Success Story Interview - Rachel Midori Abril

An Interview with Rachel Midori Abril (midoriabril on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Catherine Cho of Paper Literary.


QT: How long have you been writing?
Rachel Midori Abril:
Since I was a little kid! But I took a break in college and only got back to writing seriously afterwards.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Rachel Midori Abril:
Since 2020.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Rachel Midori Abril:
I can't say there was ever a time where I thought I might give up entirely, but I definitely went through slumps as I worked on this MS. Reading research and craft books, along with books in my genre that I found inspirational, helped to get me back on track.
QT: Is this your first book?
Rachel Midori Abril:
This is the first book I've written that can be read coherently by an audience. I have a draft of a shelved idea I worked on for a couple years prior to this project, and something like 200,000 words of an unfinished Hades/Persephone retelling that will never see the light of day.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Rachel Midori Abril:
Not anything extensive. I attended a summer writing camp in high school, took a sci-fi/fantasy course in college, and a couple of online writing courses more recently, but most of my writing "training" has come from reading fiction and craft books and receiving peer feedback.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Rachel Midori Abril:
I travel a lot for work, so I'm not able to keep a consistent schedule. I write most often on the weekends and in the late evenings when I'm home, but also on planes and in hotel rooms. I tend to plan my writing schedule day by day.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Rachel Midori Abril:
I queried my seventh draft of this book. I was accepted to the Rogue Mentor program with my third draft, which was a huge step for me in improving my craft. After getting my edit letter from my mentor, I embarked on what ended up being a complete re-write of the book, as she helped me realize I hadn't really written the book I wanted to write. A couple of the following drafts were partial drafts as I tried a couple different things structurally.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Rachel Midori Abril:
Yes! I had several read the draft I submitted to Rogue Mentor, but after my mentor's edit letter, I ended up tearing things up so much that much of my other readers' specific feedback was no longer relevant. However, I did learn about craft from their critiques that I applied moving forward. I had two betas read the version I queried, though after that many drafts, I wasn't ready to tear anything up structurally, so they mainly gave me line edit type feedback.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Rachel Midori Abril:
I mostly outlined, but not in a ton of detail. I had a vague idea of what would happen in each chapter, but sometimes I came up with slightly altered trajectories along the way. The specifics of the ending altered as I got deeper into the draft.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Rachel Midori Abril:
I queried this book for almost exactly three months, and this is the first book I queried! I know I'm fortunate in that.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Rachel Midori Abril:
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Rachel Midori Abril:
My book is an adult urban fantasy romance, and through some trial and error in the beginning of querying I learned that I had better luck when I queried agents open to both fantasy and romance or romantasy specifically. I looked for agents who listed authors/books/movies that I could comp or tropes featured in my book, though not all agents' wishlists are thorough, and sometimes I queried based on very little available information. In addition, I did briefly subscribe to Publisher's Marketplace to see how well the agents I queried were selling (and in what genres, to what imprints, etc.)
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Rachel Midori Abril:
I did very little customization for each agent, and did less and less the longer I queried. Sometimes, if I connected with some part of the agent's wishlist, I might add a sentence referring to that. I did not customize for the two agents who ended up offering! Based on agents' wishlists and general vibes, I did swap around the comp titles I used in my query letter, as I had a handful that were all comparable.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Rachel Midori Abril:
Use QueryTracker Premium (I swear no one told me to say this) to check agents' current response times and, out of your list of agents to query, query the ones with the fastest* response rates when you send out your first batch. That way you can get a quick turnaround to see if your query package is working!

Also, Twitter was a HUGE resource for me while querying. I scrolled the feed in my idle time and found new agencies/agents by looking at the profiles of agented writers. Sometimes agents post their wishlists to Twitter and nowhere else! The dialogue in writing Twitter helped me get up to speed on querying and the publishing industry in general (which I hadn't researched a ton in advance), and pitch events got me a few requests and lots of kind support from fellow writers.

*A fast response rate these days seems to be under two weeks, which can still feel excruciatingly slow after you've sent your first query.