So over the last few weeks, I’ve gotten a flood of emails from readers. I LOVE hearing from readers and other aspiring writers. It really makes me so happy. So thank you all!
Lately, though, I’ve been swamped with work, and I’m finding it hard to respond to everyone (via email and tumblr and twitter), and I want to answer everyone. Lately I’ve gotten a lot of questions. And a lot of the same questions, actually. So I thought I’d make an FAQ post of my most frequently asked questions so I have something to link readers to when they email me with some of these questions. You can also see the FAQs page on my website for more.
So here we go:
- How did you get started writing?
Honestly, I don’t really remember. I’ve always written. That was how I got my entertainment as a kid - I made up stories. Either with my Barbies, with pictures I drew, or with a keyboard. I liked stories. As I got older, my stories got longer and longer. I wrote my first “novel” when I was 11 (it was only 60 pages and it was terrible). I wrote more over the years, some finished, some not. Then, my senior year of high school, I wrote THE DUFF. And the rest is history.
- How did you get THE DUFF published?
First thing’s first. I went through a lot of revisions on THE DUFF before I even considered trying to get it published. In fact, i wasn’t planning on trying at all. I wrote the book for fun, and then I asked some people I’d met on absolutewrite.com (a writing website) to read it and give me notes. After I edited the book based on their notes, I was encouraged to try and pursue publishing.
The first step I took was to find an agent. I knew I wanted to traditionally publish, and that seemed like the best route to me. So I started doing research. I did a lot of googling, I talked to other aspiring writers, and I learned that I needed to write a query letter. That’s a pitch letter. If you’d like to see examples, including my letter, check out YAHighway.com’s “Query Series”, where authors share their query letters and their agents write up a short post about why the ltter worked. There are lots of other sources online for query tutorials. Just do some googling.
I created a list of agents who represented my genre (young adult), perfected my query (with help from others), and then sent out letters to the agents on my list. And after several rejections, an awesome agent asked to read my book, she liked it, and then she signed me. We worked together on some revisions, and then she submitted THE DUFF to publishers. A few weeks later, my book sold to Little Brown & Co/Poppy. And the rest is history.
- How do I find an agent/get an agent?
I answered a lot of this in the last question, but I’ll break it down a bit more here.
When you have a finished, revised novel and you think it’s time to find an agent, the first thing to do is research. Research, research, research. Do some googling (seriously, google will get you a long way) to find agents who represent your genre. Also look at the acknowledgements page of books you love or books in your genre and see if an agent is mentioned. Make a list of agents that represent your genre, and then research them. Does it seem like you guys have similar taste/do they represent books you’ve liked? Do they represent books in your genre? Are they looking to sign new writers? Do as much research as you can. Also be sure they don’t charge a reading fee.
Once you have a list of agents, write a query. (Or write your query first. This order doesn’t matter.) The job of a query is to make an agent interested in reading your book. Be sure and show your query to others and get feedback. They can be really challenging to write. You can have an awesome book, but if your query isn’t intriguing, the agent will never read it. So work REALLY hard on your query letter and look at lots of examples of them online. Seriously. I can’t stress this enough. A good query goes a long way.
Once you have a good query, you can start sending to agents on your list. Don’t get discouraged if you get rejections - every single author gets them, no matter how awesome their book is. Don’t be discouraged if your first book doesn’t get you an agent. That’s fine. Try again with your next book. Every journey is different and publishing is a long road for most people. To be honest, my first attempt at getting an agent failed. THE DUFF was the second book I queried, and I wasn’t even planning on querying it. So persistence is key.
This is hard to answer because every author has a different process. Queries are tough and it’s a different style of writing than most are used to. The whole point of a query is to get an agent interested in your book. Think of the summary on the back of a novel - it gives you just enough to know what the book is about but leaves you wondering what’s going to happen.
Check out YAHighway.com and look at their Query Series. Lots of authors have submitted their successful queries along with their agent’s comments on why the query worked. It’s a great way to see examples. You can also check out QueryShark, a website where people submit queries and a real agent tears them apart - the good, the bad, and the ugly. There are so many other sources. Seriously, just googling “successful query letters” and you’ll get lots of info. But this is another research, research, research situation. The better your query is, the better your chances are of getting an agent interested.
- Where do you get your inspiration?
Everywhere. Seriously, everywhere. I can’t say one specific place. I get it from music, from movies, from things people on the street say - Every. Where.
- Can you make your books into movies? And can I audition?
I get this question more than any other, I think.
To the first part - authors aren’t really in charge of making their books into movies. If we had that power, we’d all make our books into huge blockbusters! No, that’s the task of the people out in Hollywood. They have to decide if a book should be a movie. In my case, THE DUFF has been optioned for film rights. That doesn’t mean it WILL be a film, just that someone paid for the option to make it a film. So we’ll see what happens there!
As to the second question - I, and most authors, have no power over who gets the parts in our movies. So even if any of my movies do become films, chances are I don’t have the power to get anyone an audition. Sorry!
And I think that’s it for today! Thanks for all your emails and questions, guys! I hope this post is helpful, and if I get any more questions that I haven’t answered here or on my website, I’ll do a part two.