Hi everyone, and thank you for tuning in to another episode of the We Make Books Podcast - A podcast about writing, publishing, and everything in between!
Week Three of Submissions September and the final episode of Agents Week! For Part Three we got we spoke with three more agented authors to hear about their journey and experience in signing with their literary agent. This time we’re chatting with AJ Hackwith, Jennifer Mace, and Nino Cipri who share stories, wisdom, and anecdotes about their paths to signing with a Literary Agent. You can (and should!) check them all out on Twitter, Instagram, and their website, all of which are linked below!
In case you’re just joining us, this month is Submissions September on the We Make Books Podcast, we’re doing seven (7!) episodes this month all about the process of submitting your novel. We have a lot of awesome discussions lined up and even some special guests. Here’s what will be coming your way for the month:
Week 1 (9/3/2019): Is This Ready For Other People to See?- Submitting Your Manuscript
Week 2 (9/10/2019): My Entire Novel in Three Hundred Words - The Dreaded Query Letter
Week 3 (9/17/2019): Agents of Literature, Part 1: An Interview with Literary Agent Caitlin McDonald
(9/18/2019): Agents of Literature, Part 2: Interviews with Agented Authors
(9/19/2019): Agents of Literature Part 3: Interviews with Agented Authors
Week 4 (9/24/2019): What is Going On Over There? - The Other Side of the Submissions Process
Week 5 (9/30/2019): Now I’m Even More Confused – Submissions September Q&A Episode
We Make Books is hosted by Rekka Jay and Kaelyn Considine; Rekka is a published author and Kaelyn is an editor and together they are going to take you through what goes into getting a book out of your head, on to paper, in to the hands of a publisher, and finally on to book store shelves.
We Make Books is a podcast for writer and publishers, by writers and publishers and we want to hear from our listeners! Hit us up on our social media, linked below, and send us your questions, comments, concerns, and everyone, let’s be real, we’re two games into it and the Giants’ season is over. Kaelyn would appreciate your support while she waits for hockey season to start.
We hope you enjoy We Make Books!
And check out this episode’s interviewees!
- J. Hackwith
Represented by Caitlin McDonald https://literallycait.tumblr.com/ of DMLA http://maassagency.com/
The Library of the Unwritten https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/608277/the-library-of-the-unwritten-by-a-j-hackwith/9781984806376/
Represented by Kurestin Armada https://twitter.com/kurestinarmada of PS Literary https://www.psliterary.com/
Represented by DongWon Song http://www.dongwonsong.com/ of HMLA http://www.morhaimliterary.com/
Kaelyn:00:00 Hey everyone, welcome back to another episode of the, We Make Books Podcast, a show about writing, publishing, and everything in between. And when I say another, it's because this is the third one this week.
Rekka:00:10 And I'm Rekka, I write science fiction and fantasy as RJ Theodore.
Kaelyn:00:13 I think my name is just third episode. No, I am Kaelyn. I'm the acquisitions editor, Parvus Press. Why did we do this?
Rekka:00:21 Hey, you know what? We're going to be so glad when it's done.
Kaelyn:00:24 It is good because these were, these were great interviews. So this is the second episode, um, of interviews with.
Rekka:00:29 Interviews with authors -
Kaelyn:00:29 Interviews with agented authors. So, you know, first episode, if you missed that one, go back and take a listen to that. The, uh, September,
Rekka:00:39 How should we even know?
Kaelyn:00:39 [laughs] What day is it?
Rekka:00:41 Is it September?
Kaelyn:00:42 The September 17th episode.
Rekka:00:43 Which was with Caitlin McDonald, the Agent.
Rekka:00:47 And then on the 18th, yesterday we spoke with Sam Hawk, Tyler Hayes, and Caitlin Starling. And today we are speaking with AJ Hackwith, Jennifer Mace, and Nino Cipri.
Kaelyn:00:57 Yes. So, um, second episode of agented author interviews. Uh, you know, how they got them, what,
Rekka:01:03 Yeah. Rounding out the experiences that we gathered of people who found agents and then those agents are helping them or have helped them find a home for their manuscript.
Kaelyn:01:13 Yeah. And um, some good insights here. Yeah. I think in this set of interviews. So, um, we'll stop talking now because I don't know -
Rekka:01:21 To talk.
Kaelyn:01:23 Words. Um, so everyone, uh, we hope you enjoy and um, so next week will be the last episode of Submissions September and uh, we're going to be doing what is going on, on the other side of things.
Rekka:01:35 Kaelyn's side.
Kaelyn:01:35 My side.
Kaelyn:01:36 [laughs evily] You are in my realm now.
Rekka:01:41 Well not now. Next week.
Kaelyn:01:42 Next week. Yeah. Fair. All right. Well thanks everyone so much for listening and bearing with us through all of this. Enjoy the episode.
AJ: 02:04 I'm Amanda. I write as AJ Hackworth. I have a contemporary fantasy coming out October 1st with Ace called The Library of the Unwritten, I tend to write about mythical stuff and gods and sarcastic and families and all that good kind of good staff. I also have two Scifi romances out as Ada Harper. Um, they both came out last year and the first one is a Conspiracy of Whispers.
