Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Agent and Editor Advice from Debut Author Jill Myles!

As promised, here is my interview with the fabulous Jill Myles! Her debut novel, Gentlemen Prefer Succubi, released December 29th from Pocket and is selling like hotcakes!! I got a chance to sit down with Jill and talk about her road to finding an agent, dealing with rejection (yucky) and what it's like to work with a real editor! Her debut novel is a Paranormal Romance, but never fear YA and Middle Grade writers, her advice applies to us all. And if you love a sharp, racy romance, then trust me, this is the book you've been waiting for!

Just for commenting on this post, Jill has a special surprise for you! Once your comment is posted today, you will be entered to win a personalized critique from Jill's uber awesome agent, Holly Root of Waxman Literary!! Holly is actively seeking upmarket and commercial fiction, including women's fiction, mystery, urban fantasy, romance, and YA, and voice-driven nonfiction projects, with particular areas of interest in narrative nonfiction, lifestyle, psychology, self-help/relationships, science, and practical spirituality and religion. For more chances to win, follow the rest of the tour!

Next stop on the tour: Jill will be speaking with YA writer Chandler Craig! Chandler is pretty, perky and one great writer, so be sure to stop by Chandler's blog tomorrow to find out more about Jill's career and how to bypass common career mistakes!

Jill, first off, congrats!!! In a nutshell, can you tell us what your novel is about?

Here's the happy summary from my website: *Jackie was an ordinary museum docent until a mysterious vampire and a fallen angel made her into a succubus. Now a sexy immortal, she’s caught between an age-old war between angels, demons, and the immortals exiled to earth. When everyone else is choosing sides, which will she pick? The good guy or the bad boy? Maybe she wants both…

Was it hard to get an agent to bite on the concept and what was the toughest part about finding an agent for you--any advice you can give un-agented writers?

I tried to get an agent for a year and a half and with two different manuscripts. I couldn't figure out what was wrong with my writing - my query letters were good, my synopsis was tight, and people would read a few chapters and tell me "Thanks but no thanks." One agent got a query for my succubus novel, requested the full, and read it overnight. He came back to me the next day and said he was really disappointed, because my story wasn't quite there. It was "antic". I will never forget that, because I had no idea what he meant by my story being antic! So I printed out the whole thing and began to read again...and I got it. My characters overreacted. Everyone seemed to scream everything. Jokes flew left and right. Moods swung from happy to sad to happy again, all within the space of a page.

It was really bad. But I could see why no one wanted to rep it! So I took a few weeks off to rewrite, and toned down everyone's reactions. I was convinced it was going to make my manuscript boring...but at the end of the day, it worked. And when I sent out a few more query letters, one agent offered representation.

As for advice? Gosh...print out your book and read it AGAIN with an eye for character reactions. They're easy to get wrong.

How did you handle rejection from agents and/or editors? What made you keep going?

I took rejections personally...for all of five minutes. Then I figured that it was a lot like a job. I was applying, but there was something on my resume that wasn't getting me callbacks. So I worked on it, and worked on it, until I started getting responses. And then I worked until I got personalized responses. And then I worked on it until I got an agent. You just can't give up.

When you first started working with your editor what did you expect and what advice can you give others who are working with an editor for the first time?

Well, I think the thing that I learned is that every editor works differently! I was worried as heck when I first signed because I hadn't talked to my editor at all, and I was terrified to email her for fear I'd be a bothersome client. I've gotten over that fear, but I also don't pick at her with small stuff. I go to my agent for that. I do know that because I was bumped out on the schedule, it took me a long time to get my edit letter. My editor (bless her heart) is constantly working on projects and when one runs late, whoever is lower priority gets bumped a little. There's only so much you can get done in a day, you know? If something can be pushed out, it will be. But if it needs to get done, she has never let me down. I really enjoy working with her, too. She's got a great sense of humor.

In the sum total of your road to publishing experience what is the most important thing you learned along the way?

Ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Seriously. It will save you hours and hours of worry. Your agent is a partner, and you shouldn't be scared to go to them and ask for status updates or asking how things work. :)


Thanks, Jill! I'm sure this advice has helped a lot of writers out there, who really appreciate your words of wisdom!

