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Success Story Interview - Kim Graff

An Interview with Kim Graff (yaasylum on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Carrie Pestritto of Laura Dail Literary Agency, Inc..


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Kim Graff:
I wrote a thriller YA called LIV ON FIRE. When a serial killer starts burning people alive and releasing his crimes online, eighteen-year-old Liv ignores the media's frenzy, until she stumbles upon one of her classmates tied to a burning stake and becomes the serial killer's new obsession.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Kim Graff:
I've been writing since middle school when two friends and I started to write a comic book (though we couldn't draw, so we decided to write it script style until we became master artists — which never happened). I wrote a couple novels in high school, and one in college, but it wasn't until I graduated college that I really got serious about writing. I would say I've been serious about it since 2012.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Kim Graff:
I started writing this novel in 2013. I worked on it off and on for probably six months from first draft to final draft.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Kim Graff:
I've never wanted to give up on getting an agent or a book deal, but I did feel like around July that I was giving up on LIV ON FIRE. For the other two novels that I queried, the six month mark usually meant it was time to shelve the project. What really helped me stay on the course are my remarkable critique partners. They are always there when I needed someone to talk to.
QT: Is this your first book?
Kim Graff:
No, I would say that LIV ON FIRE was the sixth or seventh completed manuscript. It's only the third that I queried though.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Kim Graff:
I do not. I've interned for a literary agency, which I think really helped me learn about marketability and what agents are looking for, but I don't have a MFA or anything like that.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Kim Graff:
I don't. I know some people who do, but schedules for writing have never worked well for me.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Kim Graff:
I rewrote it once, and revised it three times. My agent asked me to do a R&R, so that was the fourth time.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Kim Graff:
Oh yes. I think it's important to have other people read over my work. I have four amazing critique partners.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Kim Graff:
I'm a plotter to the core.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Kim Graff:
Yep. I started querying my first novel in 2012. For this project, I started querying in March 2014 and received my first offer of representation on August 18th, 2014. So about six months.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Kim Graff:
I sent out around 80 queries. I got around 30 requests and into two online contests as well #PitchMadness and #TheWVoice, which actually ended up being the way my agent noticed me (#TheWVoice).
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Kim Graff:
I first made sure they were interested in YA, and then checked their sales records on Publishers Marketplace. I also read as many interviews about them as possible. If the agent represented a book similar to mine, or an author I respected, that helped a lot. Though LIV ON FIRE is a contemporary project, I also really love horror and fantasy so I made sure that the agents were open to those genres as well.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Kim Graff:
I tried to tailor it to the agent as much as possible. For example, I would write:
"I read on XX interview that you are interested in dark contemporary stories. As such, I thought you might enjoy my 82,000 word YA novel, LIV ON FIRE." Or something like that.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Kim Graff:
I think it's really important to network with other authors, and find a support group for you. This round of querying, I had established and amazing critique partners and writer friends that really made the querying process better. They were always there to talk to me about the rejections or full requests or offers of representation. They helped me with any revisions I needed to do too.