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Success Story Interview - Sunyi Dean

An Interview with Sunyi Dean (Nycteris on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Naomi Davis 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?
Sunyi Dean:
ANCHOR is a speculative fiction/contemporary fantasy novel about a suicidal waitress called Remy, and her alternate-self in the dreamworld who is called Ro. If Remy dies, Ro will too, so the story follows Ro's attempts to keep them both alive. It's sort of, 'Eternal Sunshine' meets 'Fight Club', with a bit of 'American Gods' thrown in.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Sunyi Dean:
Just over two years. I started trying to write in July 2016, a month after my 29th birthday.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Sunyi Dean:
Almost 7 months exactly. I had the idea last June, but I didn't officially start typing words until January 1, 2018. I finished (incl revisions and beta feedback) July 1, 2018 and began querying July 4, 2018.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Sunyi Dean:
Anchor was meant to be my last serious effort to secure an agent. If this didn't work, I was going to stop writing novels and just do short stories as a hobby. I guess you could say, the plan was ALWAYS to give up (but I've foiled myself.)
QT: Is this your first book?
Sunyi Dean:
It is my second.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Sunyi Dean:
No. I just read a lot.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Sunyi Dean:
Sadly impossible. Both my children are bad sleepers, and my youngest has autism so needs a lot of care; I write in the margins of life, usually 11pm-1am or else in bits and pieces throughout the day as time allows.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Sunyi Dean:
A lot. I am a serial rewriter; I produce 20-50k a month in words, yet my final total wordcount was 96k at the time of querying (hopefully this gives you a rough idea of how much I re-write).
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Sunyi Dean:
Yes. I have a little critique group of 8ish people that I've been building across the year.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Sunyi Dean:
I write intuitively, without any outline. Generally, I start with the core emotional scenes to create a loose structure and slowly fill in the gaps, like a jigsaw puzzle.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Sunyi Dean:
ANCHOR I queried for 12 days, before getting an offer, with a request rate of 16%.

ORIGIN (previous MS) I queried for 18 months, and 0 requests. 130+ rejections.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Sunyi Dean:
I sent 50 in a batch, which you're not supposed to do, but I was wrapping up my writing endeavours and wanted it done with. 20 out of 50 were CNR, 21 were outright rejections, 7 are still outstanding.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Sunyi Dean:
Reputable agents who I thought would be a good fit for ANCHOR. After months of querying Origin, had a good general idea of which agents liked what.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Sunyi Dean:
Nope. When querying MS1, I spent a lot of time tailoring the query for each agent, and still got nothing but forms. I think, in the end, the query and the MS are really the deciding factor.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Sunyi Dean:
Be kind to yourself. Querying is tough. Write what's close to your heart BUT with your practical hat on.

Also… you're looking to be somebody's 10. Not everybody's 7. In other words, polarising can be good. You want the MS that (at least) one agent LOVES--rather than the MS that lots of agents like pretty well, but not enough to offer.

The flipside to that is, some agents will seriously dislike your MS (so will some readers). And that's okay; you can't please everyone, so concentrate on wowing *some* people.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Sunyi Dean:
Happy to! However, to build on the previous point, my query letter has proved very polarising. It's rules-breaking as it's got a nonstandard format, no personalisation, and a swear word in there; it's also very short. Some agents were distinctly unimpressed, but on the other hand, some liked it a lot.

Query Letter:

Dear Agent Fullname,

Remy is a waitress, scraping by in the waking world. Ro is her dream-self, fighting monsters in the dreamworld.

Remy has depression and a catalogue of failure. Ro has magic guns and kickass friends.

Remy is planning to commit suicide. Ro is pretty sold on staying alive.

If Remy dies, Ro is fucked.

Dream-selves don't survive the death of their dreamers. If Ro wants to keep living, she must breach the divide between worlds (no problem) and defeat a Sumerian goddess of death (little harder), all to save someone who doesn't want saving (no promises).

ANCHOR (TO YOUR OTHER SELF) tells the story of two different women in two different worlds, who share one life between them. This standalone novel of speculative fiction is complete at 96,000 words.

[bio w/ short story credits]

Thank you for your time and attention.

Kind regards,

Nycteris Realname