Our YA author this month has two suggestions for new writers: write consistently and meet your agent in person. Read more from Laura Snider as she shares the publishing journey of her debut YA novel, Witches’ Quarters.
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Author Interview with Laura Snider about Witches’ Quarters:
Congratulations on your debut YA novel, Witches’ Quarters. Tell us a little bit about the book?
Witches’ Quarters is a YA fantasy about four siblings who find enchanted U.S. quarters. When they drop a quarter into a coin bank, it takes them to the scene on the back of the quarter in an alternative universe called Nova.
They quickly find out that Nova is a world at war. The four children realize that they must decide who to trust in Nova and a way back home.
Where did the inspiration come for this book?
In addition to writing, I am a practicing attorney. I was working for the Public Defender’s Office at the time I started writing Witches’ Quarters. Which is a thankless job.
One day, I was on the phone with an exceptionally difficult person and I saw a quarter sitting on my desk. It was the Nevada quarter, face down, which has three horses on the back. I thought, “wouldn’t it be nice to go there right now.”
Walk us through the process you went through from idea to publication:
I set aside an hour and a half to two hours to write every single day. Even on the weekends. I would get up ridiculously early so that I could write before work.
I did that for six months or so until the first version of Witches’ Quarters was completed. After that, I started looking for an agent. I wrote a few query letters, but I didn’t spend a lot of time doing that. They are so impersonal. Everyone does query letters, and I wanted to try something different.
So, I signed up for the Kansas City Writers’ Conference and pitched Witches’ Quarters to three agents that day. One of those agents was Stephanie Hansen of Metamorphosis Literary Agency. I signed with Stephanie in April of that year and Witches’ Quarters went out on submission.
I did a good deal of editing (a complete redraft and a partial redraft) based on some of the feedback of editors that passed the manuscript. Finally, in April, I had an offer from Clear Fork Publishing to acquire the manuscript.
There was some negotiation of the publishing contract, and then I started working with Callie Metler (the owner of Clear Fork). Callie assigned Austin Ruh as my editor. Austin and I worked together on the manuscript for another year and a half. In total, I think I rewrote the story another 7 or 8 times before it was right. Then the book launched and went to publication.
Do you have any new books in the works?
Yes. I am always working on a new manuscript. I currently have one book out on submission to editors.
I’ve got another book that is close to completion but needs some intense editing, another that is about halfway done, and I’m working on the outline for the next book in the Witches’ Quarters series. I’m not working on everything at once, though.
I set the one that is near completion aside out of frustration, I started the one that is half done while waiting on editorial responses from Austin and still haven’t found time to get back to it. I’m focusing on the Witches’ Quarters sequel now and will likely go back to the others once I am done with that. Unless, of course, I’m interrupted with edits on the book that’s out on submission.
What’s the most challenging part of publishing?
The lack of control. The publisher has a good deal of control over what happens with your book.
What was the biggest obstacle you ran into?
I would say the most frustrating and difficult obstacle I have come to is book promotion. There are so many books available, it’s hard to get noticed. It is something that is in need of constant attention and actually eats up a lot of the time I would spend writing (which is really the only part of the process that I actually love to do).
What was one thing you learned?
The contents and quality of a writer’s writing is only one small step towards the success of a book. There has to be a marketing plan that is focused and well thought out. Not just “I’m going to advertise on Facebook and Instagram” either.
Instead, you need to target certain audiences with certain content that intrigues them. The promotions and targeting need to be spaced out enough to remind possible readers that your book is out there, but doesn’t inundate them with “READ THIS, READ THIS, READ THIS,” until they are so annoyed that they ignore it entirely. I’m certain there is a strategy that works well. I’ve yet to find it.
What would be your best advice for someone hoping to get their book published?
Meet agents in person. An agent isn’t just looking for a good book. They are also looking for someone they want to work with. They are looking for someone who can speak intelligently about his or her book and will get out there and promote it.
That’s why pitches (at least to me) are far more effective than a query letter. Anyone can write a letter. Not everyone has the courage to stand in front of an agent (who is undoubtedly critiquing everything you say and do) and tell them why your book is worth investing their time and energy. Not everyone can sum a book up in a couple of minutes in an intriguing way.
Most people aren’t invested enough in their creation to travel to a conference and fight for their book. These are skills necessary for book promotion. These skills can be demonstrated by pitching an agent. They cannot be conveyed through a one-page letter.
Thank you to Laura Snider for sharing her journey with us. Pick up your own copy of Witches’ Quarters on Amazon or in your local bookstore. And if you want to learn more about Laura, visit her website.
For more YA writing tips, check out these other articles around the blog:
- How to Control Your Pacing like in Debut MG Novel, Small Spaces
- Best Plotting Exercises to Help with Your Novel
- Writing Tips for a Teen Audience
- How to Write a Novel in Verse like Elizabeth Acevedo