Welcome to installment number nineteen of my series on successful authors from QueryTracker. Some of my guests 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, Kerri Maniscalco (known to QTers as mystree1), is, according to the bio on her fabulous blog Write. Eat. Repeat, "a twenty-something native New Yorker who drinks too much tea, loves avacados, reading, writing, and supporting friends and local musicians." She signed with her agent Barbara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency at the end of February this year. To read her call story, visit this post on her blog.
One of the things I love about Kerri is her effervescent personality and positive outlook on life. It shines through her tweets and blog posts. She's helped so many other writers with her amazingly inspirational blog. In fact, she's the only blogger I know to have ever earned the Blog That Sparks the Soul Award. So it's only fitting that today she's in the spotlight.
AGH: Kerri, welcome to my humble online abode! Could you give us a quick summary of the book which snagged your agent?
KM: Sure! INVARIANCE is a YA science fiction adventure story. It’s about a seventeen-year-old supernova hunter that has one week to solve a mystery that spans the space-time continuum almost a thousand years, or humanity will be lost forever.
AGH: Before you signed with your agent, how many books had you tried to query?
KM: This is my sixth novel. Before signing with Barbara I queried five other books for two years. While querying I would start writing another manuscript, that way if project “A” didn’t work out, I’d have project “B” polished and ready to go. I’m kind of a workaholic, so being idle for too long makes me anxious. (On top of already being super anxious over the querying process!)
AGH: What were the responses to those queries (stat-wise: fulls, partials, etc.)?
KM: Oh my gosh, I’m not sure. If I had to take a guess I’d say I racked up three or four hundred rejections, and averaged around a 40% request rate. I saved all my rejections as motivation, so I’ll have to count them one day and come up with accurate stats.
INVARIANCE was a little different when I queried it. I emailed it to Barbara first, then sent out a handful of queries and ended up with a 70% request rate. My offer came a week or two after directly submitting it.
I had A LOT of close calls with the last manuscript, and received a few direct submission requests. One of those came from my agent. If you’re still getting rejections, but an agent says to try again with your next project - take them up on it! You’re getting closer. The only time you fail is when you stop trying.
AGH: What genre(s) do you write?
KM: I write YA science fiction but there are always other elements that creep in. I’m a huge fan of genre bending and I enjoy adding horror, romance, fantasy, or thriller and mystery elements to my work, too.
AGH: What inspired your very first book idea?
KM: Fair warning, it’s a crappy story - but it does have a happy ending.
Writing is something I’ve always loved doing and there was a perfect storm leading up to that first book. Putting it mildly, I was going through a rough year personally. I had just gotten out of a relationship that played out like a brutal divorce, lost my job, my apartment, and I desperately needed an outlet to sort through all of those feelings. I felt blindsided and devastated by what happened and writing was my way of coping with it. Out of all the negative things that were going on, I was able to make a new world and turn it into something positive.
It was like the Universe decided I needed a major change and gave me a clean slate to start over. Terrifying (and painful) as it was at the time, I couldn’t be happier now. If I wasn’t forced to reexamine what I wanted out of life, I don’t think that first book would have ever gotten written.
AGH: How do you come up with titles?
KM: Titles are probably one of my favorite parts about starting a new project. My process is always slightly different with each book, so I’ll just talk about the last one. INVARIANCE was originally called “Relativity” since it deals with Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity. About halfway through writing it, I changed the title because there’s this theory called “Galilean Invariance” and it’s very fitting for the plot of my book.
AGH: What books / authors have most influenced your own style and concepts?
KM: I love authors (and poets) like Salinger, Frost, Dylan Thomas, Kerouac, and Shakespeare. Growing up I couldn’t get enough of Shel Silverstein, I must have read WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS and A LIGHT IN THE ATTIC a million and one times. I think that both he and Roald Dahl had a fairly large impact on my own style. Or my imagination at least. Ray Bradbury, Madeleine L’Engle, and Neil Gaiman were/are really influential, too.
AGH: How did you find QueryTracker, and how did it help you in your effort to get inside the publishing doors?
KM: Prior to querying (or even finishing that first novel) I was googling information on literary agents and how to draft a query letter. I think I found Nathan Bransford’s blog first, then Miss Snark, and eventually I came across QT. I thought it was a fantastic resource for finding agents that rep your genre and cross-referencing information.
As far as how it helped in my effort to get inside the publishing doors, that’s easy! Being around other writers who are going through the same process helps on the bad days when you question your sanity.
AGH: Have you recently learned anything about the business side of publishing that you can share with up and coming writers?
KM: Definitely! Up until the last few weeks, I had never heard of literary scouts before and the important role they play in foreign rights. I thought you had your agent and foreign rights agent, and that was it. After being completely immersed in EVERYTHING publishing I couldn’t believe I’d never come across information on them. They are another great resource for authors, since they have their thumbs on the pulse of everything that’s going on in publishing. It’s pretty incredible.
AGH: Do you have any current news to announce?
KM: As you know, publishing is a world filled with dirty little secrets - so I sort of have a gag order on what I can and can’t say at this time. We are on submission and it’s been equal parts thrilling and surreal. And terrifying. Always a little terrifying.
***Five for fun***
1.) Which would you rather do: carry an umbrella or sing in the rain?
KM: Sing in the rain! Carrying an umbrella is super practical, but sometimes you’ve just got to be wild and free.
2.) What’s your favorite breakfast?
KM: Oh man. I’m a little quirky with food. I always start by having green chai tea with agave and soy milk, and a strawberry/oat milk smoothie with a dairy-free meal replacement vitamin powder. The smoothie is packed with lots of nutrients and much needed brain-food. It’s also fast and easy to make when I’m writing so that automatically makes it my favorite.
3.) When would you go to if you had a time machine, and why?
KM: LOVE this question! I would travel back to 1610 when Galileo published STARRY MESSENGER and he described his observations of the 4 moons of Jupiter. It was basically the beginning of his conflict with the church because of his support of Copernican astronomy. The why? Let’s just say it would be in-depth research for my book.
4.) If you were tight with one of the Greek gods, which one would it be and what favor would you ask of them?
KM: This is tough because there are a few I’d love to be tight with. That being said... I’d have to go with Dionysus and I’d ask him to keep me supplied with endless wine. Writing can be stressful and let’s be honest, having a free wine tap would be awesome.
5.) Drinking tea … pinky up, or heavy on the Long Island?
KM: Both! In the morning and afternoon it’s pinky up all the way, but once it’s five o’clock somewhere the Long Island comes out to play :)
Kerri, thank you so much for stopping by! Your book's premise sounds awesome (love me some sci-fi) and I'm also interested in your wine tap idea! I know several writers who would be eternally grateful for such an invention. :)
You can follow Kerri's publishing journey on her twitter or website. And please give her some writerly/readerly love in the comments!
Have a great weekend, everyone! If you have a chance, stop by next week. I'm going to give a peek at my publishing timeline (how long it took me to from when I first started querying to the signing of the contract) and also I'll be announcing some pretty big changes on my blog. Hope to see you then!