Dear Readers, be on the look out this Friday when I post my blog awards! This is a new award that I can't wait to give out to some much deserving bloggers!

xoxo -- Hilary

63 comments:

  1. Congrats on the release! Also, great interview. *runs to print off manuscript ... again*

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  2. I like the idea of the editor angst! And I can CERTAINLY relate...it's sure a good thing that I like rejection! (not)

    But she's right. It's a natural part of the process. Although I wish Darwin had something to fix that.

    Great interview, Rat Queen! XOXO

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  3. Congrats, again, Jill!

    Great interview!

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  4. Great interview. Laughing about the antic thing, I wouldn't have understood it either.

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  5. Congratulations! Would love to hear more about how you kept your sanity while fending off rejections and working on rewrites - were you part of a critique group or any of the online author forums?

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  6. Rhoda Fort1/12/2010

    Perspective about one's work is the hardest thing to achieve. When you are close to a project, you get caught up in it. You see everything vividly in your head as you write it, and in the end the writing might not reflect that vision, but until you put the manuscript away for a time, much of what you see of it is not going to be what's on the page but what's still in your head.

    I have two previous novels that I submitted to editors and agents. I thought they were great and thought it too bad no one gave them a chance until I went back and read them a few years afterwards. Those projects were written before I got involved with a critique group. From this group I really learned to hone in on my writing skills and my writing did improve.

    On my present project, I had worked so hard on it, I had to put it away for awhile and go on to something else. When I went back to revise it, I was pleasantly surprised. I saw weaknesses, but was able to fix them with a more keen eye after gaining some perspective. I had to read it from beginning to end two times before I was satisfied with the final draft.

    Having other people outside your critique group whom you trust read your work and having them give you feedback helps as well. I was lucky enough to have an agent friend who read the partial. She told me right up front she probably wouldn't grant me representation because she was full at the time, but she did give me a three page critique, and the feedback was nothing like I received from my critique group or contests. Since my writing was polished at this point and not an issue, she concentrated totally on story points and marketablility and warned me of potential pitfalls. It was an eye opener for me to see it from the eyes of an industry professional. Hilary was fortunate to have happened upon an agent who gave her just enough feedback to make her go back, look at it as a whole and discover a major, but correctable weakness.

    I don't read all that many paranormals, but I do wish Hilary Wagner a successful and rewarding writing career.

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  7. Great advice on not to take rejections personally. So happy for your success Jill!

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  8. *is also running out to print manuscript* Thanks for the advice and great interview!

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  9. Wonderful post. I laughed, I cried, I related. :) Actually, I know how you feel.

    My first mss, which I have set aside, has some of the same things wrong. It took me over a year to finally get it.

    I love the concept and the story, but I haven't gotten back to it yet. I'm working on my third one now while I wait for responses for number 2.

    Really happy for your success. Grats.

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  10. Thanks for the advice, Jill! And thanks for hosting, Hilary! :)

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  11. Another great interview Jill. I am lovin reading them, fullof lots of great advice. Thanks. :D xx

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  12. Another great interview, Jill! Great questions, Hilary. And sage advice about printing out the ms and reading it again. So excited for you, girl!

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  13. Great interview and advice and now I want to read the book! :)

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  14. Thanks for sharing the bit about viewing the query as a job interview. Nice reminder that it's not personal, it's about presentation. And writing is about presenting your story in the best way you can.

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  15. Jill and Hillary, I really enjoyed the interview, and Jill, your book is on my list to buy (I am betting the big B&N in Santa Monica has it).

    I think the interesting thing about the editorial process and actually getting published is how much of a JOB it is. So my advice would be, treat it like a job, because you're a pro now, and people are counting on you.

    (er, and I gladly waive my place in the contest to a more deserving commenter!)

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  16. Congrats on getting your book published! I liked the fact that you reworked, reworked, and then reworked some more. It makes me confident that I can make my book a reality if I continue to master my craft. :)

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  17. Anonymous1/12/2010

    Thanks for the interview, Hilary! And Jill, great advice as always. Between your agent & editor, who do you contact more, and does it change during the publishing process?

    xid trebor

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  18. Hello, Jill!

    I really liked what you had to say about the query process being like applying for a job. I think it's wonderful you were willing to re-examine your novel after the agent's comments too. You show that open-mindedness and hard work pays off as much as persistence.

