I’m lucky (or cunning) enough to have lured yet another successful writer over to my blog for an SAT – Successful Author Talk. Today’s guest is a fellow Lucky 13, Alison Cherry. Her debut, RED, is set in a small town where the redness of your hair is directly tied to your social standing, until the coolest and reddest girl in school is blackmailed on the eve of the Miss Scarlet Pageant. Coming from Delacorte in the summer of 2013.
BBC: Are you a Planner or Pantster?
AC: I’m a excessive planner. I have note cards and lists and outlines galore. I find it hard to even start writing a book until I know how it ends. I’m trying to learn to be a bit more pantsy.
BBC: How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?
AC: My first, never-to-be-published book took me three years to write, revise, and polish. My debut, RED, took one year. I like to revise as I write, so my process is pretty slow, but that also means that my finished first drafts are more like fourth drafts.
BBC: Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi-tasker?
AC: Until this month, I was a monogamous, one-book-at-a-time girl. But now I’m cheating on my WIP with another manuscript in a different genre. Shh, don’t tell.
BBC: Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?
AC: Is there anyone who can answer “no” to this question? If so, I want to bake that person a cake. I have to overcome fears every time I sit down to write. What if everything I come up with today sucks? What if my WIP doesn’t turn out to be as good as my first book? What if I’ve used up all my ideas and I’ll never ever be able to write again, ever ever ever?!
BBC: How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?
AC: Just one. I’m mining it for parts right now, so you’ll likely see pieces of it in my second published book.
BC: Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?
AC: I trashed a manuscript after three pages once when I realized the world-building made no sense. I still like the idea, but I don’t intend to go back to it any time soon.
Querying and Agent Hunt Process:
Who is your agent and how did you get that “Yes!” out of them?
AC: My agent is the astonishingly awesome Holly Root at Waxman Agency. After doing an absurd amount of research, I came up with a list of dream agents and showed it to a good friend who used to be an agent herself. She pointed out a few people she thought would be especially good for me, and Holly was one of those. She was the first one I queried, and she asked for a full right away. But when she read the whole book a few months later, she wrote to me and basically said, “I love your writing and I think this book is awesome, but I also think it’s too quiet to sell. Do you have something else?” I was half finished with a first draft of RED at the time, so I sent her a few chapters. We met up in person a few weeks later, and she told me she was smitten with RED and that I should send her the rest as soon as possible. I could have continued to look for someone who wanted the first book, but after meeting Holly, I knew she was the agent I wanted. So I stopped querying and started writing like a madwoman. Five days after I finished RED—and fifteen months after my initial query—Holly offered me representation.
BBC: How long did you query before landing your agent?
AC: The book I queried first was rejected by 16 agents over the course of nine months. Holly is the only one who ever saw RED.
BBC: Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?
AC: Remember that you are not your manuscript; rejections are just business, not personal slights. Also, if an agent turns you down but says she wants to see the next thing you write, she’s not just saying that to be nice. She saw something special in your writing, even if your first project wasn’t right for her. Send her your next book!!!
Social Networking and Marketing:
BBC: How much of your own marketing do you? Do you have a blog / site / Twitter?
AC: It’s way too early for me to start marketing, but I made a website and started blogging recently in order to establish an online presence. Holly also suggested I join Twitter when I first signed with her, and I was very skeptical, but now I’m addicted. I tweet about weird stuff a lot.
BBC: When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?
AC: Having a website/blog/Twitter account before you query does help agents find out more about you, but I didn’t have any of those things, and everything still worked out fine for me!
BBC: Do you think social media helps build your readership?
AC: Absolutely. My book is at least 17 months from publication, and I’ve already met a number of people at various book events who knew who I was because of social media. It’s always a bit startling when that happens.