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An Interview with Jenna Voris upon receiving an offer of representation.

04/22/2021

Jenna Voris (jmv132 on QT) has signed with agent Claire Friedman of InkWell Management.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Sure! It's a YA sci-fi based on the story of Bonnie and Clyde. I really loved the Bonnie and Clyde Broadway musical and the real life backdrop of two outlaws on the run during the Great Depression was so much fun to play with.
How long have you been working on this book?
I wrote this book in the summer of 2019 right before going back to grad school. I queried later that year to no success and then entered Author Mentor Match in early 2020. I revised with my mentor, who helped me take this book to a completely new level and then I queried again and found my agent in the summer of 2020 - so just about a year from first draft to signing.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
lol yes. Before I entered Author Mentor Match, I queried this book for months and received nothing but form rejections. During that time, a bunch of my close friends were getting agent offers and book deals and I felt like I was getting left behind. It was hard because I knew this book was the best one I had written yet and I loved it a lot, but it felt like I couldn't get anyone to take a chance on my pages. There was also a lot of talk about how YA sci-fi was a "dead" genre, which was frustrating to hear as someone who wanted to write sci-fi. What helped me the most was finding critique partners and other people who believed in me and cheered me on even when I didn't feel like I was succeeding.
Is this your first book?
No! This is my second. I actually wrote it because I needed a distraction project while querying my first book.
Do you have any formal writing training?
I studied journalism in school, but I never took any formal English or creative writing classes.
How many times did you rewrite/edit your book?
I revised once on my own before I initially started querying, and then I revised again with my AMM mentor before querying a second time!
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I find it really difficult to outline new projects start to finish, I just don't have the patience for it. With this book, it was interesting because I had real historical events I wanted to mirror, so I knew the big emotional beats and just filled things in from there. I need to know the ending before I start any book, but I like to find the story as I go.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
For my first book, I queried for about a year before shelving. For this one, I queried for five months, took a break to revise with my AMM mentor, and then I only queried for about a week before getting my offer!
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Pre-AMM I had queried about 30 agents, but when I queried again, I was very particular about my list. I was at the point where I had worked really hard on my book and I was only going to submit to agents I really thought I could build a career with. I only had a list of 12 when I went back out.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
It was a solid combination of sales record, what their list looked like, and vibes. I knew what I wanted with my career, so I only submitted to agents who had relationships with editors/imprints I would be interested in publishing with and I spent a lot of time researching their clients as I built my list. But honestly, the most important thing to me was the vibes. I just had a gut feeling about who I wanted to work with!
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Research! With my first book, I threw a query at anyone who seemed like a literary agent whether or not they were looking for anything like my book. I was so desperate for representation that I didn't even think about how an offer from one of them could impact my future career. I would encourage everyone to be smart when building an agent list and think of this as a long term business partnership - Do you want to sell foreign rights? Film rights? Do you want to write in multiple genres or age categories? At the end of the day, this is your career, so be smart!