    Great interview, Hilary!

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  19. Anonymous1/12/2010

    Antic. Huh, I had to look that up. I'm learning all sorts of things on this blog tour! ;)

    ~Addled Alchemist

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  20. Congrats on your release and blog tour. I'm in the editing phase of the next WIP, good advice on the post.

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  21. Fantastic advice. "[P]rint out your book and read it AGAIN with an eye for character reactions. They're easy to get wrong."

    This is so true! Fantastic interview. Thanks for doing it!

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  22. Awesome interview!

    "I took rejections personally...for all of five minutes. Then I figured that it was a lot like a job. I was applying, but there was something on my resume that wasn't getting me callbacks. So I worked on it, and worked on it, until I started getting responses. And then I worked until I got personalized responses. And then I worked on it until I got an agent. You just can't give up."

    I'm thinking about printing the above quote and taping it to my desk... And my fridge... and by my TV... and... (you get the drift, lol)

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  23. Excellent interview. And what fabulous advice. It always does my heart good to read about others' publication journeys. And, woooo, that is one steamy cover. Fantastic!

    Congratulations on the publication! Well done.

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  24. What a great interview Hilary!

    Congratulations to Jill, I'm so happy for you! Your book sounds fantastic and I really like the cover!

    Thanks for sharing your story about finding an agent - it's very inspiring and gives me hope!

    Best wishes for your books awesome success!

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  25. I'm glad to hear how well your book is doing, Jill. I'm still waiting for my copy to arrive by mail.

    I've always loved your voice and thought you had a fabulous premise, so reading interviews like this helps me understand I just have to keep plugging away at craft.

    And when the time comes, I only hope I can be half as resilient as you in not taking rejections to heart.

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  26. Oh, and PS: great interview, Hilary. Thanks for hosting this.

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  27. Great post! Really interesting :)

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  28. Great interview! One of these days I'm going to interview an author, but it's going to have to take a backseat at the moment. Too much else going on.

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  29. Great advice, especially about the character reactions. And you're right -- it is like applying for a job. Glad you never gave up. :D


    Cheers,
    Erin Kendall

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  30. Jill your novel looks great and I can't wait to get my hands on it! I think the idea of printing out your manuscript is brilliant. I think that might clarify a few issues for me as well. Thank you for a great interview!

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  31. Great post! So inspiring to hear about authors who traveled the long-road to publication and made it due to hard work and believing in themselves. Congrats, Jill!

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  32. Hi Hilary,

    Thanks for the informative interview and many thanks to Jill for sharing with other writers. Jill, I wish you much success.

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  33. Sharon - I've had a ton of critique groups and online friends. Online support groups are terrific! My acknowledgments page is actually two full pages because I had so many people to thank. I think it's important to stay connected to friends and peers that can keep you on track and encourage you. :)

    xid - Who I contact more depends on what stage we're at in the process! If I have day to day, niggly questions about submissions or contracts or the business side of things, I go to my agent. If I need guidance or help with a contracted book or have ideas on how to promote, I ping my editor. Some days I talk to both of them, and some weeks I talk to neither. It just depends!

    T. Anne - Definitely print your manuscript!! I am serious - some people say they can edit on screen but I tend to skim more that way. When it's printed, I notice every word a lot more. I also notice the general layout of the page more - when a paragraph is too long or too short, etc. It really helps you out.

    Everyone else - thank you so much for your comments!! You are totally giving me warm fuzzies. :)

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  34. Jill,

    I LOVE your advice about reading your ms again. I'd even suggest changing your font before you print it off. Characters are so easy to manipulate, and many times we don't realize we're making them act and react in ways we normally wouldn't.

    I think we, as writers, do this more when we've hit a difficult scene or paragraph, especially when we know where we want to go, but can't quite get there.

    Great interview - both of you ladies!

    Congrats!

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  35. Congrats on your release Jill! Your story is a perfect example of the need for writers to be willing to set aside those feelings of rejection and take an honest look at our writing.

    Thanks for doing the interview Hilary!

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  36. Thanks for the information about character reactions! It's a great reminder to take time to read the book like your audience will.

