When I first began writing, and in turn getting an education in publishing, I started following Chuck Sambuchino’s series on Writer’s Digest called, “Successful Queries.” I read each letter he posted with intensity, learning about voice and the almost impossible task of narrowing down your story into three paragraphs.
The query I kept going back to study was one that broke ALL the rules – but was an extraordinary example of incorporating voice into your writing. Ever since reading that query for “SCORE” (which later turned into CATCHING JORDAN), I knew I wanted to interview today’s author, Miranda Kenneally, about her writing and incredible path to publication.
Amy: When did you first begin seriously writing with the intent of wanting to be published?
Miranda: When I was 25 years old.
Amy: When did you complete your first manuscript?
Miranda: I was 26 when I finished my first manuscript. It was a very crappy book about a boy who grew up on the moon and stows away on the space shuttle to earth, where he falls in love and tries to legally “divorce” himself from his parents. I have no idea what I was thinking when I was writing this, but my biggest issue was that I didn’t know who my audience was. Teen boys? Teen girls? Pre-teen boys? You have to know who your audience is before you start writing!
Amy: How many completed manuscripts did you query before one garnered agent interest?
Miranda: My second novel, CATCHING JORDAN, was the one that got me an agent. My first novel about the boy who grew up on the moon garnered some agent interest, but again, I didn’t know who my audience was so the agents didn’t know who they would sell the book to.
Amy: If one manuscript was continuing to get rejected, how did you know it was time to move on to a new project?
Miranda: I knew it was time to move on to a new project after about three months of querying my first book. It wasn’t getting enough interest for me to believe it could ever sell to a real publisher.
Amy: If you had bites on previous manuscripts, and then was ultimately turned down by agents, what kept you pressing forward?
Miranda: I wanted to be published so bad! I just kept working on craft and reading as many YA books as I could. I finally realized that I wasn’t focusing on a particular audience, and once I did that, it all started to fall into place.
Amy: You’ve kind of earned a reputation for being a rule-breaker when it comes to writing queries. In fact, there is a thread dedicated to you on AgentQueryConnect about it. How did you know that was the right direction to take for CATCHING JORDAN?
Miranda: Jordan’s voice was loud and clear. I originally wrote it in first person, so I could make sure I had good voice and characterization when I converted it to third, but I found I didn’t want to convert it! So I sent out three test queries written in Jordan’s voice. All three garnered full MS requests, so I just kept sending out queries in first person.
Amy: How many agents did you query for CATCHING JORDAN?
Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for the requests/rejections?
Miranda: I queried CATCHING JORDAN for about three weeks before I received an offer of representation. Some agents were faster than others at getting back to me.
Amy: Can you give us a short summary of your call with your agent, Sara Megibow?
Miranda: It was a snow day here in DC, so I wasn’t at work. She called me on my cell at about 5pm and we talked for about an hour. She had just given birth (she was a surrogate mother!!) so I was shocked she was willing to take me on as a client at that time. I was super excited she took a chance on me.
Amy: What parting advice can you give other aspiring writers who may be on the cusp of giving up on their writing dream?
Miranda: Know your audience, keep reading books in your genre, keep looking for the right hook for your book and make sure to find your own, distinct voice! Don’t give up if your friends or family members don’t think you’ll make it. Many people react negatively to their friends trying new things, as they don’t want them to fail. Publishing is really, really hard.
Miranda Kenneally is the author of CATCHING JORDAN, STEALING PARKER, and THINGS I CAN’T FORGET (April 2013). Miranda is the co-creator of Dear Teen Me. The Dear Teen Me Anthology came out on October 31, 2012. She enjoys reading and writing young adult literature, and loves Star Trek, music, sports, Mexican food, Twitter, coffee, and her husband. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook. Miranda is represented by Sara Megibow at Nelson Literary Agency.