Friday, July 16, 2010

Welcome Guest Blogger, Elana Johnson

Elana Johnson is a young adult science fiction and fantasy writer and contributing author to the blog. She is represented by Michelle Andelman of Lynn C. Franklin Associates, Ltd, and her debut novel, CONTROL ISSUES, will be published by Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster) in summer 2011.

Elana is also the author of From the Query to the Call, an eBook on how to write a killer query letter, research and query literary agents, submit requests and how to handle "the call" when it comes.

The following is an interview with Elana.

Where do you get your ideas?

From much stewage. Some people dream. Some people just have things come to them. I think and think and think. I ask myself “What if?” And I don’t forget to live. The last idea I got came while on a visit to the Hansen Planetarium, a really cool place with tons of science gadgets.

Tell us about getting the process of getting a book deal for Control Issues.

Oh, the process. I could go on and on, and every journey is different, so keep that in mind. I signed with my agent in November, 2009. We did two rounds of revisions and she sent my book out in early February, 2010. I pretty much Googled every name and stalked them on twitter and stuff. I mean, that’s totally normal, right?

Two weeks later, my agent called, saying we had interest and that my book was going to acquisitions at a big house. I had no idea what that meant, even though I’d heard the term before. It’s basically a meeting with everyone (marketing, sales, publisher, editorial team, etc.) where the editor who wants to buy your book pitches it to the committee.

My editor must’ve rocked the pitch, because she made an offer on my book!

After that, my agent notified all the other houses and we waited another week for them to read and acquisition themselves. Then we accepted the first offer.

Then I waited to announce the deal, and that took a while too. Doesn’t everything in publishing? *nods*

How important is web presence?

Depends on who you ask, and you’re asking me, so I’m going to say it’s important. I think you should be Google-able, at the very least. Someone should be able to put your name and novel title into a search engine and find you.

That said, everyone has to decide what they can do with where they are in their lives. I’m online a lot, but that’s my choice and it’s something I love. In the end, great stories and great writing land agents and sell books. At least in the fiction market.

How would a writer know that their query is completely polished and ready to go out?

There’s always going to be something you can change. Even now, when I’m presenting to a room full of people, I look at my query and go, “I should’ve changed that.” Or “Is that confusing?”

You know?

For me, it’s a mental thing. It’s knowing that you’ve taken the time to research queries, write and polish your query, get feedback on it, and then rewrite it and get feedback on the rewrite.

It’s mental. Once you’re to 100% mentally, you can send it out and when the rejections come, you won’t have any doubt.

If you get a rejection and wonder, “Should I rewrite my query?” that’s a glaring red flag that you’re not at 100%, and therefore, probably shouldn’t be sending your query out. Remember that I had 142 rejections on my query alone – and never once did I think I needed to change a single word in it. It’s mental.

Do you have any advice for unpublished writers?

From one unpublished author to another, keep going! Learn more. Work harder. Give it all you’ve got. And then more. Learn, work, improve, persist. You’ll get there.

Oh, and sign up for WriteOnCon! ( It’s going to be awesome, with many literary agents, authors, and editors. Best of all? It’s free.

Thanks for hanging out with the Prairie Chicks today, Elana. Good luck with Control Issues, we look forward to it's release!


Nicole Murray said...

I really do love the communal feel you chicks have on this blog and the wonderful guests, like Elana, who come and share their writing stories. I wish her the best of luck.

And ladies, I have something for you on my blog. Thanks for being a bunch of romantic prairie chicks.

Karyn Good said...

Thank you so much for joining us here on this scorching hot prairie day, Elana. Warm Welcome :D

Querying is a timely topic for me as I'm gearing up to search that process end of August. Thanks for a great interview and the valuable tips!

Joanne Brothwell said...

Great interview, Elana!
I love to hear about the experiences of other writers.

I'm heading over to

Janet said...

Thanks for all the info, Elana - great news about your 'call'! I think the thing that resonated the most for me was the 145 rejections - and your stalwart belief in your query letter. I suffer, as I think many writer do, of not believing. I write a query letter, send it out, get rejected and try to rewrite the query. Although, with that strategy, I really do believe in my query letter. I just wonder if I'll do the same with partials, then fulls?

So, thank you - from this interview I take away the word 'believe'! In myself, in my work, and the knowledge that one day I, too, will get 'the call' :)

Jana Richards said...

Hi Elana,
Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience with us.

I haven't queried agents much and quite frankly, I'm nervous to do so. I can only stand so much rejection! I look forward to reading "From the Query to the Call" and gaining from your expertise.


Elana Johnson said...

Thanks, Prairie Chicks, for having me here! It was fun!