    I love the Gentlemen Prefer Succubi title! And the guy on the cover!!! *fanning myself*

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  37. I think I'll be printing out my manuscript and looking for character reactions. Antic. I wouldn't have known what that word meant either. It is so easy to think you are getting character reactions right (and you might be in your head) but it's always different in translation. Thanks!

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  38. Great interview and advice. Boy, do I ever love that cover! Now you don't see that in the YA section. Ever. :D

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  39. Antic! That's classic. Thank you so much for your words of wisdom and congrats on your release.

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  40. Jill--

    Did you meet Holly Root at a conference or was it a cold pitch? Reason: I have only limited funds for conferences. Does meeting an agent (or editor) face-to-face really make a difference? Or at the end of the day, ONLY your writing can open the door?

    Thanks!
    Sara

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  41. First, let me say congratulation to Jill on her book and its success. I can only imagine the high from getting to this point, and appreciate the hard work to get there.
    I continue to edit and rewrite my novel, and honed in on your comment about character reactions. Finding creative ways to express nervous, angry, scared, etc. can be challenging. But it's the reactions to situations that make the story, right? So I need to go back and add more feeling. Guess there is a fine balance to reach.
    Thanks,
    And thanks for the coveted chance to win a critique. Getting the right kind of feedback is critical to the writing process.
    Kathy

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  42. Great info! Thanks for this awesome post! And thanks for the chance to win a critique.

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  44. Great interview, Hilary. Thanks!

    Ask questions and listen to feedback--a magical combination. Thank you, Jill!

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  45. I think it's the rare author who can do what Jill did: take a good hard look at her writing and say, yeah, I guess it does need work. An agent told me last year the most important thing writers can do to get published: learn to take and incorporate criticism. It ain't easy but really, what about writing IS easy? Thanks for the blog interview, Hilary!

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  46. Wow. Thanks Hilary and Thanks Jill!!! Great info and just what I needed to hear today!

    Thanks again!!

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  47. Thanks to everyone who gave a shout to Jill! Can't wait to see who wins the contest and will revel wildy when Jill's sales numbers come in!! GO JILL!!

    xoxo -- Hilary

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  48. This is great advice and I will be printing my manuscript. Thank you Jill for sharing your story and thank you Hilary for hosting!

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  49. Some really great information here. I am really enjoying this blog tour!
    Margay

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  50. Sara F-F: Holly is actually my third agent. My first agent was a cold query, my second agent was a referral, and my third agent (Holly!) was a cold query again. I don't go to a lot of conferences and have only started going to them now that my books have sold. So while conferences are nice to get face time, I don't think they're absolutely necessary, no! A good query letter and an interesting hook/book can be all that you need.

    If you feel you need more exposure but don't have the money for conferences (and you write romance!), check out your local RWA chapter and network there, and look for contests. A lot of romance contests get your entry in front of editors and agents.

    -- Jill

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  51. great interview :)

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  52. Two years, huh? Guess I shouldn't be worried about seven months of rejection. Great interview!

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  53. Love that "antic" comment-and would you have come to that realization if someone hadn't taken the time to point it out?!

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  54. This is fabulous advice! Thanks for the interview and the insightful answers. :)

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  55. Rejection is hard, especially after months (years, in some cases) of working on your novel. Great interview--and congrats to you both!

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  56. "print out your book and read it AGAIN with an eye for character reactions. They're easy to get wrong."

    This is soooo true! Thanks for reminding me, Jill, and thanks for having the interview, Hilary!

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  57. Fun read! I keep ducking in shame, though, because I would be too afraid to speak up that much to an editor...at least I'd sweat buckets doing it. Confidence. Must gets me some confidence.

    -Mandy

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  58. Another great interview! And I loved reading through all the posts too. Such valuable stuff here.

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  59. I like you allow yourself to take rejections personally: but only for five minutes! Printing out your book and reading it at one go with different focuses can really bring things to the fore.

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  60. awesome interview!!!!

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  61. Great interview. Looking forward to reading this book.

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  62. Thank you for posting this awesome interview Hilary. Jill this was such great advice you give all us writers, never give up that is so true. Print out your work that is another thing I do too. I hate wasting trees, but sometimes it needs to be done in order to see what you couldn't on screen.

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