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christopher mannino

How I Got an Agent

writing, authors, agent signing

By Christopher Mannino

I have been writing for a long time. Heck, I’ve wanted to be a writer since middle school. I’ve been writing ever since.

The very first book I wrote took ten years. It’s a mess. You’ve never heard of it. It’s shelved on a floppy disk (remember those?) among other places but was never revisited.

Then, during my time in Oxford, I was inspired to write School of Deaths. It took me a year to write, and then I began trying for agents. In publishing, if you want your book published with the big publishers, distributed widely, and making money, you need an agent. The “Big Five” publishers (all subdivisions of just five companies) only take manuscripts from agents, and even then it’s not always a guarantee of publication, much less success. Yet agents are the first gatekeepers in the business.

Getting an agent involves writing a query letter. This is a single page long- a blurb about your book, a paragraph about similar books in the marketplace, and a paragraph about you. It’s an email you send out and know you’ll probably never hear back from. Some agents ask for just this, some for your first five pages. Most agents receive hundreds of email queries a DAY. Of those they receive, they might request pages from 5%, and of those pages, maybe request a full manuscript from an even smaller number. And it’s not just based on the quality of your writing. It’s based on a lot of subjective factors, like the agent’s preferences, if they think they can sell it, does it conflict with other clients they have, and so on. In short, getting an agent is very, very difficult. It feels a bit like falling through mid-air and trying to catch (and hold onto) a single raindrop.

authors, writing, agent signing

After a year of querying, and 130 rejections, I gave up trying to find an agent for School of Deaths. Instead I began querying small presses. 30 queries of publishers later, MuseItUp said yes.

Small press is a form of traditional publishing in between the big guys and self publishing. In a way, it’s sort of like the minor league baseball league. Minor leaguers are pros, and paid to play ball, and some are amazing, but you’ve never heard of them. They’re all hoping to make it into the majors, but to do so they need that scout. With writing, you need an agent.

After Scythe Wielder’s Secret I wrote a sci fi thriller and re-entered the querying phase. Months passed. Nada. I’ve since decided to rework the project.

Then, I had an idea for a book. A series. The ideas kept coming and coming. A world that’d been in night for a thousand years, and now faced a sunrise. A man with a powerful form of magic, and a terrible price. An exciting new fantasy series called Everdawn Rising. I wrote the book, and right away knew something was different. It was without a doubt the best thing I’d written. I decided, yet again, to plunge back into querying. Querying is a SLOW process, I’ll add. Some agents have an AVERAGE response time of 115 days. That’s just to hear back, even if it’s a no. And if they request pages or your full manuscript, you have to wait months upon months.

authors, writing, agent signing

I began querying Everdawn in January. I queried and queried. I became active in the Manuscript Academy, which gave me a lot of opportunities to work with pros. I had skype sessions with agents and not only pitched my book, but got help rewriting my query. I was in a workshop to help revamp my first page and ended up a part of a writing community that’s still wonderfully supportive today. And I worked with editors from St Martins and Tor (two imprints of the “Big 5” publishers) to rewrite the beginning completely. On the advice of an agent, I began “re-querying” – contacting agents who said no months ago or who never responded. I was hopeful, but still not sure. I was ready to enter PitchWars when everything took off.

authors, writing, agent signing

First I got an offer from an agent. I then had to let my outstanding (hadn’t heard from them yet) requeries know. Within hours, I had six more full requests. I eventually got a second offer and it came down to an insane day of phone conversations, nerves, and difficult decisions. After talking to the two agents, however, I knew the original offer was the agent I wanted to stick with.

I am elated to announce that I am now represented by Will Reeve at the Virginia Kidd Literary Agency. Kidd is a smaller agency, but one with an impressive track record in SFF, launching the careers of greats like Isaac Asimov and Ursula LeGuin. This is only one stage in a longer journey. The next step is for Will to work with me editing the book, then he’ll take the manuscript to the publishers and try to sell it to them. Even then, it’s a while before it releases. However, this is a huge step for me and my career as an author.

authors, writing, agent signing


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Find Christopher Mannino at the Young Adult Author Rendezvous HERE.

Posted by Michelle Lynn.

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Finding Inspiration: an interview with Siobhan Quinlan.

Margaret Mead Quote - Young Adult Author RendezvousFinding Inspiration: an interview with Siobhan Quinlan.

Interview by Michelle Lynn

A lot of awful things are happening in the world right now. We see them every day. No matter where we live, no matter who we are, we are being continually touched by tragedy, our worlds dimming each time. There’s not a lot we as individuals can do to fight these bigger problems and we all deal with them in different ways. As writers, most of us here at the YA Author Rendezvous use our words to try to make a little sense out of all the madness.

Despite a feeling of overwhelming darkness that sometimes seems to be covering our planet, this past week has reminded some of us that maybe we can still make a difference. Most of us will never be on the front lines fighting terrorism or saving babies from burning buildings, but this week a community came together to do something good, great even.

