was reading an article about how they’d found a washed-up carcass of a Colossal Squid in 2005—something scientists considered a myth, fishermen’s lore. I got to thinking, What ELSE could be out there? So, I set out to scientifically prove that mermaids could actually exist, and the story unfolded from there.
AGH: How did you come up with the title?
Anna: The title is OF POSEIDON, and I’ve just been informed that Feiwel and Friends plans on keeping it. It’s simply derived from the inherited gift my heroine, Emma, possesses. It’s the Gift of Poseidon. Can’t really say much more than that…
AGH: Before you signed with your agent, how many other books had you tried to query?
Anna: OF POSEIDON was my second attempt at writing and querying. The first one, an Adult Sci-fi, was put on hold to focus on my new YA venture. Weird, but I just received a full request from an agent on a query I sent OVER A YEAR AGO for that project. Got caught in her spam filter. The lesson is clear: If you hear no response, re-send the dang thing! (Unless of course, the agency policy is No Response Means No). Lucy has agreed to represent my adult project as well, so hopefully I’ll have good news to share on that soon…
AGH: Sounds promising! Please keep us posted on that. So, what books / authors would you say have most influenced your own style and concepts?
Anna: In general, I grew up reading romance novels, so all my books will have a love story (in her defense, I don’t think my mom realized just exactly how raw romance novels can be. She still thinks flipping someone the bird means “Up your butt, mister!”). More specifically, Janet Evanovich, for her humor. Not to sound cliché, but after reading TWILIGHT, I decided I just might be able to write a book too, so Stephenie Meyer for her story-telling skills. Also, LM Montgomery because how could I not follow in Anne Shirley’s footsteps? And I’d be silly not to mention Margaret Mitchell, because all of my heroines will in some way pay tribute to Scarlett O’Hara in that they will be strong and independent, and possible fit-throwers.
AGH: How did you find QueryTracker, and how did it help you in your effort to get inside the publishing doors?
Anna: I don’t remember HOW I found it, but the good news is that I DID find it, and it helped me for a couple of reasons:
A.) It’s a collection of agents, their contact info, and if they are/are not accepting queries, so it’s soooo convenient for writers. (And Patrick pretty much keeps that thing up to the minute.)
B.) The support I received from other QT’ers. It seems like we all worked together to get someone “discovered”. Sharing info, sharing horror stories, sharing tears and beers.
AGH: That's what I like most, too. The camaraderie. On that note, have you recently learned anything about the business side of publishing that you can share with up and coming writers, something you wish you’d known in the beginning?
Anna: Yep. Sometimes this business is very, very fast, and you need to be able to keep up. For instance: I began querying January 1. Received an offer of rep January 27th. Lucy negotiated a two book deal February 16th. Received my first editorial letter from Feiwel and Friends about two weeks later.
And then everything STOPPED. During the down times, keep writing. Remember that you mostly experience down times, and that when you’re not writing, someone else always is.
I learned that the pub contract is not instantaneous. That once you receive an offer from a house, it may be weeks before your agent actually sees the contract. This affects when you get your first advance, so keep that in mind. And be patient. Remember that almost everyone in this business is over-worked and under-appreciated and we all rely on each other.
AGH: Great advice. Now for the big question: Are you involved in any new projects you can tell us about?
Anna: Working on Book Two, OF TRITON, and am brainstorming against my will about a different YA Sci/fi.
**Five for fun**
AGH: Which would you rather do: carry an umbrella or sing in the rain?
Anna: Sing in the rain. My hair is never perfect enough to worry about getting wet, and umbrellas in a Florida thunderstorm are kind of laughable. And I know you’ve all seen the Weather Channel show footage of people playing outside during a hurricane. I may or may not be related to them…
AGH: What’s your favorite breakfast?
Anna: A Strawberry Waffle that this local restaurant makes. I loves it.
AGH: Are you Team Dog or Team Cat?
Anna: Team Cat, but my hubby is allergic. He got me a tea-cup Chihuahua as a substitute for a writer’s cat, but turns out, tea-cup Chihuahuas are closely related to the devil…
AGH: When would you go to if you had a time machine, and why?
Anna: I would go back to the 1700s, for sure. That’s when chunky pale women were a hot commodity, so I’m sure I would have married very, very well…
AGH: Drinking tea … pinky up, or heavy on the Long Island?
Anna: Never pinky up! Not HEAVY on the Long Island, but I’d like to at least be giggling by the time I’m done with it…
Thank you for the interview, Anna! And I agree about Chihuahuas. My mom used to have one who's eyes turned up red in EVERY picture we took. Pictures don't lie. *shudder*
Congrats on all of your successes so far! I'll be cheering you on as you climb to best-sellerdom and of course wish you luck and happiness on all of your upcoming projects. :)
If you have questions for Anna--or would like to show her your support -- please leave a comment below. Also, don't forget to find her on Twitter: @AnnaZagar and follow her blog for her witty observations on life along with helpful writing and publishing tips. ;)
Have a wonderful, safe, and relaxing weekend everyone!