Success Story Interview - Gabi Burton

An Interview with Gabi Burton (gburton339 on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Naomi Davis of BookEnds, LLC.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Gabi Burton:
This book is YA Fantasy about a Black Siren in a world where the other Sirens have been wiped out. I was inspired to write about Sirens on a zoom call with author friends. I was in the middle of a different project at the time, but I was so excited, I jumped in and started writing it.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Gabi Burton:
For as long as I can remember!
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Gabi Burton:
I started outlining at the end of October and writing in November 2020 for NanoWriMo. I started querying at the beginning of February 2021, so altogether it took about 3 months.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Gabi Burton:
Definitely. I got 18 full rejections on the last book I queried. I started to think that I could get agents to request fulls, but none of them wanted to represent me and they never would. It wasn't that I wanted to give up, but that I accepted getting an agent might not happen for me.
QT: Is this your first book?
Gabi Burton:
No. I was querying a YA Mystery when I got the idea for this YA (crossover) Fantasy and started writing this one. I fell head over heels for this project and wrote basically non-stop until it was finished.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Gabi Burton:
I'm an English major, but aside from that, no.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Gabi Burton:
No, just whenever I have time. Usually that means late at night.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Gabi Burton:
I don't count drafts because there are so many. I just keep editing and revising and rewriting until I can't see straight, my words blur together, and I'm basically just moving around commas for no reason. That's when I know I'm ready.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Gabi Burton:
Yes! I loved my CPs and Betas. They gave amazing encouragement and feedback and helped me shape this book into what it is.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Gabi Burton:
I'm a hardcore plotter. If I don't have an outline, I get absolutely nowhere. I admire pantsers, but that could never be me.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Gabi Burton:
I queried this book for 23 days before getting an offer. I took about a month to make an official decision.

For my book before this, I queried for 7 months before getting an offer, but I ultimately went with Naomi, who offered for my YA Fantasy
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Gabi Burton:
I queried 42 agents and got 24 full requests and 4 offers.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Gabi Burton:
Finding agents to query and making a list was fun. I searched first for agents looking for YA Fantasy on QT and then looked more specifically for agents looking for girls with swords, badass female MCs, and morally ambiguous MCs. After I made a list of agents who rep my genre, I primarily used agency websites, MSWL, the #MSWL tag on Twitter, and agent interviews I found online to whittle down the list to agents looking for more specific things in my book.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Gabi Burton:
If I could, yes. I usually had a reason why I felt an agent would be a good fit or a specific MSWL item I felt my book matched well with. Once I found those, I would mention it in the query.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Gabi Burton:
If you can, write while you're querying! It might take a few books to find your perfect match, so while you're querying, write the next book!

Also, don't rush in making a final decision! The first person who offers isn't necessarily the person you want to work with. Take your time and do what's best for you!
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Gabi Burton:

Query Letter:

Dear (Agent),

With a smile she can bring any man to his knees, with a song she can guide him to his grave. To slake her siren bloodlust, seventeen-year-old Saoirse lives a double life; soldier by day, assassin for an unknown employer by night. When she's assigned to Prince Hayes's personal guard, she's determined to hate him— after all, his father slaughtered the rest of her kind and left her the only siren in her kingdom.

When Saoirse kills a friend of Hayes for her employer, he launches an investigation into the mystery woman assassin and recruits Saoirse's help. Forced to finally ask questions about her former victims, she realizes each target is part of her employer's larger plot to kill the Royal family. Worse, he's starting with Hayes, who seems less like his father with each passing day.

A pawn in someone else's game, Saoirse has to decide what matters more: keeping her secrets from the Royal family she's always despised, or protecting Hayes— the first man who doesn't need a Siren Song to fall for her. SING ME TO SLEEP is a 95-thousand-word YA Fantasy with the dark seduction of The Shadows Between Us, and the siren protagonist struggling to hide her identity of A Song Below Water. With its central female protagonist teetering between her image as a hauntingly beautiful Siren and a disguised member of the army, this novel is reminiscent of the split-face movie poster of Disney's Mulan.

As an African American author, this novel is #ownvoices. All of the characters are shades of Black and Brown.

Thank you for your time and consideration.