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Success Story Interview - Cardigan Winters

An Interview with Cardigan Winters (c_winters on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Cole Lanahan of The Seymour Agency.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Cardigan Winters:
The book is a retelling of The Picture of Dorian Gray narrated by his portrait. I was rereading Dorian Gray and I thought: dude, if I was the portrait, I’d be so mad. So then I was like: yeah I’m writing that!
QT: How long have you been writing?
Cardigan Winters:
I hit my one-year writing anniversary right around the time I got the offer of representation!
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Cardigan Winters:
Yeah, absolutely. This is actually my third agent. Something a lot of authors don’t talk about is what it’s like to get dropped/leave your agent and how damaging that can be on top of the reasons you left. Querying the same book three times over really starts to weigh on you. That’s a lot of rejection and a lot of wondering if you deserve to be here. But I believed in my story and I knew that publishing was highly subjective and very based on luck, so I just didn’t give up and hoped that one day I’d find the right champion for me.
QT: Is this your first book?
Cardigan Winters:
This is my second book!
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Cardigan Winters:
A lot. I rewrote it multiple times for my first agent. Then, after I left, I was in a really bad place mentally for a variety of reasons, and I took that out on my book. I rewrote it countless times. It took me a few months, but I was finally able to love the book, and myself, again and finally get it where I wanted it to be.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Cardigan Winters:
Yeah! I appreciate every beta who read the numerous drafts of this book and stood by my side while I regained my mental strength.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Cardigan Winters:
100% wrote from the hip. I have so much respect for plotters, I really don’t know how they do it!
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Cardigan Winters:
I queried this book three times. Round 1: was about 10 days or so. Round 2: a month. Round 3: two and a half months.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Cardigan Winters:
I would say around 60 or so in total?
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Cardigan Winters:
I searched for MSWLs that contained my comp titles, my genre, keywords, and anyone looking for retellings. But I ended up signing with an agent whose MSWL didn’t match my book in the slightest.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Cardigan Winters:
Nope. I don’t believe in personalizing queries anymore.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Cardigan Winters:
This industry is so good at tearing others down. Everything is beyond subjective. You constantly watch others succeed while you feel like you’re failing. But just always remind yourself: you are not your rejections.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Cardigan Winters:
Yeah, absolutely! Having queried this book three times, I was actually really lazy with my query letter. It’s not great, but if it helps someone or even provides a sliver of entertainment, that’s all that matters!

Query Letter:

Dear Agent,

It is my pleasure to present A Portrait of Ivory & Gold, a reimagined version of The Picture of Dorian Gray set at 70,000 words. Told from the perspective of Dorian’s portrait in the vein of I, Mona Lisa, and combining the second-person narration of A Dowry of Blood with Oscar Wilde’s humorous, omniscient narration style, this story will appeal to fans of classic literature—both original and retold—as well as lovers of fated stories and dark academia.

Living contentedly as a useless piece of art, The Portrait of Dorian Gray absorbs the world around it: observing rather than participating. But soon, it grows to understand that this boy has a powerful impact on those involved with him—leading it to be more than a painting propped upon an easel.

Soon after its creation, the manipulations of a dear friend prompt Dorian to make a desperate bargain for his youth, and with his cries, The Portrait’s individuality shatters, and is rebuilt as a copy of Dorian’s soul.

As art is quite useless, The Portrait can do nothing but watch as Dorian falls into a life of debauchery. Never yielding to temptation. Doing only as he pleases. But giving into temptation comes with consequences, and try as he might, Dorian cannot escape the signs of sin.

And when the first blemish is cast upon The Portrait’s face, a vengeance strikes along with it. He marred its beautiful face, ruined it with his sins, so now… it will take his in return.

For what is Dorian Gray without his beauty, but a monster.