Today for our Kickass Queries Series, we're talking with one of your favorites and mine: Dahlia Adler!
Dahlia's novel, BEHIND THE SCENES debuts in three short months from Spencer Hill Contemporary, and if you need a reason (or twenty) to drop everything and pre-order it, you can find it here. She also runs The Daily Dahlia, a goldmine of information for writers in every stage of the game. Today she's sharing the query for JUST VISITING, the novel that landed her current agent, Lana Popovic, with Zachary Shuster Harmsworth.
Reagan Forrester wants out--out of her trailer park, out of reach of her freeloading mother, and out of the shadow of the relationship that made her the pariah of Charytan, Kansas.
Victoria Reyes wants in--in to a fashion design program and a sorority, in to the arms of a cute guy who doesn't go to Charytan High, and in to a city where she won't stand out for being Mexican.
One thing the polar-opposite best friends do agree on is that wherever they go, they’re going together. But when they set off on a series of college visits at the start of their senior year, they quickly see that the future doesn’t look quite like they expected. After two years of near-solitude following the betrayal of the ex-boyfriend who broke her heart, Reagan falls hard and fast for a Battlestar Galactica-loving, brilliant smile-sporting pre-med prospective... only to learn she's set herself up for heartbreak all over again. Meanwhile, Victoria realizes everything she’s looking for might be in the very place they've sworn to leave.
As both Reagan and Victoria struggle to learn who they are and what they want in the present, they discover just how much they don't know about each other's pasts. And when each learns what the other’s been hiding, they'll have to decide whether their friendship has a future.
G: How many manuscripts did you query prior to signing with your agent?
D: I signed my first agent on manuscript #3 (though #1 was a very short query process—I think I only queried nine agents), and my second agent on manuscript #5 (though she also signed #4). I like to make things complicated J
G: How long did it take to write your query/pitch, and what things/steps do you think were most important to make it agent-ready?
D: Writing this query probably took a couple of days, but once I finished, the first draft was very close to the final version. I think the most important things are running it by other people to see where you’re being vague or unclear, and number one paramount step is running it past someone who’s never read the book. No question—do this.
G: Tell us about your query style – do you approach your entire list of prospectives at once, or query in small batches and revise in between?
D: Always small batches—no matter how confident you are, I think you always want to give yourself opportunities to revise things you see aren’t working. Sometimes your query’s obviously just fine, but you get to the point where you’re getting asked for fulls, and you realize that’s where your problem lies. That doesn’t mean I think you should use agents as test cases—I’d never query without feeling my query and manuscript were both solid—but sometimes it’s just hard to see the issues with your own work until someone truly objective points them out to you.
G: Now the fun part – what was “the call” like? How did you know your agent was the right person to represent your project?
D: My call with Lana was a lot of fun, very comfortable, and, as usual, I talked her ear off. For me, so much was in how well we clicked and how much she truly loved my book. One of the scariest things about being on sub is how not in control the author is. We don’t get to pitch our books to editors; we rely on our agents to do that. So it takes out a lot of the fear when you feel like an agent would really represent your book the way you would, given the chance. So to feel like an agent “gets” it, and gets you? That’s a huge deal. Another big sign for me was that when we talked revisions, she brought up something that had been bugging me about the book but hadn’t seemed to bother anyone else. I wanted someone who would really push me on stuff like that, even when I knew I could technically “get away with” not addressing them.
G: If you could give one piece of advice to writers seeking publication, what would it be?
D: Ha, I could never give only one. Except maybe “Read my blog.” Can I do that? I’m doing it.
Thanks for sharing, Dahl! Best of luck with JUST VISITING and all your writing endeavors!
Goodreads: BEHIND THE SCENES