Sunday, March 13, 2011

Success Tastes Like Starbucks

I only say that because there seems to be some kind of backlog going on with my stomach from this afternoon, which came in tandem with a message from Patrick over at QueryTracker that my Success Story Interview was up.

Reposting here, but my fellow writer-followers, get thee to QueryTracker.  I used it to keep track of all my rejections for a good long time - my nice long list is testament to the "it only takes one yes" theory!

An Interview with Mindy McGinnis
(A QueryTracker Success Story)
Mindy McGinnis has recently signed with agent Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary Services LLC. Mindy, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Congratulations and good luck.

QueryTracker: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?

Mindy McGinnis: The book that landed me representation is a YA dystopian about the lack of fresh water in the future. I adore dystopian fiction, but I'm really tired of post - nuclear, or highly technological worlds. I took a different approach and knocked humankind back about 100 years... eating what you can kill, subsisting on your environment and the work of your own two hands.

My inspiration came from a documentary I watched about the very real pending threat of our fresh water resources, and then I read a book about the history of water (yeah I'm a dork like that).

QT: How long have you been writing?

MM: Oh boy. Ten years.

QT: How long have you been working on this book?

MM: This particular book (right now titled NOT A DROP TO DRINK) pretty much fell out of my head this past summer. I coughed it up in about four months, I think.

QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?

MM: Hmmm.... uh, YEAH. I didn't spend ten years getting rejections and feeling awesome, I can tell you that. Ironically, one thing that helped me stay the course was a rejection. An agent who had my full (a different YA title) rejected me, but sent me the kindest, most complimentary rejection ever. That was around three years ago. I kept the email and revisited it periodically over the years when I needed a boost. I emailed that agent the day after I signed to thank her for taking the time to give that kind of personalization to her rejections. She responded to tell me how happy she was for me - agents are people too!

QT: Is this your first book?

MM: Let's ignore the four trunked ones under my bed and say.... Yeah, sure, of course it is!

QT: Do you have any formal writing training?

MM: Nope. Nada. I double majored in English Literature and Religion, so I've drawn on both of those to inform my writing, for sure. I personally think the best education a writer can get is to read - good books an bad ones - and see what's working, or not.

QT: Do you follow a writing 'routine' or schedule?

MM: I wish. I write what I can, when I can.

QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?

MM: Not many, for this one, but that's against my normal grain. I did two 'tough love' line edits on it, though.

QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?

MM: Yes - I had two excellent betas that I met over on AgentQueryConnect. We swap ms's, and are all at the same level / genre, so it's a wonderfully productive trio.

QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?

MM: Hip. I'm not a big fan of formality.

QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?

MM: Well, this book definitely went against the grain (again). I only queried it for a month and a half before landing my (awesome) agent. My other books... yeah, refer back to that ten year drought I mentioned.

QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?

MM: 25 - an incredibly small number.

QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?

MM: Research - constant and large amounts of it. I used QueryTracker stats (for sure), and visited some excellent blogs that do agent interviews to get a feel for who was looking for, and liked, what. QT user KristaG's awesome blog - Mother. Write. (Repeat) was a huge help to me, as well as Authoress' Miss Snark's First Victim blog. I'm styling my own blog -Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire - in their footsteps. I want to be an inspiration to those on the agent hunt, and help others get their feet in the door. Or their fingers. Or hair. Or teeth. Whatever it takes! The agent database over was a great tool as well, plus the Agent Updates thread over on AgentQueryConnect.

QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?

MM: A few I did, not many though. When I did it was using 'foot in the door' techniques from visiting blogs like the ones I mentioned above. 'Dear Agent... I read your interview this morning on (blog name) and saw that you are looking for gritty YA dystopian. I think my title (blah blooh) will fit your tastes!' That kind of thing.

QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?

MM: Don't give up. Which probably is overdone advice, and Churchill beat me to it, but... my journey took a decade, so I can tell you there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but you've got to work for it.


Anita said...

Great interview, Mindy! I just read it over at QT earlier! I've directed a few of my writer pals who are still in the query quagmires over here so they can be inspired!

BTW, not sure if you got the message I sent, but I'm on blogger now:

Stop by and see me sometime! And I'm looking forward to my guest post later this month. :-) Keep us posted on the good stuff, girl!

Mindy McGinnis said...

Excellent! I will fix my link here so that everyone can be redirected to the right place. Exciting stuff! Blogger Buds!

Darke Conteur said...

Excellent interview! I'm so excited for you. STILL!!

Mindy McGinnis said...

Thanks Darke! I'm still excited for me too ; )

Kaylie Austen said...

Great interview. Great success story! You're right about authors getting to QT and never giving up. It only takes one Yes. It's been said a lot, but it's the bare truth. I look forward to seeing your work. Keep us posted. =)

Kaylie Austen said...

Great interview and success story! You keep us motivated. And it's true, get to QT, and hang in there! Please keep us posted.
Also, I'm drinking Starbucks right now, ha!

Mindy McGinnis said...

Kaylie - absolutely! I can tell you that without Query Tracker and AgentQuery especially I would still be racking up the rejections. There's a lot be said for the support system on both sites as well.

Winter said...

Aw, this is such happy reading! And I giggled a little here:

"The agent database over at was a great tool as well, plus the Agent Updates thread over on AgentQueryConnect."

...cause, well, you're usually the one who posts the updates on the updates thread in the first place :P


Mindy McGinnis said...

I know Ant - I totally enable myself that way :)

Melanie said...

Hey Mindy,
I teach 7th grade LA and have kids who read books like it's their job. If you're ever looking for a test audience, I have kiddos who would be happy to read your work and let you know what they think. I was psyched to hear about your plot. They're really into the dystopian stuff right now (Uglies, Hunger Games, stuff like that), so I know I can get readers.

Mindy McGinnis said...

Melanie - thanks for the offer! I'll be posting the query and rough plot soon, so I'd love to get feedback from the target audience! Thanks for posting!