Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Rebecca Williamson Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 7/8/2024
  • Sheila Fernley Agent Spotlight Interview, Critique Giveaway, and One-Hour Zoom Call on 7/29/2024
  • Erica McGrath Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/12/2024

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.

What to Expect When Your Agent Is Submitting Your Work by Agent/Author Cortney Radocaj and Claire Winn + Query Critique & City of Shattered Light Giveaway & IWSG Post

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Claire Winn and her agent Cortney Radocaj here with a guest post to share about how it works for an agent to submit an author’s manuscript to celebrate the release of Claire’s YA fantasy City of Shattered Light. It sounds like an action-packed story.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

As darkness closes in on the city of shattered light, an heiress and an outlaw must decide whether to fend for themselves or fight for each other.

As heiress to a powerful tech empire, seventeen-year-old Asa Almeida strives to prove she's more than her manipulative father's shadow. But when he uploads her rebellious sister’s mind to an experimental brain, Asa will do anything to save her sister from reprogramming—including fleeing her predetermined future with her sister’s digitized mind in tow. With a bounty on her head and a rogue A.I. hunting her, Asa’s getaway ship crash-lands in the worst possible place: the neon-drenched outlaw paradise, Requiem.

Gun-slinging smuggler Riven Hawthorne is determined to claw her way up Requiem’s underworld hierarchy. A runaway rich girl is exactly the bounty Riven needs—until a nasty computer virus spreads in Asa’s wake, causing a citywide blackout and tech quarantine. To get the payout for Asa and save Requiem from the monster in its circuits, Riven must team up with her captive.

Riven breaks skulls the way Asa breaks circuits, but their opponent is unlike anything they’ve ever seen. The A.I. exploits the girls’ darkest memories and deepest secrets, threatening to shatter the fragile alliance they’re both depending on. As one of Requiem’s 154-hour nights grows darker, the girls must decide whether to fend for themselves or fight for each other before Riven’s city and Asa’s sister are snuffed out forever.

Before I get to my guest post with Claire and Cortney, I have my IWSG Post.

Posting: The first Wednesday is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

The awesome co-hosts with me this month are PJ Colando, Diane Burton, Louise – Fundy Blue, Jacqui Murray!

Optional Question: In your writing, what stresses you the most? What delights you?

The thing that stresses me the most is that I’m a slow writer. It makes me afraid to ever try to get published because I worry that I’ll be too stressed out writing on a deadline for a publisher. I’ve been writing four to five days a week for over a year now, and I am learning to write faster and get a chapter done in a few days to a week. But, I’m still nervous being a slow writer.

I do enjoy the process of writing. I also have been happy to see the quality of my writing improve. Even critique partners are commenting on it.

What stresses you and what do you enjoy about writing?

Guest Post by Claire Winn and Cortney Radocaj

Submission is the terrifying (and exciting!) stage after you’ve signed with an agent, who then sends your book into editors’ hands. But what happens, exactly, during that time? How is it different from querying?

      Querying vs Submission

Claire: Overall, I found the submission process less painful than querying.

Working with an agent means you have someone with insider knowledge of what’s selling, and who can vet future projects before you even finish them. You also get to skip the long, uncertain abyss of querying, which means fewer hoops to jump through for subsequent books.This can enable more creative freedom.

I also think the “bottleneck” is a little less extreme during submission. There are many more individuals querying books in your genre than there are authors on submission. Because many publishers only take submissions from agents, most editors have smaller slush piles to wade through than agents do. This means editors often spend a bit more time considering each submission, and you’re more likely to get thoughtful and positive feedback with rejections. However, it does not mean you’ll necessarily have faster response times—especially with the industry backed up after 2020.

Cortney: Definitely not on faster response times! A lot of agents can get back to you within a few weeks (at least on the initial request or decline); with editors, it’s not uncommon, particularly after the pandemic started, to have to wait months to hear back. This is partly because of workload, but also partly because of what editors are receiving—generally, submissions to editors are going to look a lot more polished and stronger than what agents see in their query box (that extra set of professional eyes really helps!). Editors have far fewer submissions, but the submissions they do receive are generally around the same caliber, which can make them more difficult to sort through quickly.

Claire: Submission also requires a few extra approvals before you’re offered a contract. Instead of a single agent falling in love with your book and deciding to rep it, an editor will likely need second reads and approval from an acquisitions committee before you get the book deal. Compared to querying, submission has its own complications, but I still think landing an agent is the toughest part of the process.

Cortney: Also on the author side, as something to be aware of, there also seems to be a lot more anxiety and feeling isolated from your peers. Something to watch for in yourself as you navigate submission!

