One of the things I love about today’s interview with Laura Tims is her admission that all manuscripts need work and guidance. Many times people think that once an agent picks up their manuscript they are DONE. But many times, this is not the case. An agent has amazing insight into the publishing world and can guide the work so that it’s as close to perfect as possible. I adore the fact that Laura went with her agent, not because it was going to be easy, but because she was going to make her manuscript better!
Many thanks to Laura for sharing her journey today…
Amy: When did you first begin seriously writing with the intent of wanting to be published?
Laura: When I was fourteen and realized I couldn’t make a living off fanfiction.
Amy: When did you complete your first Young Adult manuscript?
Laura: I finished my first book when I was nineteen, a couple years ago. I’d been working on it forever, but almost as soon as it was done, I knew it was kind of an unfixable hot mess. Dropping it without wasting time on revisions was, I think, probably the best decision I made when I was nineteen.
Amy: I love the thriller/mystery aspect behind your debut novel, PLEASE DON’T TELL. Where did the story idea come from?
Laura: I wish I could say I had a cool source of inspiration for it! Mostly I’d just decided I wanted to write a book set in the contemporary world, so I spent a day brainstorming in a Starbucks and that’s what I came up with.
Amy: Getting feedback on your manuscript prior to querying is a must, but the process can also be somewhat frightening. What made you decide to share your work as part of the First Five Pages workshop?
Laura: I’d heard over and over how the first few pages really have to be attention-grabbing, and I wanted to make sure they were solid. That workshop is so brilliant because it deals with a manageable but crucial part of the book – only five pages, but they gotta be perfect.
Amy: How laborious/frustrating was the query process for you?
Laura: My querying experience was surprisingly merciless and quick, maybe because I queried in November when everyone else was doing NaNo. But I definitely developed an automatic nervous twitch in response to my phone’s email alert.
Amy: How many agents did you query for PLEASE DON’T TELL?
Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for requests/rejections?
Laura: I think I lucked out with fast response times, again possibly because it was November. A lot of it really is just luck – you never know when some agents will happen to be bombed with work.
Amy: What was your call like with your agent, Sarah Davies? How did you know she was the right fit for you?
Laura: I chose her in part because she said she’d want major revisions. The other agents I spoke with on the phone said they didn’t think PLEASE DON’T TELL would need much work, but I’m annoyingly unconfident when it comes to my writing and I felt safer with someone who could tear it to shreds if it needed to be torn to shreds. She also phoned me more than once over the holidays – she knew I had other offers of rep and she’d call to see how things were going. A few days before Christmas, she called while simultaneously trying to fix an oven so that she and her family in London could cook a holiday dinner. That’s how I knew she could handle anything.
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?
Laura: I didn’t do anything except send out queries, haha. They weren’t even personalized. When it comes down to it, there’s really only one thing that will prompt an agent to make requests or sign with you, and that’s a strong query and book. I think it’s good to focus on that more than anything else!
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?
Laura: You wouldn’t be able to hear me because I’d be stammering from stage fright! But since I’m not onstage now, I can say it. I’m sure more experienced writers have better advice, but I’ve learned that it’s really important to A. Understand that your first book won’t be your best book and it’s okay to move on if it doesn’t work out, and B. Experiment when you’re a beginner. Two years ago, I’d never have dreamed of writing contemporary books, but now I love writing them. I definitely wouldn’t have a book deal if I hadn’t explored writing past my genre boundaries.
Laura Tims is a college student (one more semester!) who doesn’t like coffee but who will gladly drink all of your tea. Her young adult book, PLEASE DON’T TELL, will be coming out in the fall of 2015 from HarperCollins. In the meantime, you may find her biting her nails, playing with her hair, or engaging in other nervous habits. She’s repped by Sarah Davies at the Greenhouse Literary Agency and blogs here: http://literatureandlaura.wordpress.com/. You can also follow her on Twitter @laura_tims.