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Success Story Interview - Elizabeth Otto

An Interview with Elizabeth Otto (EAOtto on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Nalini Akolekar of Spencerhill Associates.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Elizabeth Otto:
WHISKEY NOVEMBER is an adult contemporary romance. The premise is 'Eat, Love, Pray' meets Montana dude ranch. I was sitting at work and, for no reason at all, wondered what I would do if I got off a Greyhound bus in the wrong town. The entire story tumbled out of that one, sudden thought.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Elizabeth Otto:
I entered (and won) my first writing contest when I was 12. I've always been interested in creating fiction, but didn't do anything about it until recently. I've spent the past seven years doing freelance marketing copy writing.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Elizabeth Otto:
It took me eight weeks to complete WHISKEY NOVEMBER from start to finish.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Elizabeth Otto:
This book actually came out easily. That's not the case with my past works. My critique partners were absolutely essential in keeping me on track and acting like a support group and sounding board.
QT: Is this your first book?
Elizabeth Otto:
No. This is my fourth completed manuscript and the second which I've queried. My debut adult paranormal romance, Blood of Isis, comes out in 2013 from Etopia Press.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Elizabeth Otto:
Beyond some college coursework, no.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Elizabeth Otto:
Sort of. My kids are all in school now, so the days I'm at home, I write from 9 am-2:30 pm. I also work full time as an emergency medical technician and am able to write in between 911 ambulance calls. I'm very luck to have such a flexible life.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Elizabeth Otto:
This was a really unusual book. It didn't require a lot of revision or re-writing, though I did complete two rounds of edits with my critique partners.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Elizabeth Otto:
Yes. I had three.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Elizabeth Otto:
Both. I did an outline and then, as usual, was totally panster about it.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Elizabeth Otto:
I was fortunate to get five full requests the first week that I queried. From the day I sent the first query, until I signed with Nalini, was ten days. My first book, Blood of Isis, I queried for four months before finding a publisher that I wanted to work with (non-agented).
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Elizabeth Otto:
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Elizabeth Otto:
I wanted someone who was really invested in the contemporary romance market. I started by researching my favorite authors and seeing who represented them, and then taking it from there. I also looked at recent sales and the publishers each agent worked with.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Elizabeth Otto:
Yes, I did. I queried several agents who had read my first manuscript, and used that to follow-up with this one. I also made sure to mention, when appropriate, books from each agent's authors that I enjoyed or could compare my book to. I know listing comps is controversial, but I did get good feedback on doing so from agents.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Elizabeth Otto:
Do your research. It is really easy to just grab a handful of agents from the list and query them without knowing if they'd really be a good fit. Also, don't be afraid to re-work your query letter as many times as needed. Your opening really needs to be that elusive hook that prompts an agent to read more. Don't give up. I know I was very luck to have such a short turn-around time, but even if I hadn't, I wouldn't have given up.

Query Letter:

Breathe, rest, awaken aren’t just three little words. They are the mantra of emotional healing for a mother after the death of her child. When ex-cop Rylan Fredrickson answered an ad for a housekeeper at the sprawling Montana dude ranch, Paint River, she expected hard work and long hours would help ease the pain from the death of her daughter and husband. Getting stranded in a nowhere town on the way to the ranch with sexy, albeit drunk, cowboy Cole Haywood wasn’t in the plan. When Cole turns out to be her new employer and the single dad of a four-year old, Rylan is unwittingly thrust into a maternal role that acts like sandpaper to her still raw heart.

Cole has secrets of his own to keep. He’s had his share of conniving women and letting a stranger into his life is the last thing he wants. But as life at Paint River starts to unravel and family secrets come to the surface, he has little choice. When his attraction to Rylan grows, he must decide if he’s willing to help her overcome the agony of her past while healing deep wounds of his own. As the Montana landscape creeps into Rylan's soul along with Cole’s promising touch, she is faced with the first real possibility of healing, if she’s not too afraid to grab it.

WHISKEY NOVEMBER is a contemporary romance at 60,000 words with an ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ feel, and has series potential. WHISKEY NOVEMBER has the emotional depth and steamy heat level comparable to ONE NIGHT WITH A HERO by Laura Kaye and THE TROUBLE WITH COWBOYS by Melissa Cutler. My adult urban fantasy, BLOOD OF ISIS, will be released by Etopia press in spring 2013. Please note this is a simultaneous submission.