Rekka:02:29 Cool. And you are represented by an agent. Um, you want to say who and tell us, uh, how you found this agent and why you chose them.
AJ: 02:40 Sure. I represented by Caitlin McDonald at the Donald Mass literary agency. I, I found Caitlin via tumbler. That's really what made me, made me reach out with her because she seemed to have a lot of the same interests in likes and fandom interests that I did. I so I thought that she would jive on my writing style and so I reached out to her, um, through the slush pile. Basically I just like queried her and was coming up through the slush. It kind of funny because she had my, full of my book, for 10 months, 11 months. It was a long process. I had actually like had like given up and thrown in the towel and it's never going to happen. And I had pitched the most ridiculous romance I could think of to a Karina Press. And then an offer from them came first, uh, just about the same. It's just about the same time that Caitlin was getting back to me about the full, I'm making an offer. So, uh, it was kind of a weird deal that the book that I queried her with, with not actually the first book that came out, but it's been fantastic.
Rekka:03:44 Awesome. Very cool. Okay. When you interact with your agent versus, um, when you interact directly with the editor, with your publisher, um, how would you describe one versus the other and when do you go through Caitlin and when do you go through your editor?
AJ: 04:02 I tend to go through Cait, went through Caitlin, whenever there's a disagreement, especially if it's one that's a delicate negotiations, delicate to navigate. Um, I like my relationship with the editor should, uh, is, should usually be in the positive and I cc Caitlin on everything. But if there's something that actually needs to be pushed back on or negotiated with, I definitely sometimes let Caitlin trace the language of that just so she has control of that navigation and I can just be the fun one.
Rekka:04:35 She's the bad cop. That was one thing she said. So that's, it's good that you're, um, you're using all the tools you have correctly. It sounds like.
AJ: 04:43 Well, you know that takes, that's something you have to learn too. Cause like when I first signed, when we were going through the first uh romances, I was more hesitant. I didn't want to bug my agent. Um, which is a common thing that new writers feel like, you know, you, it's a, it's a change in relationship. Cause when you're querying, you feel like you're trying to impress them and get them to like you and stuff. But then when you are, have signed with them, your business partners and that sometimes is a switch for a lot of writers that they are too hesitant to contact their agent when things come up. Um, and so it took a few times of Caitlin gently say, I should cc me on this. Let me, let me handle this. Um, before I understood, um, how before you look at her communication style and how to make that a real partnership.
Rekka:05:28 Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Now. What about before, um, you had the book on contract to a publisher, um, editing, um, pitching, like getting the, the submissions ready. What was the process with your agent in that regard?
AJ: 05:45 Um Caitlin's very nice editorial level. Um, for my, for my tastes, we did line edit, we did developmental edit and then a line edit, um, before we put it on submission. Um, and that was just about the right level for me. I think we got it in a really good place and she had, she, she had her, her touches on enough that I felt like, um, it was strong going out into submission. Um, and then when we'er on submission, you know, it's so important to know your communication style with the mission cause it's a nerve wracking process. And I like, you know, when we went on submission I asked Caitlin at the beginning of it is like, whether it's good news or bad news, I just want to update at least once a month. And it can just be a summary. I don't need the specifics because I wanted those people that the rejection language will stick in your brain forever. And you of course, you forget the good stuff people say. So that worked out really well as soon as she just, you know, gave me a monthly summary of where we were at in the process.
Rekka:06:42 Okay, cool. So did you work together on um, putting the submission package together? Um, in terms of coming up with the language that you use to pitch the book to the editors?
AJ: 06:54 It was pretty hands off. Caitlin came up with all of that. Um, we discussed just basically, um, she gave me a list of which houses she was going to approach in this round. Um, and and kind of the vague genre of how we're pitching this book. Um, you know, like, you know, contemporary, literary, smart commercial, all those different types. So we really had a basic discussion, but Caitlin really ran with it past that point, which is great. [laughs] This whole, you already had to query the book once.
Rekka:07:25 Right. You don't want to do it again.
AJ: 07:26 Well, magic in itself, the whole submission process. So I'm glad to let an expert have the final say of those things.
Rekka:07:33 Okay, great. So it sounds like you feel like you're in good hands.
AJ: Yeah, it's been good.
Rekka:07:38 Awesome. So if you were talking to, uh, an author who was looking for an agent, what are some tips that you would give that author as far as, uh, whatever part you feel like maybe people have misconceptions with before they get into it? Um, either with the querying, with finding the agent, with negotiating, et cetera.
AJ: 08:01 I think querying, um, you just, you gotta be patient, it's a long, long process and um, there's some great guides out there. I think I found, you know, after I signed as agent was the area where there's not as much information and, and resources for people for how this should go and go. I think the biggest advice I would give is to start as you intend to go on, which you know, how you want to communicate and establish that early on with an agent. And if you're wondering whether you should email your agent about something or whether, whether it's okay to email them about something, the answer is yes.
