Sep 29, 2011
Mindy McGinnis and the query giveaway
Today is a conversation with a Queen Blogger (kinda like a queen bee but virtual). She moderates on Agent Query, contributes to The Write Angle and has her own blog she somehow manages to keep updated without breaking a sweat. If you've spent any time in Queryland, you've run into her and probably benefited from her advice/encouragement.
Because she knows a LOT about Queryland. She was a resident there for TEN - yes, that's 1-0 - years. She puts the 'e' in perseverance, she shames the Energizer bunny, she never quits...she's Mindy McGinnis!! *cymbals, confetti, happy dance*
Ten years is a whole lot of perseverance. Why didn't you quit?
Short answer: Because I knew I didn’t suck. Long answer: But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have periods when I was completely convinced I sucked. Humility is a must for a writer. I can’t tell you how many agent interviews I’ve read where they say that cocky writers are almost always bad writers, and a cocky query goes into the trash before they even get to the pages. So in a way, it’s a great thing that I went through a decade of rejections on multiple mss. I needed to learn that lesson.
Conviction played a huge part in my decision to push through the sh*t and keep going. Writing is what I do. I double-majored in English Literature and Religion, which made me pretty popular when it came to decoding LOST but other than that I’m not a useful person. My brain is a fun place, but ultimately, not a practical one.
Talk about the MS that landed you an agent. How was it different from the others?
There were a few factors at work. I’m definitely a much better writer than I was, so the ms itself was stronger. But also the market was in my favor, as it’s a dystopian title, and I also managed to totally click with Adriann Ranta over the phone so it was a big rolling ball of positive happiness that week. NOT A DROP TO DRINK is about a time in the near future when our freshwater resources have been exhausted, and people will literally kill for a drink. It’s bleak and realistic, no magic, creatures, or sci-fi elements, which sets it apart from a lot of dystopian. Adriann liked that about it, and hopefully an editor will too.
Is the writing life different with an agent? In other words, is the pot of gold really at the end of that rainbow??
At first it felt odd, I admit, when I sat down to write after being agented. I thought, “OK Mindy, this actually matters now.” But once the fingers started moving across the keyboard I was still me, agented or not. The thing that is awesome about being agented is that you don’t have to agonize some decisions quite as much. For example, if I think, “Oh man, I don’t know if this plot twist is going to totally sink the whole ms,” I can answer that with, “If it does, Adriann will tell me and we can fix it together.” Having a professional in your corner makes your corner a more comfortable place.
You are a super blogger - you have your own and you contribute to another (From the Write Angle) as well as serve as a site moderator for the writing community at AgentQuery Connect. What kind of time does that require?
Great question. I started up Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire intending to post once a week, but my brain is an active place, so it turned into three times a week, and now I’m posting daily. I tend to churn out five or six ideas at a time for blog posts, so I front load like crazy.
Team blogging on From the Write Angle is a real treat. We’ve got everything from middle school teachers to erotica writers to lawyers and a former XENA writer, so we have a good time. We each contribute once a month so it’s not a heavy load, and the return is incredible. I get so many redirects to WriterWriter off of FTWA it’s amazing.
And AgentQuery… I can’t say enough about that community – and obviously I’m a talker. There is no doubt in my mind that I would have never landed an agent without the support and advice of my fellow AQ’ers, and while it might sound lame, I’m all about giving back. It’s a kind, welcoming community. We host a weekly chat there on Thursdays @ 9PM (EDT) and newbies are always welcome! I’ve never clocked it but I’d guess I spend about seven or eight hours a week over there, and I don’t resent a second of it.
How do you avoid being sucked into the social media machine?
Getting swallowed by and losing my soul in the social media world? I’m not really worried about it, I’ve got so much to say I need to spread it around a little!
Explain AQ to newbies, and then share how you became a contributor.
AgentQuery is an online writing community designed to help aspiring writers tone their queries, find agent information, connect with other writers, share their thoughts on the industry… just about anything, really. I stumbled across it about three years ago while searching for agent contact information. I lurked, then joined after seeing the quality of the responses the veteran members provided for newbies. I got up some guts and approached a few vets personally and asked them to look at my query – which they did – and shredded it for me, politely. I posted the revised query on the forums, and it went through a positive transformation in a matter of days. I went from a collection of form rejections to a smattering of requests.
The site moved to a new software system about a year ago. A few of the veterans were asked if we’d like to be more involved with moderation on the revamped site. We immediately said yes and were handed a few of the keys off the kingdom’s keyring.
What are some unwritten blogging rules you've discovered over the past few years?
Don’t talk about yourself too much. Don’t treat your blog as a ME billboard. No one cares. Offer your followers something in your content that isn’t just about selling your book.
Are there types of posts that get more responses?
And now I’ll contradict myself – the posts featuring interviews, queries that worked, advice from bloggers and agents tend to get the highest traffic, but the posts with the highest comments are almost always the ones about something silly – like me falling down the stairs and cracking my head open.
Speaking of responses, in your experience, what kind of queries get good ones?
The ones that show they’ve done their homework. Yes, it’s frustrating to hear that. You want your talent to take you through to the top, not your research skills. But it is what it is.
What are some good guidelines for tailoring a query?
I always start with the hook, put my title, genre, brief bio and word count at the end. As far as personalization, if the agent has requested something of mine before, I do mention it. Other than that I’ve not had a lot of luck off queries that I put a lot of time into personalizing.
When do you know your query needs reworking?
I sent out batches of ten, and if I didn’t get at least two requests of some sort (partial, full, etc.) I’d rework. The exception to that is if I had rejections that were obviously personalized, but the agent was passing for some reason. In that case I knew it wasn’t the query, but a matter of subjectivity. If you’re getting form r’s – sign up at AQ!
Agreed - AQ and QueryTracker are the best tools on the web for Queryland. Bar none.
Celebrity you would marry:
Oh, I have to marry them? In that case, Edward Norton. I could have conversations with him the rest of my life.
Oh, agree! Edward Norton is totally hot in a cerebral way.
Biggest pet peeve while driving:
Being pulled over.
Um...does this happen a lot to you?
Word you hate:
Penalized – when it’s pronounced like “penal colony.” Pretty much anything with “penal” is just not a good one to toss out there often.
It's just too close to penis. There. I said it. (You were all thinking it!)
The first thing you'd wish for if you had a magic wand:
A book deal. But I also want a zero turn mower, so that’s kinda tough.
Hmmm...book deal...zero turn mower...eh, not that tough.
Favorite movie you saw last summer:
Well, I don’t get out much. I only saw one movie last summer. I’ll say that my favorite things I watched late summer were shows on streaming. I don’t have cable so I have to catch up on DEXTER and BREAKING BAD a season late.
Netflix streaming movie selection isn't great. :( But I'll definitely check out those shows the next time I sign off.
Thanks so much for having me, it’s awesome to be on this end of an interview!
Now that you know her street creds, wouldn't it be great if Mindy looked at your query?? I know! It would be awesome! So comment below w/ your email address and a link to how you shared this (FB, tweet, blog, etc.) for a chance to have her read, critique and suggest ways to improve. If Blogger doesn't let you comment, drop me a note at: rewrighter (at)gmail. Who knows - with her help, your stay in Queryland may be short!