This post was just supposed to be an interview, our first with someone who wasn’t themselves a writer, but when opportunity strikes to be inspired and to possibly inspire someone else, we take it. Siobhan Quinlan has been with us from the beginning. She isn’t an author, but she loves books with a passion I’d never seen before. She’s a reviewer for Reader’s Favorite and our number one cheerleader – our very own Irish Pirate.

Well, this pirate of ours needed some help. It was time for a pirate to get a new eye, a prosthetic that would cost $1200. K.R. Conway, one of our authors who writes Siobhan’s favorite book series, decided it was time to step up. A girl in the Netherlands tagged her in a video on YouTube about Siobhan’s need and became determined to make it happen. She turned to the author community, issuing a call to members of YAAR that was also eventually answered by the Indie Author Support and Discussion group as well as other friends. Within three days, the GoFundMe campaign had more than enough.

Desmond Tutu Quote - Young Adult Author Rendezvous“Sometimes the world is brutal and fate throws you the worst curveballs,” K.R. Conway said. “But when people pull together, they can do amazing things. It goes to show you that human compassion is still alive and well, despite the daily news.”

It was unbelievable to see something so inspiring on Facebook among the fear and anger that’s been going around. I don’t know about anyone else, but this writer hasn’t stopped smiling.

Now, we know many people who read our blog are other authors, so this month we decided to interview a reader to get some real answers to many of the questions floating around out there. And Siobhan is the ultimate reader as well as being a fantastic person in general.

As someone who isn’t the typical target age for YA books, what does the term Young Adult mean to you?

Young adult is usually aimed at 12 to 18 year olds and I’m 31 so I am a bit passed that, but to me the term young adult means I can relate with the characters as I have experienced the same things and having been that age and being able to look back on that I can relate and say whether I would have been the same or not.

What is it about Young Adult books you love so much?

I love being able to get lost in a young adult book. I love the wide range of books about all different things that are available in the YA section

Favorite genre? Why?

Horror. I love a good scare that will keep me up at night and worried every time I hear a noise.

You don’t just read the books, you write reviews. Why do this? What is the importance of reviews?

I write reviews and I make YouTube videos as I feel reviews and ratings are the best way for authors to be found. I also like to talk about the books I have read and authors I have discovered whether it’s good or bad

Describe your ideal heroine.

A strong independent lady who can hold her own and knows she doesn’t need a man to have her back.

Describe your ideal leading man.

A man who knows how to treat women as an equal. One who isn’t afraid to show his soft side and even flawed knows he isn’t perfect and doesn’t pretend to be

Favorite book of all time?

Well this will be a shock to anyone who knows me. My favorite book of all time has to be Undertow by K.R Conway.

What made it special?

Everything 🙂 I love the writing style, the amazing characters, and the inability to put the book down every time I reread it.

What is the one thing you hate to see in a story?

Insta-love. I cannot stand insta-love

Cliff hangers. Yay or nay?

Yay, but at the same time nay. I Love a cliff hanger if I know I don’t have a huge wait for the next book, which is why I tend to read series when they are fully or close to done so I do not need to wait so long in-between books if I fall in love.

Do you notice a difference between the indie published books and traditionally published ones?

I have found that for me indie published books seem to have more individual art work. I prefer reading indies and I find the authors seem to have more freedom with what they say.

Werewolves or Vampires?

I am a lover of vampires. There’s nothing scarier then knowing there could be a vampire lurking outside my house right now waiting to get me

Do you like books that make you cry?

I am a book crier. In fact, I can become a total mess while reading. I love books that can hit me right in the feels and have me sobbing in starbucks while being stared at by the staff and customers (thanks for that K.R Conway)

If a book has a less than happy ending, does it affect your overall feelings about it?

Sometimes I love an unhappy ending, especially if it fits in with the story and makes sense. It will probably make me cry, but leave me satisfied

Romance. Many people think books need some sort of love story, even if it’s in the background. Do you agree? Why or why not?

I do not think a story needs a love story. I can very happily read a book without a love interest. I’ve found a lot of relationships are portrayed as amazing and perfect in books and that just isn’t real life or they come across as abusive and played off as normal which gives young people the wrong idea about relationships

What are you reading now?

I am reading a few different books right now. I’m a multi reader ( no wonder I don’t have a big monthly read figure ) on my currently reading pile right now I have School of deaths by Christopher Mannino, Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas, and a scary number of review copies of books.

How many books would you say you get through a month?

This varies from month to month depending on work. Some months I could get through 10 books others 1.

And finally, the big one. Why do you read? There are so many other things that can occupy your time. You have a child. There are great TV shows and movies being made of a lot of these books. So why should someone pick up an e-reader or flip through the pages of a paperback?

I love watching certain T.V shows and movies, but I have found a lot of the shows have pretty much the same story line and they just do not make movies the way they used to I feel with reading. I can get lost in many worlds and read about many different things in the space of time it takes me to watch a movie.

There you have it folks. Most of what we do here at the YA Author Rendezvous is for the readers and that hasn’t changed, but today, this week, this is also for the author community.

Thank you to everyone who inspired me this week.


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