Talyn Rahman has recently signed with agent Adam Korn of DeFiore and Company. Talyn, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Congratulations and good luck.
QueryTracker: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Talyn Rahman: The book to which I have found representation for is based on a popular video-game. The project is very large, as it requires working with the franchise owner to whom I do not have a licensing contract for yet. Considering this challenge, I had to make sure that the characters of the book were not only faithful to the original story-line of the game, but had to ensure the manuscript was close to perfection. I have been a big fan of this game ever since I was a teen, so to be finally given the chance to share my work with other fans of the game is a great privilege.
QT: How long have you been writing?
TR: I have been writing this specific book since I was 11. Over 10 years later, this book is finally complete. I wrote as a hobby, and have never written any other form of fiction other than this book. I never took my writing seriously until after I had graduated and gained some free-time from 'growing up'. That is when the book finally took form as a novel, and I decided to get this book completed properly.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
TR: I never gave up on this book. In fact, I was a little too hasty in sending submissions to agents when the book wasn't even complete, which is the worst mistake a writer can do. An unfinished, unedited book will cut your chances for success to zero. By submitting an unfinished novel I lost a lot of great chances with agents based in the UK. Once the book was complete, I felt too ashamed to re-submit to agents that did reject me. So, I moved on to US-based agents who saw my work fresh. I never gave up. Instead, I took my work more seriously by giving it some respect - hiring an editor was the best thing I could have done.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
TR: I have no formal training in writing. If anything, the best writers are those who are passionate about their work. I don't think I will be able to write a book that wasn't based on this video-game. In truth, I don't think I would write about something I wasn't already in love with.
QT: Do you follow a writing 'routine' or schedule?
TR: I wrote when I felt the need to write. Balancing writing in between completing two degrees, living abroad and crafting my diplomacy career is already quite a heavy commitment, without having to follow another schedule. There is little point writing when you have a mind-block or are simply too tired to think. Rest, and pick up writing a few days later when you are fresh and ready to go again.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
TR: I edited my book for more hours than I wrote. In fact, editing was one reason why it took me so long to complete the novel. At one point, I had to re-write all of my chapters because my writing style had changed drastically. Having started to write at a young age, my ideas, my attitude and my writing style changed. So once the book was finally complete, I sought advice from professional writers, who then pointed out some grave mistakes in the pacing of my narrative - returning to editing was never easy, but it is the most important part of the writing process.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
TR: Absolutely - considering the book already has a well established fan-base, I had to test the novel to true fans of the game for accuracy. The last thing I wanted was to have fans hate me for interpreting main characters wrong. Also, I was curious to see how they would react to the situation I placed the characters in, and if the story-line was something fans and the franchise owner could enjoy and accept. I guess I have a lot of people to thank in the acknowledgements.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
TR: I had no outline for the book. Instead, I wrote the synopsis of the book when it was complete, which was the hardest part of writing...even harder than completing the novel in the first place. My characters took me to places I didn't expect, so even if I did have an outline, I doubt it would have helped much. But having a basic idea of what the beginning, middle and end is a smart move.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book?
TR: I started to make queries in 2009 - so a year ago, but this was when the book was incomplete. Once I had professionally edited the manuscript and re-read my work for the final time, I started to query again in September 2010. I decided to take things slow, and query only a handful of agents before querying from a fresh list, in order to give agents a chance to seriously consider my work. Within 1-2 weeks of my querying, I had two agents interested in the work. After two months of email speculation between the agent, the franchise owner and I, the agent offered me representation. I think that was an incredibly quick turn-around. I'm still getting rejections from agents who were slow to respond...not that it matters anymore.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
TR: Since September, I believe I sent about 25 queries. I would send 7-10 queries every 5 days. All of it was by email. I don't believe in wasting paper, so I only tried agents who asked for email queries as an environmental rule.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
TR: I selected agents who were fairly new and worked within mid-size establishments. I picked new agents as they tend to have smaller client lists and were eagerly looking for fresh writers. Also, they were not picky as to whether or not you were an established writer with credentials. Secondly, I picked mid-sized agencies because in the past, agents who were interested in my work had to turn me down as the project was too big for them. They did not have time or energy to juggle this project with their other clients. A bigger agency will have no problems dealing with me and the franchise owner as part of the package.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
TR: Experience had shown me that it was best to write a query letter that followed generic formula. When I first queried, my letter was tailoured to all agents. I spent the first half praising the agency and gave reasons to why I chose them. Agents don't care about this. They want to know what your book is about and just a little about who you are. So then, after many many many edits, I decided to pitch my novel in two paragraphs with the final paragraph briefly describing who I am and what I do. Just be sure you address the agent directly at the beginning of your letter to make it personal. Everything else can remain the same.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
TR: Make sure your book is complete and edited. The worst thing you can do is send a book which reads like an amateur. You must be professional in your conduct and be friendly. Sending good impressions via email isn't as easy as meeting someone in person but it isn't impossible. Also, if you haven't heard back from an agent who is reading your work, email them a reminder. I'm very lucky that I have an agent considering how impatient I was with him. I emailed him at least once a week to find out the status of my manuscript, and finally emailed to ask if he was even interested in the book considering his silence. I warned that I was ready to move on, which is when he offered me representation. This was quite a dangerous move for me, but you have to be firm to be taken seriously.