Success Story Interview - Amanda Sabourova

An Interview with Amanda Sabourova (asabourova on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Sandy Lu of Book Wyrm Literary Agency.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Amanda Sabourova:
The book is an adult urban fantasy novel about a police department computer geek who must save the three men she loves from a corrupt--but charming--harbinger of death.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Amanda Sabourova:
Like many writers, I've been writing in some fashion since I could hold a writing tool. However, I'd say my writing career began about fifteen years ago when I wrote my first real novel, a science fiction work. I even sent out queries to publishers for it, although in hindsight it was pretty awful!
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Amanda Sabourova:
I began writing the first draft about six years ago. I queried that version but was not getting the response I'd hoped for. I went back to the drawing board, re-envisioned the story, and rewrote it about two years ago.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Amanda Sabourova:
Sure, after the first round on this book several years ago, I was really discouraged. I tried to quit, but I think it lasted all of about a month. Then I was back to writing in some fashion. And then I got the brainstorm that led to the complete overhaul of this book. I've reconciled myself with the fact that I am a writer down to my DNA, and there's no amount of rehab that's going to help me.
QT: Is this your first book?
Amanda Sabourova:
No. I've finished 4 others and have an embarrassing number of partials.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Amanda Sabourova:
Not for creative writing, other than attending online courses, critique groups, and conferences. However, I grew up in a family of storytellers and writers (some of which are published).
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Amanda Sabourova:
Because I work full time, I write whenever I can. I generally get up early in the morning and write before going to work. However, I write all the time in my head, especially when I'm running long distance. I am constantly plotting and developing scenes so that when I do get that precious time to sit down at the computer there's no writer's block and I know what's going on the page.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Amanda Sabourova:
So many times that I've lost count.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Amanda Sabourova:
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Amanda Sabourova:
Outline. My writing time is so precious that I make sure I know what's going down before I park myself in front of the computer. Plus, by outlining, at least in some rough fashion, I can weave elements and foreshadowing throughout the book on the first go-round.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Amanda Sabourova:
For the re-envisioned version of this book, I have been querying for a little over a year. For previous books, I did not send out as many queries simply because I was not getting the response I hoped for and realized that the books in question needed to be reworked.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Amanda Sabourova:
More than 40.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Amanda Sabourova:
I selected agents interested in urban fantasy, horror, or paranormal romance. I spent a lot of time researching each agent before sending to him/her to make sure it was someone I would really want to work with.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Amanda Sabourova:
Yes. For each letter, I tried to include in the last paragraph something specific to that agent, such as whether I read their blog or enjoyed the books of another client. If their guidelines specified that pages/synopsis/etc. also be sent with the query, I would indicate that I had included those things.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Amanda Sabourova:
DON'T GIVE UP. Truly, it's about finding someone who's as passionate about your work as you are. But also be realistic. If you've sent to 20 agents and got a pile of form rejections and no requests, then it's time to step back and reassess things. Take another look at the query. Take another look at the story. Take another look at whom you're sending it to. Is it really ready to submit? And if you are lucky enough to get a personal rejection, heed the advice given and really consider if the agent could be right about the story. Then make adjustments accordingly.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Amanda Sabourova:
Here is the query letter I sent to Ms. Lu that prompted her to request the full manuscript.

Query Letter:

Dear Ms. Lu:

I am seeking representation for my completed 80,000-word urban fantasy novel, IN THE AETHER, in which a woman must save the three men she loves from being devoured by a corrupt--but charming--harbinger of death.

Angie Michaels is a police department computer geek with a secret life. She moonlights with the Charons, who are a surreptitious race that ferry powerful Ephemerals to one of three other worlds after their human hosts on Earth have died. Not all Transitions go smoothly, so Angie rescues lost Ephemerals from the elusive Aether between worlds that only she can enter. However, Angie's "gift" has a nasty side effect: only she sees and interacts with the Ephemerals in their living human hosts, and they don't like her intrusion. They drive her to lead a reclusive life in her small coastal California town with only her schizophrenic father, an unconventional Charon, a stoic cop, and a bottle (or three) of tequila to keep her company. That is, until a corrupt Charon breezes into town and begins harvesting Ephemerals and consuming their energy. When he discovers Angie's unique abilities, he decides that she can help him become the Supreme Power in the universe. He offers her protection from the creatures that torment her and an end to her loneliness. All she has to do is help him steal the strongest Ephemerals from their living hosts. But if she refuses, it's the lives of her friends he will devour.

I have a Ph. D. in physics from Duke University and have published nonfiction articles in my field in professional journals such as Physical Review. I have also worked as a technical writer for the Department of Energy. However, my passion is writing speculative fiction; five of my short stories have reached the quarter finals in the L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future Contest.

I would love the opportunity to submit my manuscript to you. Per the submission guidelines on your website, I have copied the first five pages of my novel into the body of this email.

Thank you for your time! I look forward to hearing from you.


Amanda Sabourova