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An Interview with Don Zolidis upon receiving an offer of representation.

Don Zolidis (donzolidis on QT) has signed with agent Brenda Bowen of The Book Group.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
SUPERGEEK is a 67,000 word upper-MG novel about a nerd who gets moderate super-powers and tries to use them to become cool. (and mostly fails) This is largely a wish-fulfillment book for me – I imagined what it might be like to have a tiny amount of super-powers and what I would actually do with them in the real world.
How long have you been writing?
I've been writing since high school. For the vast majority of that time, I've been a playwright and a screenwriter. (I still am, I'm just branching out.)
How long have you been working on this book?
I started writing it in September 2010. I finished the first draft of the book in about two and a half months, and spent another month editing.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
No. I've had a lot of success as a playwright, so I had a lot of confidence that I could do this as well. And in my career I've met with lots of rejection before that success, but I've never felt like giving up.
Is this your first book?
This is my first novel, yes.
Do you have any formal writing training?
I have a B.A. in English and an M.F.A. in playwriting. I'm also a professor of creative writing.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
Not really. I tried to write every spare minute during the day that I could. I used to write late at night, but as I've gotten older I've gotten less and less productive after 10:00 p.m. or so. Now I try to write in the morning, and I'd try to have a page goal for each week. I set myself a goal of 25 pages per week, and I hit that on most weeks.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Honestly? Maybe two. I know that's kind of weak, but I revise as I go, so it wasn't like I just whipped off a third draft and sent it to an agent.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
No. I felt pretty good about the book while I was writing it. Brenda (my agent) was actually the first person to read the entire novel all the way through. I'd given a five-page sample to a friend to look over, but that was it. I guess I'm a little secretive of my writing while I'm working on it.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Oh yes. Outline. Outline. Outline. As I was writing, I would change the outline to reflect what I was doing, but I had a very concrete plan. As this was my first novel, I felt that I would get lost halfway through if I didn't have a solid framework.
How long have you been querying for this book?
I sent the first query to Brenda in January, which was the first time I'd ever contacted an agent. After two months, and two nudges, I hadn't heard anything, so then I jumped deeply into the querying pool.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
65 in the course of about two weeks. I got really obsessive about it. I'd check my email every five minutes until 10 p.m. By the time Brenda offered, I'd had 10 requests for fulls, and 2 for partials, and about 25 rejections. The others were either no-responses or hadn't gotten to it yet. I called off the search after she offered.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
They had to represent both Middle Grade and Young Adult, since my book is close to being between the two worlds. I also looked at their response times – after a bit I stopped querying agents that were the "no response means no" kind because it was driving me insane.

I selected Brenda because she was recommended by a friend of mine, who happens to be a best-selling author. I valued my friend's opinion very highly, so when Brenda called and said she loved the book and we seemed to click, I called off the search. It was kind of cool writing a letter to the agents saying that I wasn't taking any more offers. I tried to be very, very nice about it.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
A little bit, but not much. I looked on their websites and maybe glanced a few blogs, and if there was some kind of connection, I'd mention it.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
I don't know that I have a lot of great advice. I guess it's just keep writing, keep writing, keep writing. I've had 41 plays published, so I already felt "established" by the time I started looking for a literary agent. It's nice to have some credentials out there that are going to get an agent's attention.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?

Dear wonderful agent:

I am writing to you to consider representing me as a literary agent. I have recently completed a 70,000 word middle grade novel, SUPERGEEK, a comic thriller that marries Diary of a Wimpy Kid to Spiderman.

<And then I had a whole paragraph here bragging about how I've published 40 plays and blah, blah, blah. Seriously, though, I was told that if you have really solid credentials, put them up top.>

SUPERGEEK is the story of Austin Horatio Minor, a typically geeky high school freshman who is transformed into a junior varsity level superhero after a freak encounter with a mysterious janitor. Still, the ability to fly at six miles per hour, lift half of a mini-van, and levitate darts doesn't automatically make you popular, and Austin's hometown of Pocowok, Wisconsin doesn't seem to be crying out for a superhero. But appearances can be deceiving, and in order to become cool (and get a girl to like him), he just might have to save the world.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Don Zolidis