Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Kickass Queries Series! #13 - Greg Andree

Happy Autumn, everyone!

With the new season comes a new installment of the Kickass Queries Series, this time featuring Greg Andree and his query for INCONCEIVABLE WISDOM, which nabbed him representation from Caitie Flum at Liza Dawson Associates.

Dear Ms. Flum,

I am seeking representation for my contemporary YA novel THE INCONCEIVABLE SCOTT WISDOM. I’m querying you because when tweeting about Supergirl, John Oliver, and other topics I can see your sense of story, politics, and humor are very similar to mine. I think you’ll particularly like Izzy Kim, one of my main characters. She’s smart, funny, and always calls people on their nonsense.  I hope you’ll see yourself as a good fit for this project.

 Scott Fischer is the chosen one. He will take on the mantle of Wisdom and . . . write an advice column.

Words of Wisdom has been a part of Prince Henry High School’s newspaper for over one hundred years, and for unknown reasons Scott has been chosen to carry on the tradition. He isn’t the best writer, student, or anything else, but he's determined to breathe new life into this assignment. Though how can Scott give other people advice when his own life is so broken?

Yura "Izzy" Kim is a force of chaos who inserts herself into Scott’s life. She is a feminist that loves to play with surrealism in her art. She has plans within plans for Wisdom, Scott, and the school that will be an artistic masterpiece.

Oh yeah, and Dennis, the guy from homeroom? He's formed a cult based on Scott's Words of Wisdom, and Principal Lewis is not a fan.

While writing his column and trying to maintain a secret identity Scott stumbles into friendships, trouble, and cosmic contemplations on the meanings of life, love, tattoos, and why some people can’t bring themselves to take down decorations from holidays long past.

Can Scott find a way to fix what’s broken inside of him, or will he lose everything to the grief that fractured his family?

THE INCONCEIVABLE SCOTT WISDOM is 83k words, and feels like a collision of A.S. King’s Everybody Sees the Ants, E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, and the classic teen rebellion movie Pump Up The Volume. It plays with ideas of how art and words can create meaning out of chaos, be misinterpreted, or remain inconceivable to people who don't share your experiences.

I have a BA in Literature, an MA in writing, and teach 8th graders about all that fun stuff. Working with teenagers is a constant reminder of how awkward, horrible, fun, and overwhelming their lives can be, which keeps my writing reality-based, and mostly nostalgia free.

I appreciate your time and consideration.

GMC: How many manuscripts did you query before signing with your agent?

GA: I’d written five manuscripts and queried two before writing INCONCEIVABLE WISDOM and signing with Caitie Flum at Liza Dawson Associates. One was weirdly experimental that told the evolution of a world religion that formed on the foundation of an advice column after the column’s writer mysteriously vanished. The body of the book was the advice column itself, and I showed the evolution of the religion’s traditions, sects, and such in footnotes and scholarly essays. I thought it was brilliant. It was not brilliant. Agents didn’t’ know what to make of it, never mind how to place it. It deserved every rejection in the universe and more, but it was my first “book” and without it I never could have written the manuscript that connected me with my agent. Each epic failure in writing was a step closer to me learning how to write a solid book. Not one of those manuscripts was a waste of time. They were lessons in concept, story, and character, but most importantly each was an exercise in how to actually finish a manuscript.

GMC: How long did it take to write your query, and what things/steps do you think were most important to make it agent-ready?

GA: While I was doing my final revision before querying I wrote and rewrote my query letter at least ten times. Added a detail, cut a line, changed the wording of something to make it click. When it was done I tightened it up by cutting a quarter of the word count. Once I had the description of the story I switched focus to the agents I knew I’d be submitting to. Every night for a week I’d write a personalized opening for each query. In each I explained why I chose that agent to query, specifics about my story that connected to their #MSWL, their clients I read, or something they tweeted about a book or movie that made me think they’d like my manuscript. Sometimes I’d spend an hour trying to craft that perfect personalized line. I wanted them to understand I thought deeply about querying them. I wasn’t just throwing this into the crowd and hoping for the best.

GMC: 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?

GA: Over a week, as I perfected each personalized query I’d send them out. Two days after I sent the first few I got requests from two agents to read my full, and over the next two weeks I got requests for five more. Ten days after Caitie Flum requested my full manuscript she emailed to set up a phone call. Terrifying, right?

GMC: Now the fun part – what was “the call” like? How did you know your agent was the right person to represent your project?

GA: Caitie was kind and insightful about my manuscript. She also said it wasn’t ready, and told me all the reasons why. That was painful. She asked for a rewrite/resubmit on the first thirty pages with the changes she thought it needed. I knew it was a kind of test to see if I could take a critique, and build on her ideas, but it also made me see that the opening of my ms wasn’t as strong as the middle and end. I took a couple of weeks, re-read, took notes, made the changes she wanted, and she was right. She was totally right. When I talked to her a few days later she offered representation. She saw my story, understood it, and knew how it could be more. That’s when I knew she was the right agent for me.

GMC: If you could give one piece of advice to authors seeking publication, what would it be?

GA: So many things in publishing are beyond your control, so control the things you can. Write the best book you can, then rewrite, revise, and make it better. Don’t set artificial deadlines. Take the time you need. And when you’re ready take as much care in querying agents as you did writing your book. You’re finding someone you can trust with your writing career, a partner in all things literary, don’t just throw your manuscript into the crowd.

Excellent advice! Thanks so much for sharing this part of your publishing journey with us, Greg, and best of luck finding the right home for INCONCEIVABLE WISDOM. 
If you'd like to learn more about Greg Andree, you can find him on Twitter (@GregAndree71) or on his website (www.AndreeInstitute.com). 

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