Success Story Interview - Anna Priemaza

An Interview with Anna Priemaza (annab3lla on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Lauren Abramo of Dystel Goderich & Bourret LLC.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Anna Priemaza:
It's a YA contemporary novel about two fifteen year old girls--a gamer with panic attacks and a skateboarder with ADHD--who become unlikely friends at a time when they need each other most.

They are first drawn together by their mutual love of a dreamy YouTube gamer, and as I spend a lot of time fangirling over YouTube gamers myself, the story came pretty naturally from that.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Anna Priemaza:
I have been writing since I could hold a pencil. I have been writing seriously for the past five years.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Anna Priemaza:
This book took me around a year--eight months to write and four months to edit.
QT: Is this your first book?
Anna Priemaza:
No. This is the second book that I have polished up and queried. Between my first manuscript and this one, I also had two aborted manuscripts--one that I got about 20,000 words into the first draft, and one that I got about 50,000 words into the first draft. The latter had some dystopian elements that I worried would be an automatic rejection in the current market, and that worry was negatively impacting my writing, so I set that one aside and started working on this one, which I immediately fell in love with in a way that I hadn't fallen in love with the others.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Anna Priemaza:
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Anna Priemaza:
My day job is pretty all-consuming, so I write mostly on weekends and holidays.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Anna Priemaza:
Yes, though more important was my critique group. The feedback and support from my critique partners was invaluable.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Anna Priemaza:
I queried this book for almost four months.

The last time I queried, I queried for around one year, but I stopped for a few months in the middle to make some revisions based on agent feedback.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Anna Priemaza:
I sent 46 queries, and I received 7 requests (3 partials, 4 fulls).
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Anna Priemaza:
I only tailored queries if I had something particularly relevant and distinct I could use to tailor it, such as a MSWL tweet or a snippet from an interview that my book clearly fit. If I didn't have anything like that, I didn't bother.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Anna Priemaza:
In retrospect, querying for this book went really well, but it felt rough. Although I had some fulls out when I got my offer from Lauren, the rejections had gotten to me, and I was convinced this book wouldn't be the one. If you had told me at the time that I'd have an agent in a week, I wouldn't have believed you. So try not to let the process get you down because you never know what amazing things might be around the corner.

That being said, sometimes there isn't something amazing right around the corner, but that doesn't mean that your book and/or your career as a writer are doomed. I did not find an agent with the first book I queried. So I wrote another book. And then another. Now I have an agent. If you want to have a writing "career," you will need to write multiple books. So whether your querying process is going well or going poorly, start writing your next book.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Anna Priemaza:
I went through a number of different iterations of my query. Here's the one that Lauren saw:

Query Letter:

Fifteen-year-old gamer Kat has panic attacks. Her counselor tells her to count her breaths, but for some reason "one Mississippi… two did I lock the door… three Granddad is dying…" doesn’t always work. What does work is keeping her life structured and solitary and virtual.

Skateboarder Meg might be craptastic at schoolwork, and her “blame the ADHD” hyperactivity might have scared away even her stepdad of seven years, but when she kisses boys, they swoon. So at least she’s got that going for her. And if kissing isn't enough to keep a guy around, maybe sex is. Meg’s not afraid to try it. She’s not afraid of anything, except maybe being alone.

Both girls are on a collision course with disaster when fate or God or maybe Her Majesty the Queen intervenes by making them lab partners on a year-long science project. Separately they are each a mess, but together they just might be able to battle their demons...if they don't kill each other first.

IF YOU CAN'T FLY (69,000 words) is a contemporary YA story of friendship, disability, sex and video games that will appeal to fans of the unique voice in Jandy Nelson's I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN and the characters' struggles with mental health and disability in Cammie McGovern's SAY WHAT YOU WILL. The story alternates between Meg's and Kat's POV.

[Personal details and list of included materials.]