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An Interview with Sarah R Baughman upon receiving an offer of representation.

04/05/2018

Sarah R Baughman (maitley79 on QT) has signed with agent Katie Grimm of Don Congdon Associates, Inc..

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
My book is contemporary middle grade with a twist of magic. I live in Vermont, and always feel inspired by my setting. While I was walking in the woods with my dog one day, I imagined a story about a girl searching for a mysterious lake creature, and it just grew from there.
How long have you been writing?
I've been writing poems, stories, and essays basically since I could hold a pencil, but I started focusing on writing children's books in 2014.
How long have you been working on this book?
I spent about a year and a half drafting and fully revising this book. I work full time and have young children, so it took longer than I would have liked.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
I knew I wasn't going to actually quit, because writing is just something I've always done. However, there were certainly moments when I wondered if I'd ever be able to find an agent, and fortunately I got encouragement from writing mentors who reassured me that hard work and rejection were necessary parts of the journey. My ever-practical husband would also sometimes remind me that the only way to make sure that I never got an agent would be to give up.
Is this your first book?
This is my second book. The first one was necessary to write but will never see the light of day.
Do you have any formal writing training?
I majored in English in college, and I've also been fortunate to attend three writing conferences. That said, I consider my lifetime spent reading to be excellent training as well.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I work best in the mornings, so I try to wake up between 5-6 a.m. so I can write in the quiet before I exercise my dog and start attending to my children's needs. Honestly, it doesn't always happen. I'm a teacher, and sometimes I have to grade or plan during that time. But I have an awesome husband who always helps give me weekend writing time when I need it.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
I tend to edit a lot as I go, so that's a hard question to answer, but I think there were probably two large-scale, whole-book revisions.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
I shared the book with several beta readers, and had a critique partner I communicated closely with throughout the drafting process. I also was fortunate to get some feedback from freelance editors I learned about through contests.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I do like to have an outline. That doesn't mean it can't change, but I need to have a general idea of where I'm going.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I sent one query for this book in April 2017 during an agent feedback window, then when I received a full request on it two months later, I sent out more queries. I signed in August, so that was either 2 months or 4 months of querying, depending on how you look at it! I did query my first book for a few months and got some full requests, but stopped when the requests ended in rejections. By then, I had an idea for my next project and was anxious to focus on that instead. I also knew the first one had served its instructional purposes and needed to be trunked.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
20
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
I used QueryTracker, Manuscript Wishlist, Twitter, and the acknowledgements pages of books I love to find agents who were interested in my genre.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
I personalized almost all of my queries in the first paragraph, just with a brief line referring to whatever I'd seen the agent say they were seeking that I felt would make us a good match.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Just keep going, and if you're fortunate enough to receive some helpful feedback from an agent, take the opportunity to learn from it! Also, start working on your next manuscript. It's really helpful to have another creative project where you can invest your focus and energy.