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An Interview with Michael Winchell upon receiving an offer of representation.

Michael Winchell (queryhater 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?
It’s a middle-grade adventure with paranormal elements. I like to describe it as Goonies meets Cirque du Freak.
How long have you been writing?
My whole adult life, but I believe you mean “for publication.” Answer: about three years.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Yes, there were many, many times I had that monster named Doubt creep in my mind and beg—no, demand—that I give up. My first book had me searching for rep for almost two years, and I had my cup runneth over in terms of rejection. What kept me going at that point was my wife and my mother, the most supportive people in the world. I decided, tough as it was, to retire my first book and start fresh. And once I got started on this book, it was like a cathartic experience where everything, and I mean everything, clicked into gear. All my lessons learned with book one guided me as I wrote, and then as I queried.
Do you have any formal writing training?
Well, I am an English teacher and I suppose my many years of higher education can be considered formal writing training. However, being a junior high English teacher for eleven years is perhaps the best “training” a writer can get when it comes to middle grade and young adult. I’m around many authentic “characters” each day!
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
Not really. I am quite obsessive when it comes to something I am “in” to, writing and otherwise. So when I start a new project, I am all about getting it done, and getting it done right. I guess the closest thing I have to a routine would be to stay up late and write (I’m a true night owl). I like to use the mornings (summers and weekends) to re-read what I wrote the previous day. This gets me going, and puts me back in “that” place. Then I usually write at night into the early morning.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
For this book, I had three revisions. I tried to use feedback from agents, or plain rejections, as guidance. When an agent was kind enough to reject a full with specifics, I’d evaluate their advice and revise.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I jot notes when I have ideas, but no formal outline. Those sparks that go off, at random times, are housed in my notebook that I keep with me at all times. When you get those sparks you have to quickly apply them to paper or else they’ll fizzle out and disappear. I mean, you know what happens when you apply sparks to paper, right?
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Last book: almost 2 years (way too long).

This book: About two and a half months (big difference).

About how many query letters did you send out for this book? Other books?
First book:
  • 187 queries sent
  • 3 requests for fulls
  • 4 partials
  • 157 rejections
  • the rest didn’t respond

This book:

  • 118 queries sent
  • 38 requests for fulls
  • 15 partials
  • 31 rejections
  • the rest didn’t respond

In the end I had 8 offers of representation.

Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
You know what, I realized it doesn’t matter with most agents. Sure, if an agent does an interview and mentions they need their ego boosted with a personalized line or two, I’d chuck it in there, but for most of them I just gave them the query. The best agents just want to hear about your great story.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Seriously, there’s way too much to put here. The number one piece of advice is USE QUERY TRACKER! I can’t stress enough how amazing this site is, and how much it helped me. I will also have a post on my blog solely dedicated to Query Tracker, how I used it, and how it helped. Also, I realize how important it is to get some words of wisdom from someone who has been through the storm, and that’s why I started a blog. The first few posts are dedicated to my journey, especially my crazy week in which I received 8 offers, and I try to offer as much advice as I can.