Rekka:08:37 Fantastic. There's that power balance. It must be difficult to say like, okay, now, like that power balance is more like we're partners in this now and the power struggle and that you feel when you're querying doesn't evaporate inside your head.
AJ: 08:56 Yeah. And it was, it was really, it was, it was a, a tough transition, especially for me because we went right from signing her representation and to negotiating a contract for the romances. Um, so we didn't have that like getting to know you build up of, of um, the editorial process. I joke with Caitlin that I knew we, we broke the ice right away when like my second email to her was, uh, talking about fanfic tropes and how my book shouldn't like have any ref- You know, my joke is like when they're in my email included en-preg in the second email, you knew it was a [laughs]
Rekka:09:32 Well that's awesome because I mean, so everyone knows the Caitlin is human now, but she promises us that all agents are, and it does sound like once you get past this strange like, um, professional dance that there is a chance to just like relax and get into the relationship and get to work.
AJ: 09:51 Yeah, and I, and I think also one of the things I've seen with a bunch of my friends uh getting agents as well is that your relationship is going to be unique to that agent if you're not best buddies. And tweeting memes at your agent all day, that's okay too. Like, you know, I have a pretty, I mean Caitlin and I have a great relationship but we just keep it pretty professional. You know, I'm not tweeting her about, you know, whatever the Internet's on about current time. Um, whereas other other agents I know like our, our, like our, our much more, much more of a friendship relationship with their, their clients. And so it just depends on the agent and depends on the author. And there's no wrong way to have a relationship we've had with an agent as long as it's the right way for you,
Rekka:10:36 For both sides to, yeah, definitely. Awesome. Well thank you so much. I really appreciate your time. And um, why don't you give us your pitch for The Library.
AJ: 10:44 Sure. The Library of the Unwritten is the story of the Librarian of the Unwritten Wing, which is the library of all the books that were never quite written. All the stories that were never quite told and it happened to be located in hell
Rekka:10:57 Exactly where they go when I failed to write that book. Right?
AJ: 11:02 It can feel that way for the author that it's definitely a fantasy about, um, books and writers and readers and also about regret and what happens when your story fails to start.
Rekka:11:14 Awesome. So everyone get out there and grab a copy. Thank you, Amanda for joining us today. And um, good luck with everything that you're working on.
AJ: 11:24 Thank you very much. It's been great to be here.
Macey:11:29 I'm Jennifer Maca. I go by Macy and I am a fantasy author, short story writer, poet and podcaster based out of the Pacific northwest. Despite my accent.
Kaelyn:11:42 Wait, that's not what everyone sounds like up there?
Macey:11:44 It absolutely is. This is what happens when you move to Seattle. This is the secret. They don't want you to know.
Kaelyn:11:49 It's because of the coffee.
Macey:11:49 And the rain, I feel. I feel like the rain, helps like really get you in character.
Kaelyn:11:55 Gotcha. Well thank you so much for uh, taking some time to talk to us.
Macey:12:01 So I'm represented by Kurestin Armada of PA Literary and I guess I have a somewhat normal journey to getting an agent. You know, I did actually query uh, I didn't have an agent descend from the sky and pluck me from Twitter, but I guess it kind of starts with, I went to a workshop called Viable Paradise in 2016 and that was kinda my first step along the road to trying to become a professional author. Right? I had all of these books that I'd been writing for years, but I didn't really know what to do with them. And so this is a workshop that's taught by a bunch of professional authors and editors. And while I was there, they talked about, you know, the query process and that really helped me get together what I wanted to say about my book. And so I actually decided to go out querying with the book that wasn't the one I brought to Viable Paradise because I had two books in my back pocket. And you know, who doesn't? Umm -
Kaelyn:13:06 It's, it's very true. I,
Macey:13:10 I accidentally did NaNoWriMo every year for eight years running before I decided to try to get published.
Kaelyn:13:17 Wait, how does this one accidentally do NaNoWriMo?
Macey:13:20 I mean, I kind of describe what I was writing. Like back then as I wasn't trying to write books, I was kind of just like textually role-playing.
Macey:13:29 Just I wanted to have adventures and makeup adventures to go on, you know?
Kaelyn:13:34 Okay, Gotcha. So, okay. So you were actually just consistently doing this and then certain months you were accidentally falling - okay. All right.
Macey:: 13:43 Yeah, yeah.
Kaelyn:13:44 That's, that's wonderful. I love it.
Macey:13:47 I decided that I was going to start querying in sort of March, 2017 and I had won in an auction, a query critique with someone who used to be an agent. Yeah. It was super great. It was a Amy Boggs and she did really great work for me. But while I was waiting to hear back from her, it was actually Pit Mad. The Twitter contest.
Kaelyn:14:09 Yes. Yes. I really love PitMad. Yeah, it's a lot of fun.
Macey:14:14 I have so many friends who got their agents that way or at least got one of their offers that way. PitMad is a Twitter like pitch contest where you tweet a very short summary of your book and kind of some hashtags about what genre it is an agents can go through and like the tweets that they want to hear more about.
Kaelyn:14:34 Yeah. So it's just, yeah, it's great because it's, it's kind of, I always think of maybe a little bit of a more low pressure situation. It's kind of like, it's like a market almost where it's just like, Hey, I'm here. I got this thing.
Macey:14:46 Right. Exactly. And, uh, one of my first was actually from Kursten.
Kaelyn:14:53 Oh, okay.
Macey:14:54 And she'd actually already been on my list of agents to query because I am an over researcher. And so I had a very detailed list of agents
Kaelyn:15:03 Listen, as an acquisitions editor, I appreciate the over researchers. I love hearing like, Hey, I looked you guys up online and I saw you're interested in this. And I'm like, yes, yes. Somebody who who's paying attention, you know?
Macey:15:15 And one of the things that I did end up doing, I queried 12 different agents after Kurestin had asked for my manuscript. Um, because you, you keep trying, right? You never know. These things take time. And every one of them I would look through their manuscript wishlist or look through their profile on their agency and make sure to tweak either, you know, which comp titles did I pick or what parts of my book did I highlight? Not In the plot pitch section, but in the like little blurbs section below that in your query letter. And that's where you can kind of do really subtle, um, personalizations
Kaelyn:15:51 I don't know if it helped, but it sounds like it did. And if nothing else, it sounds like it didn't hurt.
Macey:15:58 Right. So that was in March, Kurestin asked for the first 50 pages from PitMad and then a month later she asked for the full manuscript. And then I think in late July it was, she reached out and said, you know, let's talk, which is the email you are waiting for. And so we had a really great conversation and I followed up with all of the other agents who had had my full and I decided that no, Kurestin is really the one for me.
Kaelyn:16:26 So what made you think that Kurestin was really the one for you? This is another thing that we're seeing when we're talking to everyone that they're like, and I just knew I -
Macey:16:37 I'm a very analytical person. Um, so I can probably break it down.
Kaelyn:16:42 Um, which by the way, you're going to see, you're one of the only authors I know is like, I have some statistics on this. I've given a lot of thought. There's a spreadsheet with a pivot table. And if you look at the corresponding data here.
Macey:16:57 Yeah, no like seriously, um, I have so many spreadsheets with so many like cell formulas. I have an entire automated poetry tracking spreadsheet that moves things in and out of the available to sub column based on where they're submitted to and where they're not.
Kaelyn:17:13 That's amazing. And I love it as a, as a big fan of excel myself. That is, Yup, that's phenomenal.
Macey:17:21 But um for Kurestin, so one of the things for me, I sent out a total of 12 queries over six months and that's a little bit of a low number for some people. I was being very specific when I was researching about who I wanted to query and I was only querying people who represented fantasy and YA and both adult and why a fantasy and who specifically mentioned LGBTQ or queer or gay somewhere in their profile or their manuscript wishlist and that plus, you know, targeting agencies that had a reputation for selling books kind of cut my choices down a lot. But it meant that I was already kind of confident. So I had a fairly short list of agents and so all of them would be really great choices. But for me, Kurestin had a lot of really great editorial things to say about the particular book that I'd sent to her and really understood what I, where it was going. And we also had a conversation about like longer career plans. Did we want to be in this as business partners for the long term because it's not just about will they sign this one book, but do they want to be your career partner?
Kaelyn:18:30 Right. Yeah. And that's, that's really important. And I think that's something that not everyone thinks about going into this is this is a business partner. This is a business relationship. And like you both have to be on the same page about what you're expecting out of it.
Macey:18:45 Absolutely. And especially since the project that she signed me for, which was a queer, silky, YA novel, it didn't sell. And so now we're moving onto the next project, which I'm super excited about. But like I asked her on the call, what do we do if it doesn't sell? And she says, you know, we keep working and we try the next thing together. And so that was really great to find or have knowledge of an advance and then not be so scared that I was going to disappoint her.
Kaelyn:19:14 Do you actually, I just kind of brought up an interesting, uh, the angle that I think author, you know, authors, you guys are so in your own head.
Kaelyn:19:23 So some of the most lovely but some of the most anxious people.
Macey:19:30 You are not wrong.
Kaelyn:19:32 I have ever met, and um, one of the things that you know is the I the self rejection and I the the not good enough. And um, so yeah, disappointing your agent. That's a whole nother level of scary now.
Macey:19:46 Isn't it?
Kaelyn:19:48 Sp how'd you work through that? Where you've said like?
Macey:19:51 Well, so, well one of the things that really great being with Kurestin is we built this kind of community amongst all of her clients called Kurestin's Armada because her last name is Amato and we are dweebs fantastic. And so I have this community of really supportive, amazing fellow clients and we have a little Alack together. And you know, once or twice a week, one of us will go in and be like, I fucked up. She's gonna hate me. And then we're like literally never going to happen. The rest of us know that Kurestin will never hate you, will never hate any of us and we'll fix it. Kurestin still not be mad. You should talk to her and she will help you. And just having someone else who actually knows her be like, no, no, it's fine. Really fix it. Kurestin fixes everything. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm uh, she, she has done nothing to deserve being saddled with us.
Kaelyn:20:57 Well, it sounds like a lovely supportive community and an army nay an armada and the rest, as they say is history. You guys are still working on upcoming projects and you know, that's, that's great. Uh, you know, the ongoing relationship with an agent is so important.
Kaelyn:21:20 And I think a lot of people when they sign with one are just so excited right off the bat to have their literary agent. It's like, oh, right, I'm going to be with this person for a while. Probably.
Macey:21:30 I think it's really hard to get past that initial kind of gut reaction that this is just a stamp of approval. You know, you have gained this status.
Kaelyn:21:40 Yeah, it is. It's like, you know, you've completed this quest, here is your -
Kaelyn:21:46 Yeah. Um, here is your agent badge to add to your, your book. Um, it's, it's Mewtwo at the end of Pokemon and, but no, because then it's like no, but then you actually have Mewtwo.
Macey:22:00 Yeah. You've got to have a relationship with this person who is a human with styles of working with opinions and you need to understand that and not just jump at the first opportunity because it could be a bad one.
Kaelyn:22:17 You know, that's so hard. If you're really wanting to get an agent to have to walk away from something and there's no good answer to it, you just kind of have to be aware is really, I think the only way to approach that.
Macey:22:34 And I think for me, one of the things that I didn't realize at the time and so kind of lucked into, um, is we were talking a little earlier about how inside our heads authors get and how anxious and I think that in order to stick it out as a writer, you really need to get to know yourself and understand the things that make you more anxious and the things that sues you. And one of the things that's super important is that the communication style of your agent works for you, not against you. I have friends who have, uh, agents that they really, really love, who don't always answer emails and have to be poked with followup things to answer the email. And I'm like, it's great that that works for you. I would have a panic attack, but I would just need curled up in a ball. Like they hate me now
Kaelyn:23:27 They're figuring out how to drop contract all together. This is it.
Macey:23:34 And that's fine. It's, um, there is no one perfect agent. They're puzzle pieces. Right.
Kaelyn:23:41 That's, that's a really good way to describe it. Yeah. And, um, you know, agents that I know and I talked to. I know even just like in my capacity as an editor, I always kind of go to the author and go, what works best for you? If you want to text me questions, that's, that's fine. If you prefer to have like, you know, regular scheduled meetings where we talk about that all at once and that's the only time you hear from me, that's, that's great too. Like I can be flexible. So let me know what works for you because if you're unhappy it's not, this isn't going to work well for anybody. Right. Um, you know, I, the last thing I want to do is be a source of anxiety in your life, right? Yeah, exactly.
Macey:24:26 Righ, I have enough of those.
Kaelyn:24:27 Exactly. So tell us something, either you wish you had known, you wish other people knew, something you're surprised by about either the process or once you have an agent.
Macey:24:37 Hmm. I mean, I think the big one is the communication styles. I have seen agent breakups that have been in large part caused or worsened by that by just a mismatch and just how important it is to understand your own needs before you try to make the sort of commitment. I mean it's not a marriage, but it's a longterm partnership contract. You know what I mean?
Kaelyn:25:03 In some cases it's harder to get out of than a marriage.
Macey:25:07 Yeah. I mean things get really tangled up once you've sold your money will be coming through that agent forever for that book. Yep. Um, it doesn't have to go away.
Kaelyn:25:16 You know what, that's a good point that, uh, I think maybe again, something you don't think about. If you signed a contract for selling your book through an agent and then you and that agent go there, set your separate ways, your money still goes through that agent. Yeah. Does forever. Yup. Because even though you're no longer working with that person, they are technically still your business partner for that particular deal. Yeah.
Macey:25:42 They are 15% or whatever their fee is.
Kaelyn:25:46 Exactly. Yeah. That's, that's a very good thing to mention. Um, communication style. Yeah. Is very, very important for so many people. And again, I think like you just, when you get the call and you're like, oh my gosh, somebody wants me. Um,
Macey:26:04 And I think the other thing is when you're getting those calls and making your decisions, you are setting a pattern for yourself in how you work with that person. And you need to think about setting up a pattern that's going to keep working for you. You need to not be scared to email your agent, right? And that can start early, you know? Um, I pester my agent on Twitter sometimes and gently troll her by suggesting I'm going to write a new book where the entire plot is one Flovence and the Machine's song.
Kaelyn:26:37 Um, I mean, you're going to do that though, right?
Macey:26:40 Maybe. But then she's like, Macy, that's not what plot means. I'm like, I, I'll fix it later.
Kaelyn:26:45 You have some stuff you have to tell us about coming up with you and your life. You're headed to Ireland.
Macey:26:52 Yes. My podcast is a finalist for Best Fan Cast at the Hugo's Be The Serpent. And so that's exciting and scary and awesome.
Kaelyn:27:01 That's amazing and wonderful and just the greatest thing.
Macey:27:05 Yeah, I'm honestly like we, you were completely gobsmacked and amazed just to be on the list and I'm so happy with how many new people have been brought in just to hear a few episodes of the podcast and hopefully stick with us cause I'm really fond of what we do.
Kaelyn:27:21 Yeah. So do you want to tell everyone a little bit about like what the podcast is?
Kaelyn:27:25 Why it's so awesome.
Macey:27:27 It's called Be The Serpent and it is a podcast where three redheaded fantasy authors dissect tropes and patterns and themes in media, in literature, and in fan fiction.
Kaelyn:27:40 Do you want to hear three people that just genuinely love and enjoy each other's company.
Macey:27:46 And make a lot of dick jokes together.
Kaelyn:27:48 And that absolutely that. Come for the friendship - .
Macey:27:55 And there's one other thing that's coming up. Myself, Janeen Southard and Danielle Wexler are putting together a Kickstarter, which hopefully should be out in October sometime to fund an anthology of queer ff stories about swords, women and their princess lieges.
Kaelyn:28:14 It's going to be amazing. I'm so excited when it was funny because of Rekka had mentioned like, oh, and you have to make sure to remind Macy about the Kickstarter. And so I was like, and hey, tell me about this Kickstarter. Like, oh well it's a ways off still, but here's what it is. And I was like, this is going to be awesome.
Macey:28:33 It's going to be so cool. We have so much awesome artwork lined up for people as rewards and stretch goals. And one of our first stretch goals is to hopefully open slush so we can have open call and lots of people can send us their amazing weapons sapphic stories and I can't wait to read all of them
Kaelyn:28:54 It's going to be fantastic. A project doesn't, doesn't have a title yet.
Macey:28:58 Nope, but we've got some really cool people attached. Um, like Alliette Bardard, Kelly Robson, JY Yang.
Kaelyn:29:04 Oh, awesome. That's, that's so great. So, um, yeah, where the Kickstarter is not up yet. There isn't a title yet, but when there is, we'll be sure to put in the show notes and uh, you know, hopefully, you know, you'll have something, you know, we can have put out on Twitter to the masses because that just, it sounds like it's going to be amazing. So, um, okay, well thank you so much for taking the time. Talk to us. Where can people find you?
Macey:29:28 I have a website which is EnglishMace.com and I'm on Twitter @EnglishMace and the podcast is Be The Serpent on Podbean, on iTunes, on Google play or wherever you get podcasts. Thank you so much for bringing me.
Nino: 29:43 I'm Nino Cipri. Um, I'm a queer and Trans Writer. I've written all kinds of different things, mostly focusing on fiction. Um, I have written screenplays, essays, um, so many angry emails, so many, uh, I have two books that are coming out in the next year. Um, my first collection of short stories is coming out in October. It's called homesick. I'm very excited about that. And then in February, I have haven't developed coming out with Tor.com that's called Finna. I write in a bunch of different genres. The like kind of main main through line is that a lot of my stories have like, they're kind of funny. They have a lot of feelings and they're pretty queer. Um, but I've written like horror, I've written science fiction, I've written like fantasy. I actually wrote a story that's like almost entirely like non genre. There's no spec- the only speculative is that there's like 3 million old or 3 million year old fossils of like intelligent weasels and that's it.
Rekka:30:47 That's all you need.
Nino: 30:48 That's all I needed.
Rekka:30:50 Okay. So with that list of, um, of writing styles and subject matter and genre, um, who was in charge of wrangling your writing career?
Nino: 30:59 Uh, I like that wrangling. Um, I am represented by DongWon Song of the Howard Morhaim Agency.
Rekka:31:06 And how did you come to choose DongWon? So I actually had kind of a weird journey towards that. I wasn't planning on getting an agent until I had a novel finished, um, which I didn't actually. Um, but in sometime early in the fall, I decided kind of on a whim to enter a contest, uh, like, um, uh, what was it? It was like a short story collection contest with a small press called Dezink. Um, and I had no, like thought that I would win it and then I did and I was shocked and like appalled and I was like, what do you need?
Nino: 31:40 Um, but then I had a book deal and then I needed an agent. Um, so I turned as so many millennials do to my friends. Um, and I called a bunch of different people that I knew that all had different agents that I was like, I had been kind of eyeballing them for like, okay, when I start going out and query, I'm going to, I'm going to contact these people. Um, but the fact that I had a book deal like in hand and I needed to sign a contract at some point very soon or reject it, um, kind of sped the process up a lot. So I think I ended up, I talked to a bunch of different friends. I came up with a list of I think like four people who all represented like other writers that I knew pretty well. Um, I asked those friends a lot of questions about like, what the like relationship was like, kind of like exactly like what you're doing.
Nino: 32:31 Um, and then ask those friends if they would be willing to, you know, with their agent's permission, like write me a letter of introduction. Um, and I think three of the people, like three of the agents were like, yeah, sure, just like have them email me. Um, and I, one was one of them. I talked to JY Young, um, who is fabulous and awesome and I don't, I don't really know their faces right now because I'm sure everybody knows.
