Success Story Interview - Jessica V Aragon

An Interview with Jessica V Aragon (JAVahren on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent John Baker of Bell Lomax Moreton Agency.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Jessica V Aragon:
This book is a science fantasy with strong horror elements, which I’ve pitched as Dune x The Fifth Season x The Exorcist. It follows a telepathic priest who’s lost his faith, plagued by addiction and dangerously desperate for something to believe in, and a mercenary with a LOT of personal vendettas and a mission to secure herself a place in history. Circumstances align to put the fate of a broken planet in their hands, and a huge mess ensues. This is the most personal book I’ve ever written, and kind of my “screw it, I’m going to write whatever I want” project. I just threw in all my favorite things and a heavy dose of trauma.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Jessica V Aragon:
I’ve been making up stories since I learned how to talk, but I started putting words on paper in fifth grade. I wrote a TON throughout middle school and high school, but didn’t get serious about finishing, revising, and polishing a book until I was a freshman in college. It’s been a little over a decade since then, and I’ve been working toward traditional publication that whole time.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Jessica V Aragon:
It’s complicated. I’ve had the idea for a while, but I actually started drafting in spring 2022. Then I got into a VERY intensive 12 month academic program and didn’t get a whole lot done besides worldbuilding and daydreaming. I started drafting in earnest in Fall 2023—I even did NaNoWriMo for the first time ever—and finished the book in April 2024. Sooooooo I guess my answer is “somewhere between six months and two years.”
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Jessica V Aragon:
I don’t think anything could make me give up writing—it’s such an integral part of who I am. Trad pub, though? I got very close to giving up when it looked like my third book was dead in the query trenches. I thought I’d give it one more shot, and then try my hand at self-publishing. I have a lot of respect for self-published authors and there would have been nothing wrong with me taking that path, but I did end up getting an offer of rep. That renewed my confidence that this WAS possible for me.

I also cannot overstate the importance of community in this industry. Over the last couple of years I’ve really made an effort to build up my network and support systems, both IRL and online. Having a group of like-minded people who understand what I’m going through, who can advise me on my career choices and talk me down from panic spirals, has been invaluable.
QT: Is this your first book?
Jessica V Aragon:
Definitely not! Not counting whatever nonsense I was up to in high school, I’ve written ~5 books and queried 3.5 (the first was really two different versions of the same book).
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Jessica V Aragon:
None whatsoever! I’m an RN and an EMT, so my training has not been creatively oriented AT ALL.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Jessica V Aragon:
Not really. I write when I can, wherever I can. I’m lucky in that I only have a cat to take care of, and my work schedule has me doing three 13 hour shifts per week. I carry a notebook around to jot down ideas when I get them, but most of my writing gets done on my weekends.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Jessica V Aragon:
I do that thing you’re not supposed to do, where you revise as you draft, so it’s hard to say. Some scenes have been rewritten upwards of five times, others only once or twice.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Jessica V Aragon:
I had three! Though a lot more people saw the first couple of chapters—I always like to get extra eyes on those, because it’s that critical first impression of the story.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Jessica V Aragon:
I outlined, but that outline changed a LOT. I always have to start with an outline, because I need some kind of structure to get started, but I am not very good at sticking to said outline.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Jessica V Aragon:
I’ve been querying on and off for a total of almost nine years:

Book 1 (version 1.0): We don’t talk about Book 1.
Book 1 (version 2.0): 2.5 years before shelving. I took a bit of a break after this.
Book 2: 13 months from first query to offer (I ended up leaving this agent).
Book 3 (this one): I got the email to schedule a call, which led to my first offer of rep, 10 days after I started querying. So, I’ve had both experiences—the long slog and the whirlwind.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Jessica V Aragon:
57! I sent them all out over the course of exactly one (very long) day. The commonly cited wisdom is that you should query in rounds to make sure your package is working, but this was not my first rodeo. I knew enough to be pretty confident in my query and pages. I just wanted to get it DONE, so I ripped the bandaid off.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Jessica V Aragon:
I was a lot more selective this time than I was with my first three outings. I made sure they represented both sci-fi and fantasy, because I write both, and that they were okay with horror, violence and gore. I checked Publishers Marketplace to get a sense of their sales records and connections. I checked Absolute Write threads and my various writer communities for potential red flags. Having been agented once before, I went in with a much better sense of what I was looking for, which definitely worked to my advantage.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Jessica V Aragon:
For the most part, no. In my experience it’s never really made a difference. If the query was a referral, or solicited from a twitter pitch event, or the agent had something REALLY specific on their MSWL I would say that, but that’s it.

I will also note that I ended up with two offers: one from a pitch event that led to a full request, the other from a non-personalized cold query. 80% of my full requests also came from cold queries. Referrals/connections can help, but you certainly don’t need them.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Jessica V Aragon:
Luck and timing are everything in this business. I’ve gotten better with each book, of course, but my writing has been at a professional level for quite a while. It still took me seven years and thousands of hours of work to get one offer of rep on my third book, which went on to die on sub, and then I had to query AGAIN, because your first agent doesn’t always work out. There are people I started with—people I hoped would be my contemporaries—who rocketed past me to offers and book deals and awards, while I’ve been spinning my wheels in the mud. Some days, that’s been pretty near unbearable.

So the thing I’ve had to keep reminding myself, over and over, is this is not a meritocracy. The market is everything, agents are overwhelmed, and publishing is 1) incredibly risk-averse, and 2) NOT AT ALL equitable for marginalized folks. Some of the most brilliant writers I know can’t seem to catch a break. And at the end of the day, everyone’s journey is different. That person who signed with an agent on their very first book might languish on sub for years. Someone might get a huge advance at a young age and then get screwed over by marketing and struggle to sell another book. Some of my favorite authors had to fight for over a decade to get published. I got lucky this time in the trenches, but it could just as easily have gone the other way. Any agented writer who won’t admit that is either delusional—and in for a rude awakening--or lying to you.

Your luck can always change, for worse or for better, so—and I know this is easier said than done—comparing yourself to other writers is an exercise in futility.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Jessica V Aragon:

Query Letter:

Dear (Agent),

Brother Jacen Kheris was once the most gifted exorcist of his generation, poised for leadership in the Church that rules his desert city-state. Since the death of his apprentice at the hands of the gods he served, he’s become a guilt-ridden addict. In the midst of a crisis of faith and desperate for purpose, Jacen stumbles into a plot born of heretical prophecy: harness a demon with apocalyptic power to overthrow the gods.

Ysira Naktis was once set to become a knight of the Church, until they left her for dead as a sacrifice. Plagued by bitterness and relegated to the fringes of society, she cares little for religion. But she is more than willing to manipulate prophecy for another chance at power and vengeance.

Jacen and Ysira become reluctant allies, poised to remake their world. But the plot hinges on allowing a boy to become the demon’s vessel—a process which could rewrite his mind and unleash uncontrollable horrors. Worse, the boy is Ysira’s long-lost son, and the beloved nephew of the man she and Jacen have both pined after for years.

The power Jacen and Ysira stand to gain may cost them their souls. It might also be all that can free their world from centuries of oppression. And in the ancient, haunted reaches of the desert, the truth they encounter is deeper and more sinister than tyrannical gods. Uncovering its full scope could make their world a target of cosmic vengeance, and transform one boy into a force no god or mortal can control.


Per your submission guidelines, my (pages/synopsis/whatever) are (pasted/attached) below. Thank you for your consideration!

Jessica RealName, writing as Jessica V Aragon