      What does the submission process look like?

Cortney: Generally, submission looks fairly similar to querying—though there are some differences! The major one being you, as the author, don’t have to do most of the work; your agent is the one who will be building submission lists, emailing editors, nudging, etc. (though I do always ask my clients if they have any editors/presses/imprints they’ve had their eye on, and always make sure they’re happy with the finalized list). I always make sure we have everything prepared before sending off that first email, namely:

-       Full, polished manuscript, formatted to industry standard

-       Partial manuscript (~3 chapters, around 30-50 pages generally)

-       Pitch

-       Synopsis

-       Series synopsis/outline (if the manuscript is the first in a series/potential series)

-       Content warnings

Once we’re both happy with all of these, the submission process can officially begin!

I always start by building the submission list; they’re typically split into three separate “rounds”, depending on who we think might be the best fit and where each editor is at. Once we’re ready, I’ll send out the first round of emails!

….And then the waiting begins.

I nudge about every 3 months. When we get a rejection, I assess from there if we need to do any work on the manuscript, or if it just wasn’t the right fit and we can send to the next. Some agents will stick to individual rounds of editors; I prefer to keep the number of submissions we have out at any given time pretty steady, so when we get a rejection, I look to the next viable editor on our list.

Once you’ve gotten interest (i.e. an editor falls in love with your manuscript and wants to move forward), there are a few more steps that can happen, which Claire briefly mentioned earlier:

-       Second reads; the editor will have a couple other members of their team read the book and decide if they also think it should be picked up. If they agree, the book will move forward (Note: not every publisher has a second reads stage, though many do)

-       Executive approval; after the second reads, the manuscript can be sent to the executive editor, who will then decide if the book should move on to acquisitions or not (Note: not every publisher needs approval from the executive editor specifically, but a few do)

-       Acquisitions; this looks different from press to press, but can consist of the editorial team, marketing, sales, etc. The editor will pitch the book to them, and the team will decide whether to offer a contract. Sometimes there are multiple acquisitions meetings; sometimes the meetings with editorial and sales/marketing are separate.

At any point, the rest of the team can decide they don’t want to take the book on, for a variety of reasons (don’t think the writing is strong enough, won’t navigate the market well, etc.). There are many people a book has to go through to be sold—but be extremely proud of yourself, no matter where in the process you end up!

If your book makes it through acquisitions, the editor will extend an offer, and your agent will notify other editors you have an offer on the table (unless, of course, the offer is a pre-empt, where you take that offer only, and pull your book from consideration from other editors). Once you’ve decided if you want to take the offer, or choose another if you get one, your agent will move into contract negotiations with the publisher. This process can take a LONG time, sometimes months, which is why deals can be slow to be announced. But once negotiations are complete and the contract is signed, that’s when you’ll be able to announce the good news and dive into revisions with your editor! 

      Advice for authors on sub 

Claire: Pick a day—weekly or biweekly—for your agent to send you any rejections that have come in. This way, you don’t need to worry about getting rejection letters on vacation or during stressful times.

Cortney: Also decide if you want to see the rejection letters at all; you’re free to decide how much of a buffer you want your agent to be between you and those rejections. Some authors need to see the actual emails to feel closure, while others do better either just knowing the answer was no or getting a summary. (And you can always change your mind at any point in the process!)

Claire: Be flexible and willing to change anything that isn’t working. Just like querying, you might see trends in rejections that indicate more revision is needed.

And, though it might seem impossible, try to work on your next project. It’s hard to pull yourself out of the headspace of a story you’ve just polished—one with all the potential in the world—but sometimes the only way to avoid rejection heartbreak is to keep moving forward.

Cortney: And in the vein of avoiding rejection heartbreak—hold your author friends close. Submission can often feel more isolating than querying, for a variety of reasons (fewer resources to know what you’re getting into ahead of time, fewer authors to connect with, increased feelings of competition, increased feelings of failure if it doesn’t get picked up, etc.). Actively work against this when you can, and stay active in any writer communities you’re a part of. Getting positive feedback on something new can absolutely help reduce anxiety and disappointment when rejections come in!

           What happens if a book doesn’t get picked up? 

Cortney: This is a very real possibility for every book that goes out on submission—and a very normal occurrence. If you exhaust your list of editors with no success, that’s okay! It happens, and at that point you’ll discuss with your agent if it’s time to shelve the manuscript, if there are a couple other editors you could try, or if there are any revisions that could allow you to keep trying for this manuscript (i.e. if your book straddles age categories, like YA and adult, and you pitched as YA, you can discuss tweaking the book and sending out as adult).

