One of the things I love about today’s W.O.W. with Emery Lord are her comments about taking your time when researching agents. Many times writers discover an agent who reps books in their category and send out a query right away without taking time to consider whether or not that agent would be a good fit for them. As Emery points out, she “did research and looked for agents who had gaps in their list where she may fit in.” Emery’s success is a perfect example of taking your time and considering who you want to work with. By doing your homework, hopefully your ending will be as extraordinary as hers!
Many thanks to Emery for sharing her writing journey today…
Amy: When did you first begin seriously writing with the intent of wanting to be published?
Emery: 2010. I started writing contemporary YA a bit in 2009 but got serious the next year. Publication wasn’t on my mind at first. I just really loved writing. I wanted to hone my craft and finish a whole book. It wasn’t until after I finished a draft and dug into revisions that I started to think I could do something with it.
Amy: When did you complete your first Young Adult manuscript?
Emery: Early 2011
Amy: I devoured OPEN ROAD SUMMER! I was really struck by, and loved, the song lyrics. Are you a songwriter by trade?
Emery: Thank you so much! I’m definitely not a songwriter! I forced myself to try songwriting, a little bit, for Open Road Summer. I play the piano, and I made myself come up with chords and write each song out, so the lyrics would ring true. It was awkward and I laughed at myself a lot, but I felt like it helped inform Matt and Dee as characters and as individual writers themselves.
Amy: Did you have critique partners or beta readers that helped you polish OPEN ROAD SUMMER? If so, how critical were they to the process of completing the manuscript?
Emery: I have a critique partner (the brilliant Bethany Robison) who works with me on everything I write (and vice versa). She knows my strengths and calls me out if I’m not using them. She also knows my weaknesses and won’t let me get away with them. So, um, very critical? Haha! But none of that ever *feels* critical. Because Bethy is on my team, you know? She’s my pal and the godmother of my characters–and there is a huge level of trust on both sides. She pushes me toward my best work, and I’m a better writer because of it.
Amy: How laborious/frustrating was the query process for you?
Emery: Truthfully, the query process *after* clicking send was quick and straightforward. But I researched for months beforehand while revising, and that was definitely laborious.
Amy: As many writers know the publishing world is very hard to break into. What was the one thing you did to help garner agent attention?
Emery: I guess just knowing my audience? Any time I needed a break from revising my ms, I’d pop over to and read about various agents…their tastes, what they rep, current client lists, etc. I was particularly looking for gaps between what they said they were interested in and what their clients were writing. (They said they love contemporary YA but apparently only have 1 client writing it/seems quite different than my style, that suggested maybe they had room for my ms on their list? That kind of thing.)
Amy: What was your call like with your agent, Taylor Martindale? How did you know she was the right fit for you?
Emery: Many reasons but the one that still really sealed it: contemporary YA was NOT doing well in early 2011, and I knew it. (We were coming down from paranormal; dystopian was booming.) Taylor knew it too. But she wanted my book anyway–not because it would be an easy sell for her but because she wanted that story on shelves for readers. In that first conversation, she just had such passion in her voice, insisting that contemporary YA with quiet character moments belonged in the market and that she wanted to advocate for books like that, books like mine. I just sat there, listening, thinking: holy crap, she has this fire…she’s going to fight like heck for this story. And she did! She’s a champion for character-driven novels, diversity and positivity–exactly as I knew her to be in that first call.
Amy: If you were giving a keynote speech at a writer’s conference, what would be the most important piece of advice you would share?
Emery: Write at the intersection of an interesting story and what matters to your very soul. Yes, writing to entertain is important. But writing something entertaining that has your passion surrounding it like a force field? That’s everything. That’s your trademark, your fingerprints on this planet pressed into the book pages. What matters to you will keep you at your desk late at night. It’ll keep you typing even when reviews burn or don’t even make sense. When what is feeding your story is something greater than YOU, it gives you fight. So write around what you BELIEVE in or the questions you wrestle with or the parts that hurt–but make sure it matters to you in the deepest vessel of your heart, so much it almost hurts sometimes.
After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking.