What is the one take away you’ll get from today’s W.O.W. with Andrea Hannah? Honesty. Yes, I truly love this interview for the honest knowledge Andrea imparts about the publishing business. When I asked her about the one piece of writing advice she got early on, and still uses today, I was floored by her answer. She gives it to you straight about how difficult the publishing marketplace can be. But along with that honesty, she also imparts a “never give up” attitude – which I love. She’s definitely right about one thing, if you’re a writer “own it” and keep working until your dream comes true.
Here is Andrea’s inspiring story…
Amy: What drew you to write YA fiction?
Andrea: Honestly, I never even considered writing anything else. I’d dabbled in a variety of genres over the years, but as soon as I decided to get serious I immediately knew it would be YA all the way. I’ve always gravitated toward those books. I always flick on MTV when I’m looking for something to watch. I used to teach creative writing to middle schoolers. It just seemed like the natural progression.
Amy: How many manuscripts had you completed prior to THE DIARIES OF ELLA GRAHAM?
Andrea: One and a half. Both were paranormal (which is why I stopped halfway through the second; I realized that reapers and angels and all that were dead on arrival). The first one took me almost a year to write and revise, and I had some success on the contest circuit before ultimately shelving it. I was in the middle of the second one when I had this crazy intense dream about ELLA. In the dream, someone whispered to me, “You’re going to write a book about two sisters, one is missing. You’re going to call it THE DIARIES OF ELLA GRAHAM.” Not even joking! I stumbled out of bed, jotted it down, and gave up on the other book mid-draft. I couldn’t shake ELLA from that moment on, and the rest is history.
Amy: Did you have critique partners or beta readers that helped you polish THE DIARIES OF ELLA GRAHAM? How did that influence your writing process?
Andrea: Yes! I only worked with one critique partner on ELLA. And while she’s an excellent CP, and we still work together, the difference between the “final product” on ELLA and my new thriller, THE DESTRUCTION OF STARS AND LIES, is huuuuge. Huge. I’m a really big advocate of wrangling in a bunch of CPs and betas, all with different preferences and styles. I write thrillers and dark mysteries, so I give my manuscript to friends who write in that genre, but also to friends who write romances. I like the perspective I get from both sides. To give you an example of how effective this is, when I signed with Victoria for ELLA, I went through a LOT of pretty substantial revisions with her before it was ready to go on sub. With STARS & LIES, I had two rounds with five CPs/betas before I even sent Victoria the manuscript. And I think because of that, the revisions I’m working through with her now are much quicker and definitely less painful.
Amy: Did your query for THE DIARIES OF ELLA GRAHAM come easily or did it go through many drafts?
Andrea: Query writing is my super-secret skill. (I’m expecting ALL the emails about this now, haha). I don’t know how, I don’t know why, but I’m pretty good at summing up my story in 3-4 paragraphs. I wrote the query for ELLA in two drafts and then it went out into the world.
Amy: How many agents did you query for THE DIARIES OF ELLA GRAHAM?
Andrea: A very, very small amount. Twelve, I think it was? I queried a few dream agents, and a few mid-listers, but they were all people I would have been thrilled to work with. I was just kind of testing the waters before I sent out a wider second round. But, I had a lot of success (a 70% success rate! WOOT) and my dream agent offered, so I didn’t send out anymore after that.
(I just want to add here that I am an anomaly. This doesn’t normally happen. Remember, all it takes is ONE yes, so if the rejections are rolling in, keep going, keep trying. You’ll get there. <3)
Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for requests/rejections?
Andrea: I got a couple of quick form rejections, like within a week. The requests for partials and fills came in about 3-4 weeks later. And the offers came about 3-4 weeks after that. The whole process took about two months for me, from first query sent to acceptance of offer. (Once again, I now that’s not standard. I realize how lucky I was with the whole thing.)
Amy: As many writers know the publishing business is very hard to break into. What was the one thing you did to help garner agent attention?
Andrea: I started to ease my way into the community as I grew more confident about my writing. While I was querying, I was also becoming active on Twitter, entering contests, and checking out forums and blogs. I will say I wasn’t exactly awesome in this aspect. I honestly felt like I didn’t have anything to offer to social media until I had an agent. (This is very, very WRONG, by the way.) So my platform building and connecting with publishing people didn’t really take off until after I’d been signed.
The main thing I did to garner agent attention? Queried a really polished book and followed their submission guidelines.
Amy: Can you give a short summary of “your call” with your agent Victoria Marini?
Andrea: My call with Victoria was pretty much the best phone call of my life! She was actually my third offer of rep, and I had been so nervous for the first two. Victoria was my dream agent, and she was the last agent with my manuscript. I was really holding out for her! As fate would have it, I was super pregnant while I was waiting and went into labor, so I didn’t have time to sweat over Victoria as much as I had been for the past week. I had my son at 12AM, and Victoria called (my hospital phone!) at 10AM to offer rep. So, I’d had a lot of morphine, you know? I can’t remember the specific details other than I was not nervous AT ALL, and I remember Victoria saying, “I LOVED THIS SO MUCH!” I’d say it was a pretty spectacular day.
Amy: What was one piece of advice you got during your early writing stages that has stuck with you to this day?
Andrea: Most of the technical advice I’ve been given has been really helpful, but I think what’s stuck with me most is this: “Nothing is ever a given in publishing.” And it’s so true, to the point of being painful. So many writers think that if they can just write that book that will snag an agent, their careers will take off and they’ll be “real writers.” But I’m here to tell you that the cycle never, ever ends. (I’m so sorry!) You write that book, and you get an agent. Then that book goes on submission, and sometimes it actually doesn’t sell, even though you kind of thought it was a given (I know I did.) Then you write another book, and there’s always the possibility that your agent won’t like it and won’t submit it. Then you start all over again. Or let’s say that book sells. You still have to write another one, and there’s always the very real possibility that your editor will tell you to scrap that one. It’s scary and frustrating and requires a good amount of bravery and perhaps a touch of crazy, too. But the good news is since there’s never a “level” that you can reach to become a “real writer,” you can start calling yourself one right now. Do you write? Then you’re a writer, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Blog about it, dive into the writing community, tell your friends and family about your passion. Go ahead and own your badass, wordy self.
Andrea Hannah is a YA writer represented by Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider. She writes stories about criminals, crazy people, and creatures that may or may not exist. When she’s not writing, Andrea teaches special education, runs, spends time with her family, and tries to figure out a way to prevent her pug from opening the refrigerator (still unsuccessful). Oh, and she tweets a bajillion times a day, mostly about inappropriate things.
You can find her on Twitter @: http://twitter.com/andeehannah
Drop her an email @: email@example.com
And visit her website @: http://www.andreahannah.com/