But ultimately, if you shelve the book, you move on to the next. You’ll work with your agent on your next book, make it submission ready, and start the process again with a fresh manuscript. Shelving a book doesn’t mean it will never sell; sometimes books are better pitched once an author has a couple titles under their belt and the publisher sees it as less of a risk, since readers now know the author’s work. Sometimes the market just wasn’t quite right, and years down the line it might be. Sometimes the right editor wasn’t even taking acquisitions at the time, and now is. One book not selling absolutely does NOT mean another won’t, and it’s okay (and very normal!) for the book you sign with your agent to not be the one that sells first.

Claire: I haven’t had this happen on submission (yet), but the first book I wrote and queried is trunked for now. I’ve also grown as a writer since putting it aside, so it’s possible that those characters and concepts will be repurposed and sent on submission in the future. But it’s important to remember that you’ll always have more stories in you. 

      What should you expect of your agent during the sub process?

 Claire: It’s important that your agent keeps you in the loop and is willing to strategize with you frequently about next steps—editors for next submission rounds, whether revisions are required, etc. An agent who also checks in on your well-being is a godsend, and Cortney is amazing in that regard.

 Cortney: (<3 <3 thanks Claire!)

To expand on what Claire mentioned:-       Updates on what’s going on. How often and what you hear will vary, mostly on what YOU personally would like (i.e. some authors like updates as they come in, want the emails from editors forwarded to them, etc. and others prefer to use their agent as more of a buffer), but you should be aware of what’s happening with your book, and should always be able to get answers when you ask for them!

-       Nudging editors. Again, the exact details of this will vary from agent to agent, but you should expect your agent to nudge editors throughout the process. Not hearing from editors happens, and your agent can’t prevent that, but your agent should be doing what they can to get the response (within the bounds of publishing etiquette, of course).

-       Support. Subbing is scary! It’s a big unknown and can feel a lot more anxiety-inducing and isolating than querying for a lot of authors. Every author’s needs will be different and every agent’s approach to supporting their authors different as well, but if you have questions or concerns about what’s going on during sub, you should feel comfortable doing so, and your agent should be able to answer to the best of their abilities. There are a lot of things both agent and author won’t have control over during this process, but we understand that in itself causes anxiety in a lot of authors, and we’re here to support you and be your champion throughout! Be aware of and respect your agent’s personal boundaries (i.e. we can’t be therapists, for our own mental health), but if you’re concerned or need a little reassurance that you’re doing everything you can, ask! 


Overall, the mechanics of query and the submission process are extremely similar—but the nitty gritty of them are vastly different. Submission can feel overwhelming and terrifying, as a lot of the information on individual editors isn’t widely available for anyone to see (which is why agents connect with editors often!)—but having a good agent in your corner is a gamechanger, and they’ll get you through the process as smoothly as possible.


Claire Winn (Author, City of Shattered Light)

Twitter: @Atomic_Pixie

Website: www.clairewinn.com

Instagram: @clairewinnauthor

TikTok: @clairewinnauthor

Cortney Radocaj (Agent, Belcastro Agency)

Twitter: @CortneyRadocaj

Website: www.cortneyradocaj.com

Agency site: www.belcastroagency.com

Query: QueryMe.Online/CortneyRadocaj

Giveaway Details

Claire has generously offered a paperback of City of Shattered Life and Cortney has offered a query critique for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by December 18th. If you do not want to be included in the critique giveaway, please let me know in the comments. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. The book giveaway is U.S. and the query critique giveaway is International.

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Monday, December 6th I have a guest post by debut author Karen Pokras and a giveaway of her MG historical The Backyard Secrets of Danny Wexler

Monday, December 13th I have an agent spotlight interview with Jemma Cooper and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, December 15th I have an agent spotlight interview with Stacey Kondla and a query critique giveaway

Thursday, December 16th I’m participating in the Dashing December Giveaway Hop

Hope to see you on Monday!



Jemima Pett said...

That was really interesting. I hadn't appreciated how stressful the submission process was - having queried my first book (not commercial enough, was the general consensus, but I knew it was niche), and gone self-pub, I've avoided all that. It would have made me an even more insecure writer, I think!

Liza said...

Quite a lot of information in that interview. Thanks for posting. Natalie, I'm so glad to read that you are writing regularly again.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I think you could totally finish a book at your current pace for a publisher. :) Their deadlines were often many months away for me.

And great advice for authors on subs here!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Thanks for co-hosting this month, Natalie. I've had agents in the past and the process is exciting and heartbreaking. But when we love writing this much, what else can we do but forge ahead. Thanks for the interview. What a fascinating author.

Sonia dogra said...

This was such a useful post. Thank you for it and thank you for co-hosting!