Nino: 32:59 So it actually ended up coming down to, cause I was talking with a couple of other agents, um, I had to, I got two offers and then ended up going with DongWon. Um, and then almost immediately after like got another book deals. So I feel like I kind of like prove my worth, like, technically?
Rekka:33:15 Well no regrets. Right?
Nino: 33:18 Yeah.
Rekka:33:20 So, um, that's an interesting way to come about having an agent is having the contract first. Um, yeah, which is funny because we think about like the, the power dynamic between the author who is querying and the agent who must, you know, judge and, and accept or, or you know, there's several stages of acceptance with the agent and um, it feels like you kind of get to skip ahead in line a little bit because like, um, not only do you have a book deal, but you also have a little bit of a time pressure that you can leverage to say like, Hey, um, there's a bit of a of a time crunch on this. Could you just let me know real quick? So did, um, so normally when an agent replies to a query, they are requesting a full or a partial or, or some, um, step forward from whatever has been queried. So what were you querying with and what was the next step from there?
Nino: 34:15 Like what I sent to DongWon, like the other agents that I was talking to, I sent them like the manuscript for the, um, for the short story collection. Okay. And just be like, this is what is getting published. I think I sent them the contract that was on offer as well. Um, and then I also sent them like, I think the first 10 pages of the novel in progress that I had, which was a young adult horror novel. Um, and it was just like, this is not finished. Just so you know, like just when I tried to be like very, very transparent with that. Like, here's what I've got, here's the first chapter of it, or like the first half of the first chapter. Um, so you can get like an idea of like what I'm, what I'm working on next. Okay. And then I am working on something.
Rekka:34:59 And so the contract was an offer for that future novel? Is that what it was or is it the contract for the short story?
Nino: 35:05 The contract was for the short story.
Rekka:35:06 Okay. Gotcha. Okay. So now you have an agent, you already have a contract, you've already sold a short story. Um, so the agent and you, I'm sorry DongWon and you began to work on that novel together. Is that what the next step is?
Nino: 35:22 I should mentioned that all of this was happening when I was in my last year of an MFA program. Yeah. This was, it was like the last six months of it.
Nino: 35:32 So there was like a bunch of different things going on. Um, so on the heels of this offer for the short story collection, um, the novella that was in there was originally in that short story collection. Um, I had also submitted to Tor and Tor.com like novella submission window.
Nino: 35:49 Um, and which was like, I double check to make sure that I could do simultaneous submissions and I did. Um, but the thing that people say might happen but never ever will actually happen, happened to me where like I had the offer and I had withdrawn it, um, from Tor immediately. And then like Carl Anglay was just like, I want that.
Nino: 36:14 Yeah. So he ended up calling DongWon, DongWon called me. We both called my publisher at the, at Dezink. Just be like, um, so this awkward thing is happening. Yeah. Um, so that was the next thing we actually started working on was something else that like was already the kind of like fell into our lap. Um, which was really nice. And so now, um, like all of that had to be kind of like taken care of. I edited, finished up. Um, so now I'm trying to finish up like revisions on my novel. Um, I finished the first draft. I think this was also my like masters thesis. So I finished the first draft sometime in April I think, and then sends it on to him and like we made a revision plan and yeah, that's what we're working on now.
Rekka:37:01 Okay. Alright. So the novels that you have, the books, um, I didn't catch the length that you have coming out in the future. Are these different?
Nino: 37:11 Yeah, the short story collection, one novella. And I'm trying to work on a novel and like also there's like a screenplay that's like way over there that I think I was just going to be like, can you just make it fiction?
Rekka:37:23 So, um, how is working with DongWon on your novel versus working on the contracts and all the business like communications.
Nino: 37:32 So with the other two manuscripts, he was fairly hands off. Um, when we were talking about like, uh, trying to like maneuver one Novella into Tor's hands and then like another novella to this to, to Dezank. Um, he read the like replacement novella cause I was like, you know, this is a pretty rough draft. I didn't, you know, it needs another couple of revisions for sure. Do you want to read it and let me know what you think of it? Like here's my thoughts about it. Um, so he gave me like, he was mostly just like, yeah, I think I agree with basically everything that you, you know, all of your instincts on what through revise are good in my opinion. Um, but he also knew that like, uh, the editor at design would have like a lot more, um, specific feedback.
Nino: 38:19 So he was like, here's like the kind of like big picture stuff that I think too you need to work on. Um, the novella, like, because it was already thought, like he was just like, you know, didn't really have any, anything to really say about that one I don't think cause you knew like Carl would be Carl Anglered at Tor would have, you know, his own feedback that he would want implemented. Um, with the novel. He read it and he like, we met for drinks and he was like, okay, we've got like basically one of four ways that you can revise this. Like, and was really good at just trying to figure out first like, what was my vision of this book? Like what did I actually think this was about? And ones that I want it to be. Um, you know, he's like, is this an adult horror novel? Is this young adult or is this about trauma? Um, and it was like we figured out there's like, we like what it was and then how to get it closer to that.
