Introducing a new writing tool from the maker of QueryTracker.
Learn More...
Introducing a new writing tool from the maker of QueryTracker. Learn More...

Success Story Interview - Marissa Spear

An Interview with Marissa Spear (mspear71 on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Daniele Hunter of McIntosh & Otis, Inc..


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Marissa Spear:
My book is YA queer contemporary about disability advocacy and the uncovering of long-lost letters that reshape family relationships and childhood friendships.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Marissa Spear:
I've been writing for as long as I can remember. I'm a historian and academic in my day-job, but I didn't start seriously writing fiction until about 2020.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Marissa Spear:
I've been working on this book since fall 2023.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Marissa Spear:
Of course! Querying and publishing in general is such a rollercoaster. I was lucky enough to participate in the Rogue Mentorship program in 2021, and the relationships I formed during that time have been essential to helping me stay the course. Writing friends and/or any kind of support system is really important to remind you why you fell in love with writing in the first place when rejection comes.
QT: Is this your first book?
Marissa Spear:
No. My first book was a YA contemporary romance that I wrote in 2020. I started querying with that book in late 2021 and wrote my second when I needed to shift my brain to something new.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Marissa Spear:
As a fiction writer, not really, even though I've been trained in more academic forms of writing. I took a creative writing course in my graduate program and took a YA workshop course through Catapult in 2021 after I started writing my first novel.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Marissa Spear:
Not really. I try to write whenever I can.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Marissa Spear:
Yes, I had two incredible beta readers for this book--one through my mentorship, and one is a writing friend I made through Twitter. For my first novel, I had additional beta readers that helped me revise and edit throughout. It is really important to me to find early readers of my books, even if they're not formal writers. I rely on trusted friends who I know read widely in YA. They'll be your sharpest critics and your biggest champions.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Marissa Spear:
I'm a complete pantser. I write from the hip. I often use an outline in the revision stage, like Save the Cat, to help me make sure I hit all my plot points.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Marissa Spear:
I have been querying this book since January 2024, so about 6 months. My first book I queried for about two years (from November 2021 to December 2023).
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Marissa Spear:
For this book, I sent 43 queries and received 2 partial requests, 6 full requests, and 3 offers of representation.

For my first book, I sent 69 queries with 4 partial requests, 14 full requests, and 1 revise and resubmit.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Marissa Spear:
For both of my novels, it was really important to choose agents who had an interest in representing disabled authors writing disabled characters or agents who were interested in chronic illness rep. I spent hours of time scouring MSWLs and reading threads on Twitter. Recommendations from other writers and authors who had good experiences with agents were also really helpful.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Marissa Spear:
For the most part, I tailored each query to the specific agents If I knew of something on their MSWL I would mention it and how it connected to my novel. If I had read a book by one of their clients that I loved, I would mention that as well.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Marissa Spear:
Protect your mental health. It's okay to take breaks. It's okay to stop querying, or even stop writing for a while. Creating a separate email account for querying was one of the best pieces of advice I got. It helped me compartmentalize. And then celebrate your wins, no matter how small you think it seems. My support system helped me celebrate the small wins, and it made all the difference--from a finished manuscript, to a partial request, to a kind personalization in a rejection. Also, even if an agent rejects a manuscript, don't be afraid to query them again with something new.

Query Letter:

Dear [insert agent name],

[insert agent personalization]

WHAT LIES BENEATH THE SURFACE is a queer YA contemporary novel complete at 72,000 words that combines the epistolary structure and rediscovery of a late mother’s life from Kalie Holford’s The Last Love Song and the undercurrents of activist history from Abdi Nazemian’s Like A Love Story. It contains the ex-childhood friends-to-lovers of Kristin Dwyer’s Some Mistakes Were Made and would appeal to fans of Ashley Woodfolk.

By day, Lydia Venuto is a part-time college student and small-town library assistant. By night, she’s a fierce endometriosis advocate and amateur archivist with her own podcast. When her inaugural podcast episode about her own journey with endometriosis goes viral, Lydia is hell-bent on riding the wave of her virality with a subsequent episode about the history of her father’s Philly-based HIV/AIDS activist collective. However, as she digs through her father’s archival materials, she discovers letters between her father and late mother which unravel family secrets that might forever change the one relationship she could always count on.

Meanwhile, in between scouring flea markets with her history professor dad for ER box sets, Lydia is managing the listeners who flooded her DMs searching for answers about endometriosis. One such listener is her ex-best childhood friend who she promised (and failed) to never to fall for, Arabel Alfaro. Reintegrating Arabel back in her life means unearthing childhood memories and years of absent conversations. Lydia is torn between doing right by her role as an advocate and protecting herself from long-buried emotions. But when a piece of the past changes everything Lydia thought she knew about herself, maybe it won’t be so bad having the person who knows her best in the world by her side after all.

I am a disabled writer and historian based in Northwest Arkansas with a BA in Health Equity Studies from Goucher College and a Certificate of Professional Achievement in Narrative Medicine from Columbia University. I was a 2021 Rogue Mentee with Marissa Eller, author of Joined at the Joints, and my YA fiction work was longlisted for The Voyage Journal’s 2021 Book-Pitch Contest. My essay on disability in children’s historical literature is forthcoming from University Press of Mississippi in An American Girl Anthology, and my historical research on the Baltimore branch of the Black Panther Party has appeared or is forthcoming in the Journal of Women’s History, Nursing Clio, and All of Us.

Best regards,
Marissa Spear