Yesterday I reposted Debra Schubert’s story about how she landed her agent Bernadette Baker-Baughman of Baker’s Mark Literary Agency. Today, as a follow up, I’ve asked Debra some questions about her post that has received much attention, her writing life, and her journey.
So Debra, you said that you sent out 150 queries of Sparks Fly. Some people would have given up at that point. How did you handle the rejections?
I sent out 150 queries for SPARKS FLY SOMETIMES: CONFESSIONS OF A ROCK PRINCESS and for MURDER ON TWILIGHT CIRCLE (over 300 total!). At first, rejection was very difficult. But, like anything, you get used to it after a while. Also, I got to the point where I believed if an agent passed, they weren’t the one for me. So, every “no” led me closer to “yes.”
Bernadette Baker-Baughman, your agent, saw a funny reply of yours on Twitter regarding authors’ queries. That prompted her to invite you to query again. Do you remember what you wrote that caught her eye?
We were tweeting back and forth with a kind of spoof on full sentences. My response was: Or maybe if you just. Then I could. My fifth novel is about. Thanks you’re the.
It was silly, but fun.
Your YA novel, The Secret Keeper was written in 6 weeks. 6 weeks! That’s incredibly driven… incredibly impressive. How did you manage that? Tell us a little about your process. How many hours a day did you write? Did you outline or dive in?
I started writing THE SECRET KEEPER on September 20th and finished on November 3rd. The idea came to me randomly and quickly, as many great ideas do. I wrote a few paragraphs, sort of like a query, and then dove into the book. I didn’t outline at all; I never do. I’m a pantser – I simply write. I wrote almost every day, including weekends. I’d put in anywhere from 2-10 hours a day. My average daily word count was approximately 2,000 words. My least was 346 and most was 4,160.
When Bernadette called you she said she wanted a 7-day exclusive on your first draft of The Secret Keeper. Can you explain to us what that means?
An exclusive is a request from an agent – it means they are interested enough in your work to want to take an exclusive look at it. An exclusive means you promise to only show that one particular agent your work. So, for one week she was the only agent who saw the book. We’d been in communication via email, phone, and Twitter, so she knew I was working on THE SECRET KEEPER. She’d previously asked me for 100 pages on MURDER ON TWILIGHT CIRCLE so she had a good idea of my writing style. An exclusive read is more commonly done for a completed manuscript, not a first draft, but there are no set-in-stone rules in publishing. I believe that, within reason, you should always go with your instincts.
You said Bernadette had you at hello. I recently attended a writing conference and agent Lorin Stein gave this advice: “Follow your gut when it comes to choosing an agent.” Is this ultimately what you did? How did you know she was the one?
She showed interest in a more personal way than any other agent had, and I had some very nice interactions and interest from some amazing agents. I sensed that she really “got” my writing.
Lastly, as part of your advice for readers you say to never give up. You obviously didn’t. What drove you and kept you going?
I was and am committed to improving my writing and being published. I advise all serious writers to keep at it, believe in yourself, and keep writing. You get better with each project. Don’t let the rejections get you down for more than a few moments. Move on, you can do it! As far as critiques from others go, take in what makes sense and disregard the rest. Always, always, trust yourself!
I knew I needed an agent who would be an advocate for me and see my potential. I feel so blessed to have found Bernadette. I look forward to a long, successful writing career with her guidance and support.
“What we really want to do is what we are really meant to do. When we do what we are meant to do, money comes to us, doors open for us, we feel useful, and the work we do feels like play to us.”