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Success Story Interview - Katryn Bury

An Interview with Katryn Bury (KatrynBury on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Chelsea Eberly of Greenhouse Literary Agency.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Katryn Bury:
Absolutely! I came up with the idea for DREW LECLAIR GETS A CLUE as I got more and more active in the true crime community; actually, it was Michelle McNamera's account of searching for the Golden State Killer that inspired me. I thought that, as a chronically ill true crime buff (which I VERY much was as a kid), I would have loved to have a woman role model in criminology. I developed the idea of a seventh grade girl--who today might be called a tween "murderino"--who decides to profile all of the bullies at her school to find a cybertroll. She's a lot of me at that age, but bolder and willing to share her macabre interests. Also, there are some accounts of bullying in the story that reflect my own experience in grade school. The idea of bullies being brought to justice by a fellow student appealed to me so much that I had to go for it!
QT: How long have you been writing?
Katryn Bury:
30 years. I actually started writing my first mystery novel at the age of 12! But I'd only been truly committing to querying for 2 1/2 years before snagging an agent.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Katryn Bury:
I had worked on it for 7-8 months before the query/version that got me an offer.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Katryn Bury:
Yes! It was actually about a month before I started writing DREW! I had racked up nearly 150 rejections in a year and a half and was getting crickets on my manuscript at the time. I realized that it was bad market timing and shelved it to write something new. I'm glad I didn't give up because I was so close and didn't even know it!
QT: Is this your first book?
Katryn Bury:
Oh my, no. I had written 9 books total, 5 of which I tried to query to some extent, before I got my offer.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Katryn Bury:
I have taken writing courses, and attended conferences and retreats, but otherwise no.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Katryn Bury:
I have a day job and a kindergartener (in a pandemic) so I very much have to write when I have time, even if it's only in five minute increments. I'm very grateful to Anna, Elsa, and Doc McStuffins.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Katryn Bury:
I did 7 drafts prior to subbing, and one major rewrite (although I'd say 3 passes there) after an R&R with another agent. It was that post R&R draft that made the difference.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Katryn Bury:
Yes! I had 3 for opening pages and then an additional 3 for the full manuscript. Nowadays I have a wonderful critique partner (and writing bestie who lives in my neighborhood!) and an awesome middle grade critique group I found through my local SCBWI chapter.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Katryn Bury:
I like to have a general idea of the plot, but I also have my "pantsing" moments where the story goes somewhere I didn't expect! I love those moments.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Katryn Bury:
I was lucky enough to hit with a good pitch for this book at the right time. It was only a little over 4 months from initial query to offer. The book before that (a YA thriller) I shelved after three months after getting feedback that it wasn't an upmarket concept at the time. The novel before that (a YA contemporary) I queried for a year and a half with several requests but no bites. Other books I have queried without really committing to the process. I'd say I have around 250 rejections in my email.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Katryn Bury:
About 40 queries total.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Katryn Bury:
I looked for agents that had a manuscript wish list that fit my project. In the case of my agent, however, she was at the top of my list because 1) she'd sent me a lovely rejection the year before for my shelved manuscript, inviting me to query again, and 2) she is a former editor for Penguin Random House who edited one of my comps!
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Katryn Bury:
I did when there was a connection (i.e. a pitch contest, or if it related to an interview or tweet) but didn't try to force personalization if that connection wasn't there.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Katryn Bury:
Don't give up, because your next book could be the one that gets you an agent! People say you need a thick skin to be in this business. I say, be true to yourself. If you're sensitive, be sensitive, as long as you keep writing! Also, get a separate email for querying and make a "rejections to hide" folder. Having that separation was invaluable for an anxious person (i.e. me).
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Katryn Bury:
Yes! Here's my query for DREW LECLAIR GETS A CLUE with original draft title:

Query Letter:

I am thrilled to submit my 53,000-word upper MG contemporary novel, DREW LECLAIR IS WATCHING YOU, with standalone or series potential. It will appeal to fans of The Science of Breakable Things, The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, and classics like Harriet the Spy. Drew is much like Harriet for a modern age, dealing with subjects like sexual identity, chronic illness, and cyberbullying with humor and heart.

Twelve year-old Drew Leclair is used to hearing that she's creepy. She's obsessed with true crime, draws human skulls (you know, for fun!), and her hero is famed criminal profiler Dr. Lita Miyamoto. But when Drew's mom suddenly abandons the family, her home life becomes a puzzle she can't solve—like why her dad can't stop crying. Of course, Drew can't cry. Not now, not ever. The solution is clear: she needs to think like a profiler. Like Lita. Criminologists aren't bothered by pesky emotions.

Unfortunately, a cyberbully threatens to ruin Drew's plan when they post a rumor on the school Instagram about her mother kissing the guidance counselor (technically true, but whatever). Drew can't let her guard slip, and she can't tell her dad—especially now. She decides it's time to fight the unfairness of her life with science by profiling all of the bullies at her school. If Drew can find the troll, she can protect her dad—and just maybe that wall she's built around her feelings won't come crumbling down around her.

[Bio omitted for privacy; #ownvoices for LGBTQ+ and chronic illness]

Thanks so much for your time and I hope you're staying safe and healthy in these times! Please don't hesitate to reach out if you'd like to chat about DREW moving forward.