Nancy Gideon said...

Slow but sure wins the race, Natalie! And it's not really a race but more like a nature walk with so much to discover along the way. Just stay on the path! Thanks for the wonderful post and for introducing me to an enticing new read!! And, of course, co-hosting.

Stephanie Owen said...

Thank you for the insight into the writing/publishing process!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Certainly nice having the agent do so much of the work for you.
Natalie, don't worry - I am a very slow writer as well. And if I can do it and have books published, so can you.

Diane Burton said...

Nancy G. is right on. Enjoy the journey. It doesn't matter how slow you write, just that you write. Hang in there. Thanks for cohosting with me this month. :)

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

This is excellent - "I do enjoy the process of writing. I also have been happy to see the quality of my writing improve." Well done! :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Love the premise of City of Shattered Light - best wishes on its success!

I like creating my own timelines for my writing as well. I don't work well with outer-imposed deadlines. Too much stress - I much prefer just doing the next thing and seeing where it leads me.

Lynn La Vita said...

Congratulations on recognizing your progress as a writer. Sure helps when Beta readers agree. Am I correct, writing the interviews go much faster? Thanks for co-hosting!
Lynn La Vita @ http://la-vita.us/write/

Computer Tutor said...

That book sounds great. Enough geeky stuff without getting lost in it. I love the advice about sending rejects only once a week.

Cathrina Constantine said...

Natalie, I am also a turtle writer. I guess being with an indie publisher and now starting to self-publish, there are no deadlines. I don't think I could handle a writing deadline either.

Merry Christmas!

Cathrina Constantine said...

Oh, I forgot to say, thank you for co-hosting!!

Sadira Stone said...

I'm a slow writer too but gradually picking up speed as I learn the productivity tips & tricks that work for me--and discard those that don't. One of the many beauties of being an indie author: I set my publishing schedule. (She says, racing to be ready for the pre-order date she set her own darn self!) I wish you happy writing in December.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Natalie, I am a very fast first drafter. Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas in advance!

cleemckenzie said...

Remember Aesop. He had something important to say about being the slow one in the group and his message is as good today as it was in the beginning.

Adrienne Reiter said...

I write fast and edit slow depending on the project. Half of my first drafts end up in the trash. Thank you for co-hosting!

Melissa said...

I'm a slow writer, too, both because I'm picky with my first draft, and because I work full time. Fear of not meeting publisher deadlines was one of the main reasons I decided to self-publish.

Great guest post!
Thanks for co-hosting.

Victoria Marie Lees said...

Thank you for cohosting this month, Natalie! I suffer from feeling nervous about being a slow writer, too. We just need to hang in there, Natalie, knowing we are not alone. [I hope!]

Great interview. Thanks Claire and and Cortney for all this information and insight. It's greatly appreciated. Have a beautiful holiday, everyone!

Loni Townsend said...

Whooboy! Deadlines? Yeah, those aren't for me. I think I'd completely shut down if I had them, so I can see how it'd be a source of stress. Good job getting faster and keeping up with your writing!

Sandra Cox said...

Fascinating interview and the book sounds exciting.
Best wishes.
'Lo, Natalie;)

talklady said...

Wow - what an interview!

I'm glad that your writing is improved - and we all can't write as fast as Baldacci (who has minions to write with/for him) It's okay to be a plodder, me thinks... because I'm one, too!

Thanks for co-hosting this vital blog for the insecure!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

When you sign with a publisher, believe me, you will be motivated to make those deadlines. LOL

Unknown said...

Great overview of the submission process! Thanks!

Jennifer Hawes said...

I used to be a fast writer, then life happened! I'm planning to speed things up now that I'm working from home.

Chemist Ken said...

Ah, slow writing does depress me a little, but I don't let it bother me much anymore. It's just who I am. And I think I am writing faster these days too, although it's still relatively slow compared to most.

Thanks for co-hosting IWSG this month!

Olga Godim said...

You do yourself a disservice, Natalie, when you say you're a slow writer. A chapter in a few days is not slow. A chapter in a year is slow. In your terms, many of us are slow - you can't rush the muse. Slow and good is preferable to fast but slapdash.
Fascinating interview.

diedre Knight said...

Hi Natalie!

I wouldn’t call it “slow writing”. You’re proceeding at your own pace. That’s a good thing. As this is your first book, you’re still settling in to a routine that works for you, getting to know your own voice. If you’re feeling anxious to finish, you’re probably closer to doing so than you even realize ;-) Do you have a beta reader or two?

Love the title and the premise of City of Shattered Light.
As to the fabulous publishing insight you’ve shared today – thank you so much! You are amazing at keeping us informed. Thank you for co-hosting this month!

