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An Interview with Jeannie Lin upon receiving an offer of representation.

Jeannie Lin (jeannie_lin on QT) has signed with agent Gail Fortune of Talbot Fortune Agency, LLC.

How long have you been writing?
Three and half years.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Give up, no. Discouraged, heck yeah! We aspiring authors always wonder how long we should stick with a project. I told myself I'd put this manuscript aside after 100 rejections. It was very good that I took the option of quitting off the table, as you'll see a few questions down.
Is this your first book?
It's my second completed book. I have three completed total, so I kept on working while I was querying with this one.
How long have you been working on this book?
July 2007 is the oldest timestamp on my files. Wow, I didn't realize it was that long ago!
Do you have any formal writing training?
I did take a 10 week course on romance novel writing at UCLA. Other than that, no.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
When I can. 5am - 8am, 9pm - 11pm on weekdays and usually one weekend day. It gets blurry after hitting a milestone until I re-establish it again.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
I'm going to say the book went through three of what I would consider full revisions. Lots of polishing and tweaking concentrated on the first three chapters though!
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Oh yes. Since it took over a year to query this book, I had a round of different readers for each revision.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I outline the major points. I plot using a loose blend of the 3 act structure with attention given to the Hero's Journey. The details are not exact and I re-outline as needed, but I do know where I'm going.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
This is the question I've been waiting for! Querytracker history says: 6/8/2008. Almost one year. My prior manuscript, I only gave one round of queries before I decided to move on.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Can I keep that between me and QT for now? Let's just say that 100 rejection mark seemed like a really big number when I first put it out there. I'm what you might consider a heavy user of QT. I swear by this site.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Well, the criteria expanded over time! First I concentrated on agents interested in historical romance. I always split my queries between some larger "pie in the sky" agencies and smaller agencies where I might get more personalized attention. I usually queried in rounds of 12-15 queries and waiting for responses before revamping for the next round.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
I tried as much as I could. If I had read something on their blog, I'd mention it. If I really had read their clients' work, I'd mention it. Just one sentence usually. If nothing else, I'd just mention that I thought of them because they liked unusual settings or strong hooks or strong heroines. Something they had listed on AgentQuery or on a blog regarding what stories they gravitated toward.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
If you truly believe in your project, you will need to work it hard. Even when your partial is sent out, consider it on a smaller slush pile. Follow up! I had to follow up to get my partials read. Even when they turned into fulls, they were on a smaller to-do list, but unless the agent is truly excited, they'll get to it in due time. As much as you can, but politely, nudge them. That was what I learned during this whole process and I wouldn't have known it without reading the comments from other QT users.

Oh yes, and every form rejection means one thing: your writing is not strong enough. I know that's not necessarily what it means, but rather than trying to figure things out, I just assumed that's what it meant and kept on polishing the submission and the query. My agent told me it was the first five pages that I attached to the query that made her request the full.

Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Yes! Keep in mind this is the final version and also that I actually had more success with agents who accepted a couple of pages or a first chapter with the query. So making those first five pages rock is key! I took off the final paragraph with my credentials.

I decided to query your agency when I saw that you have an emphasis in representing romance and women’s fiction. BUTTERFLY SWORDS is a 90,000 word historical romance with an alternative history twist which puts medieval swordsmen from Europe into golden age China. The manuscript is a finalist in the 2009 Golden Heart® contest, listed under my pen name of Jeannie Lin.

Arranged marriages are to be expected in the Tang Dynasty, but when Shen Ai Li discovers her intended husband is plotting against the throne, she escapes from her wedding armed only with her butterfly swords. She must return to the capital and warn her father -- the future of the empire depends on it. With a ruthless warlord on her trail, there is no one she can trust until a blue-eyed barbarian rushes into a horde of bandits to rescue her.

Stranded in a hostile land, Ryam receives his first touch of kindness from a woman who seems to be in more danger than he is. Suddenly he’s thrown into a journey alongside the most spirited woman he’s ever known--and he’s known many. As Ryam and Ai Li fight off enemy soldiers and evade capture, an inescapable attraction grows between them. But what can a scoundrel like him have to offer a woman who holds honor and tradition above all else? Especially when Ai Li turns out to be a princess in hiding and he’s been marked for death as an enemy of the empire.