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Success Story Interview - Shelly Bell

An Interview with Shelly Bell (sbell987 on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Jessica Alvarez of BookEnds, LLC.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Shelly Bell:
My book, WHITE COLLARED, is a four-part erotic thriller serial about a young lawyer who goes undercover as a submissive at a sex club to prove her client is innocent of murder. The story was inspired by a real Michigan case of a man who led a secret life as a BDSM “Master” and allegedly hired a hit man to murder his wife in order to avoid a messy divorce and to be free to live with his slave and another woman.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Shelly Bell:
I started writing in February of 2011.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Shelly Bell:
I began plotting the story in the spring of 2013, but I’m still writing it! It’s an unusual situation since my book is a serial and divided into four parts. I don’t advise it, but I queried with only Part One finished. This was because I had three publishing houses request it through online pitches.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Shelly Bell:
I never gave up because I didn’t measure my success based on whether I got an agent or book deal with a New York publisher. I’ve been fortunate to have my previous books published with reputable digital-first publishers.
QT: Is this your first book?
Shelly Bell:
No. The first book I finished was published with Soul Mate Publishing. I have a few more books releasing this year with them and one book with Loose Id. I’ve also written a paranormal romance which will never see the light of day.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Shelly Bell:
It depends on how you define formal writing training. I don’t have a degree in English or an MFA, but I’ve taken several online workshops which have helped me improve my writing.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Shelly Bell:
No. I write whenever, wherever I can because I have a full-time career and a family. I have to use my time wisely. To me, it’s a 24/7 job.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Shelly Bell:
Um…I’m still working on it! I write more scenes than I keep, so I’m constantly editing. I do a three pass edit before I submit it to an agent or editor.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Shelly Bell:
No. If I’m worried about a particular plot point or scene, I’ll bounce it off my writer friends or my husband. They’re painfully honest.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Shelly Bell:
I’m a plotter. I write a full synopsis before I begin writing and then I divide it into chapters. I also list the goal, motivation, and conflict for every scene. With WHITE COLLARED, I created an Excel spreadsheet with all the characters and clues.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Shelly Bell:
I’ve queried a few times for other books, but I began querying for WHITE COLLARED at the end of September with several positive responses. I also submitted the book to the publishers who had requested it. Ten days later, I got the call from Avon with an offer. I withdrew my submissions from those agents who’d requested a partial or full. But a few days later, I heard from my dream agent, Jessica Alvarez. When I told her I’d accepted a contract from Avon, she offered to read Part One if I was interested in acquiring an agent before my next book. If I hadn’t been convinced before, the fact she’d invest in my career rather than a book meant a great deal to me. She read it over the weekend and on Tuesday, I signed with her to represent me on WHITE COLLARED and future books.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Shelly Bell:
I sent out a dozen. Originally, I didn’t send it to my now agent, Jessica Alvarez, because she didn’t take thrillers, but since she does represent Romantic Suspense and erotic romance, I thought I’d take the chance. It obviously paid off!
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Shelly Bell:
The majority of the agents I queried successfully represent romance and thriller authors and have a visible presence in Romance Writers of America.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Shelly Bell:
No, I didn’t this time. I know some agents like that, but most agents I’ve spoken with have stated they really only care about the book pitch.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Shelly Bell:
Don’t stop writing while you’re waiting for an agent. It’s possible your book is wonderful but not marketable. You may get the agent and publishing contract with your next book.

Query Letter:

White Collared is an erotic suspense serial plotted for four parts, 25,000 words each. The first part is complete and has been requested by -------, -------, and ------. (Editors names redacted)

Still haunted by the death of her father ten years ago, third-year law student Kate Martin outran her tragic past to become an intern at the most prestigious law firm in the state, mentored by her idol, the high profile attorney, Nicholas Trenton. When sexual Dominant Jaxon Deveroux hires his friend Nicholas to defend him against the charge he brutally slayed his submissive socialite wife, Kate and her boss wage a battle against the media’s unjust portrayal of Jaxon as a sadistic monster and the community’s outcry for the prosecution to arrest him despite the lack of evidence.

Determined to prove Jaxon’s innocence and find the real killer at any cost, Kate skirts the edge of legal ethics by going undercover as his submissive at a mysterious and exclusive sex club patronized by society’s elite. Falling deeper into a world where everyone has a secret they’d kill to keep quiet, the professional lines between attorney and client blur as slowly and seductively, Jaxon brings her deepest fantasies to life. Swept into a dangerous love affair, she risks her career, her heart, and even her life. For the killer may be closer than she thinks—and only facing her darkest fear can save her.

When not penning manuscripts, I practice corporate law and serve as President of the Greater Detroit Romance Writers of America. To write this manuscript, I did extensive research on forensics, criminal procedure, abnormal psychology, and BDSM, consulting with psychologists, police detectives, criminal attorneys, and BDSM practitioners. I am a published author in contemporary romance with four digital books contracted for release in 2014.

I look forward to hearing from you and thank you for your consideration.


Shelly Bell