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Success Story Interview - Mia Siegert

An Interview with Mia Siegert (msiegert on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Sera Rivers of Speilburg 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?
Mia Siegert:
In this trans twist on THE FACE ON THE MILK CARTON, a 17yo trans boy takes a DNA test and discovers he’s a perfect match for a family desperately searching for their kidnapped daughter.

I’m a bigender writer who follows a lot of true crime and has a tendency to get links to ideas from unusual places. I read a lot of books and watched a lot of documentaries about kidnapped babies from the NICU then thought of THE FACE ON THE MILK CARTON, which stuck with me since I was a teen, and wondered how something like that could work today, in the era of social media and how identity might be questioned. Would someone be accepted by their biological parents? What challenges would they face?
QT: How long have you been writing?
Mia Siegert:
I wrote plays since my mom cofounded a black box theatre in Montclair and, by fluke, tons of cast members from The Silence of the Lambs were members of the company so I was introduced to thrillers early. I watched Candyman 2 and Rosemary’s Baby when I was 9, which terrified me but I’m also so grateful as they shaped me.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Mia Siegert:
A couple years! Usually I write very fast first drafts, spend forever editing, set aside, then edit again. A friend helped me restructure this annnnnnnnd crossing fingers time!
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Mia Siegert:
For a couple years, I didn’t write. I couldn’t think of anything. I didn’t realize how broken I was, that little comments add up, that things weren’t okay. I’m extremely diligent though and when one of my friends said they were extremely concerned about me and thought I needed to stop, I dug my heels in more. Sort of the ND, “Oh, so you’re telling me I can’t do that? WELL, I’M GOING TO DO IT EVEN HARDER” mindset. I got my agent not long afterwards!
QT: Is this your first book?
Mia Siegert:
I’ve published two novels, JERKBAIT and SOMEBODY TOLD ME.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Mia Siegert:
I have an MFA from Goddard College where I studied with Rebecca Brown, Douglas A. Martin, and John McManus.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Mia Siegert:
Outside of my one amazing friend who offered, no one unfortunately. I was strongly discouraged and didn’t know how to reach out to some people because I’m so painstakingly shy and scared I’d impose on people. I know online I come across with a lot of bravado but I’m meek. I hope I can get the confidence to sometime connect with people about being betas! REALLY would love community and I really regret taking the isolation advice.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Mia Siegert:
Definitely Pantser! Any time I’ve been forced to outline, my writing’s been awful. I much prefer to write, let the story dictate itself, then do really hardcore edits to fit structure. I’d like if that could be normalized for people with different learning and writing styles. I know a lot of people think that’s way more work, but those are plotters; pantsers are happy to do those hardcore revisions. Lately I’m finding the joy of doing synopsis-work now that I learned if it’s tagged on as a little proposal it doesn’t need the ending and a friend called it “Plantsing” which I love! So maybe I’m a “Plantser!”
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Mia Siegert:
I think technically two years (pub is slow—it’s seriously a different landscape now than it was in 2015!!! Much harder!) I only really considered myself to seriously step in the trenches about two months ago when one of my writing idols Katori Hall QTed me saying, “Keep on keeping on. We need more voices like yours especially now.” Something changed in me then, and I fully credit her with me being agented now.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Mia Siegert:
Honestly not many because I was too scared (which is sad...). I thought 10-13 but it might be a little higher than that. I received 3 offers, super kind and helpful step-asides including a ton of personalized feedback.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Mia Siegert:
For the first part, I looked at agents who had more diverse client lists and I studied the agencies and checked to see if there were any red flag lists in their history. I studied agents’ MSWLs but ESPECIALLY their anti-MSWLs (HUGELY helpful since a lot of agents say what they want but many don’t share what they DON’T want so one can filter that way). I reached out to one agent for clarification stating I didn’t want to be disrespectful after reading her anti-MSWL because one of my MSWL had five strong likes. Incredibly nice agent but decided not to query as I felt it wouldn’t be the right fit for her. I did a handful there knowing querying’s slow but I didn’t realize just how different it was this time around than my first time!

For the second part, I’m friends and mutuals with a lot of agents and often chat a bit about fun things and sometimes talk about book/writing stuff. I ended up getting personal invitations from agents who were closed to subs so another handful.

The big traction happened when I saw #QueerPit on Twitter, didn’t know it was happening/what it was, did research, and decided to drop my pitch. A few agents requested. I checked out their agencies and asked for instruction from two agents, then went to bed with a migraine. I got up to see the instructions were there, sent the work, and went back to bed. When I got up, I received questions from one agent as she read, starting with, “has this book been subbed before?” My heart stopped because I knew what that meant. That night, I got a same day offer with a request for a zoom call the next day (and that was Sera Rivers, who is my agent now!) Then ten minutes before that meeting, the second offer came in (an overnight offer) from the other #QueerPit agent, then had an over the weekend offer, then it was a bunch of FLYING with the few remaining agents, all of whom were VERY kind. Many gave personalized feedback, all were genuinely rooting me on.

The most interest in me/my writing by far were agents who were closed to queries but extended personal invitations.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Mia Siegert:
Rule number One of Write Club: No agent is better than a bad agent.
Rule Number Two of Write Club: No agent is better than a bad agent.

Do a LOT of research. If people say it’s bad news, it’s bad news. Writing is vulnerable. It’s hard to put yourself on page and hard to query. If something feels off or wrong, it probably is. Also for inspiration on perseverance, Jack London had 664 Rejections before CALL OF THE WILD.