Rekka:39:11 Okay, great. So that was all over drinks. You just like hashed it out in person?
Nino: 39:15 Pretty much. Yeah. I mean, I, and he said that because he said he wanted to do that because he could tell like there was different directions that it could be, it could go, um, like, and that is easier to figure out in person rather than like over email. Sure. And you don't really appreciate cause yeah, yeah. Email him that.
Rekka:39:35 Well plus the back and forth, the time lag and then trying to phrase things correctly without the context of facial expression and volume and enthusiasm is, is different. Okay.
Nino: 39:47 When I first signed with him, I was living in Kansas. I'm attempting to move to New York. I have, I'm trying to find a job here.
Rekka:39:54 Oh, okay.
Nino: 39:55 - permanently, but yeah. Um, even before my partner Nibs lives here, so I was here pretty regularly, like every, I've maybe every other month.
Rekka:40:04 Okay. So it wasn't, it wasn't out of your way. It wasn't like come to this expensive conference and then we'll meet and have this, have this meeting. So that's good. Awesome. How often would you say you check in with DongWon?
Nino: 40:17 Hmm. He's good at like telling me the things that I need to know. But he also, I think respects the fact that I'm like, you know, we're both very busy people. I'm trying to find a job. He has a bunch of, he's got like several other clients and travels a lot. Yeah. Um, we check in like fairly regularly. I would say like maybe once a month, twice a month, something like that. And he'll send me updates on things like, you know, oh, there was film interest in this thing. Um, I'm just going to let you know. And also here's what you should maybe expect out of that. Which of course was not much, but it's nice. Consider it a complement.
Rekka:40:54 Yeah, definitely. Definitely. So if someone you knew was in your position where you were after you won this contest or, um, in the position of somebody who hadn't won anything for, um, their writing yet, but was looking for an agent to represent their work, would you have any tips for that person, what they could expect or what, what you would recommend they do?
Nino: 41:15 So in this, I would say like definitely if you have a community like if you know other writers like talk to them about their agents, talk to them about, um, like what are the reasons like that I signed with them. Like what were their expectations going in versus what, um, you, they've learned since then. Like what the reality actually is. Um, and like I and I, I actually have like talked to some people like who are going out, like starting to query it and I'm just like, you should absolutely do what I did. Absolutely. Get your friends for at you like introduction.
Nino: 41:50 Your friends are willing to and their agents are okay with it. Like right there. Right. Get them to write you introductions. Like, I feel like anything that can kind of like put you a little bit ahead is helpful. Um, and I don't think it's like breaking the rules at least as far as I know. Maybe there are rules, but like, like nobody told me that when I was starting.
Rekka:42:10 So, so your tip is, um, no, no rules and just go forward.
Nino: 42:15 Well, and I think too, like agents, especially ones that are trying to find like build their client base are really good at like trying to make themselves accessible in various ways with DongWon, like I know that he's really active and like going to cons and like, um, talking to new writers and doing all of these things. So if that opportunity presents itself to like talk to an agent, then yeah, absolutely. Do that. Like go to go to a conference or a convention if that's something that's available to you.
Rekka:42:43 Awesome. All right, cool. So community basically is, is the center of the universe for making this happen?
Nino: 42:49 That is absolutely, yeah. That's like the, all the advice I ever have about writing comes down to just like just to build, build better in larger communities.
Nino: 42:58 Yeah. Hunger communities.
Rekka:42:59 Yes. 100%. All right. So um, you'll give us the names of the two books before. Just remind us before we let you go.
Nino: 43:08 Okay. Yeah, so in October the my short story collection Homesick is going to be released from Dzanc Books. You can preorder it now. Yes, you can absolutely preorder it now. Um, and then Finna, which is a novella is going to be up from tour.com in February.
Rekka:43:25 Okay, great. And we will include links to that in our show notes and thank you so much for your time and we really appreciate you coming on and sharing your experience. Cause like you said, learning from your friends, learning from others in the writing community is, is like such a great resource.
Nino: 43:38 It is. It is. Oh God. Yeah. I would not be anywhere without my friends.
Rekka:43:42 Absolutely. Awesome. Well thank you so much. I really appreciate your time.
Nino: 43:46 Thanks you too.
Rekka:44:04 Thanks everyone for joining us for another episode of we make books. If you have any questions that you want answered in future episodes or just have questions in general, remember you can find us on Twitter @wmbcast, same for Instagram or WMB cast.com if you find value in the content that we provide, we would really appreciate your firstname.lastname@example.org/WMBcast. If you can't provide financial support, we totally understand and what you could really do to help us is spread the word about this podcast. You can do that by sharing a particular episode with a friend who can find it useful. Or if you leave a rating and review at iTunes, it will feed that algorithm and help other people find our podcast too. Of course, you can always retweet our episodes on Twitter. Thank you so much for listening and we will talk to you soon.