Merry Christmas!

Fundy Blue said...

You do so much to support writers and to share expertise about the publishing world. I really appreciate it. "City of Shattered Light" sounds awesome. Keep on writing, my friend! I'd love to read your book. Thanks for co-hosting today! Have a Merry Christmas, Natalie!

Shannon Lawrence said...

This is a super helpful interview and her book sounds intriguing and action-packed.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

There are a lot of slow writers out there. Me included. I think we put more pressure on ourselves than anyone else.

City of Shattered Light sounds like an exciting, fun read.

Liz A. said...

I'm a slow writer, too. I am amazed at those that can write fast.

Very interesting look into the submission process.

Samantha Bryant said...

I worry about my speed, too. Time is always the thing there isn't enough of. @samanthabwriter from
Balancing Act

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi Natalie!

DON'T worry about your speed. It's quality NOT quantity that is important! Some people collect their thoughts faster than others. Some books take years to perfect. I should know. LOL I am still tweaking my first two novels that I wrote ten years ago. With each tweak they are even stronger. So, try not to stress over it. Writing four or five days a week is AMAZING! Pat yourself on the back and keep going.

kimlajevardi.com said...

Great interview! Thank you for co-hosting this month!

Sherry Ellis said...

Definitely don't worry about the speed. It's great that you're writing so much! I'm stressed because I don't have time to write, and I have a project I want to finish. But it's great joy when I finally write, "The End."

Jenni said...

It sounds like you have a great writing schedule! I'm also a slow writer. I feel pretty good if I can write a chapter a week.
This was a fascinating interview! I really liked hearing the inside scoop on submission.

Denise Covey said...

Ah, me too. That slow writer, but I'm getting faster, thank goodness.

Sarah said...

Wonderful interview! I really appreciated this look at how submission works.


Shamaila J said...

Great interview, querying is scary. I would like to be included me in the critique giveaway, shamaila.siddique@gmail.com

Greg Pattridge said...

Slow writing is my thing so keep at it. Thanks for the enlightening discussion about querying and submissions. Very helpful.

Kim A. Larson said...

Thank you for all the inside information. Very informative and helpful. Congratulations on your book, Claire!

Danielle H. said...

I enjoyed getting the dual perspective on submitting. I would love to win a copy of the book, but please don't enter me for the critique. I shared: https://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/669482824917745664/what-to-expect-when-your-agent-is-submitting-your

Tonja Drecker said...

I don't think I can do anything but slow. Interesting interview and I definitely enjoy submissions over querying. Congrats, Claire!

Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction said...

Being one of those authors whose first book didn't sell on submission, it's always reassuring to hear that it's normal. It can be stressful to think that maybe your writing just isn't "good enough" after all---especially coming off of a high of getting signed with an agent. I definitely found it harder to work on my next book while rejections were rolling in from the first one, but I agree that it's the best thing you can do!! (Now I'm close to submitting my next book to my agent.)

Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

J.Q. Rose said...

I am thrilled for you discovering your writing is improving and you can keep that schedule of writing 4 or 5 days. You go, GRRL! Thanks for co-hosting IWSG blog hop!

Jamie Krakover said...

Thanks so much for sharing such great insight and for the giveaway!

tetewa said...

I'm always looking for new authors to read, would love to get a copy!

Tyrean Martinson said...

Natalie - Whatever speed you write is the right speed for you. Do not worry about having to be like other authors. You are your own kind of author. And there are plenty of great novels by novelists who write at a slower than breakneck pace.
BTW - I loved reading all of this interview and getting the details about how submission works. Thank you for sharing!

Gwen Gardner said...

I’m a pretty slow writer too. But hey, masterpieces take time ;) I think you’re doing great!

Nancy P said...

Sounds great positive.ideas.4youATgmail.com

Sara Leach said...

Great interview. Nice to read about what happens during the submission process.

Autumn said...

City of Shattered Loght sounds really fun

Karen K. said...

Thanks so much for another informative post and the giveaway!

Scott Lear said...

Great post with lots of helpful information. Thanks for doing the interviews.

Deniz Bevan said...

Great interview!
i hear you about the slowness. I'm always impressed by authors who can publish three or four books a year. How can they write (let alone research and edit!) books that quickly?!

Janet Alcorn said...

Thanks very much for this post! I didn't know much about the submission process, so this information was really helpful.

Martin Porter said...

Great interview and very useful info for a first time novelist just starting on the process of finding an agent. Would love a query critique! Martinleeporter@gmail.com

polly said...

Best of luck with your book. Looks like a good read.

T Iv. said...

I would love a giftcard