Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024
  • 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.

Agent/Author Andrea Somberg and Carolyn Tara O’Neil Interview With Daughters of a Dead Empire and Query Critique Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Carolyn Tara O’Neil and her agent Andrea Somberg here to share about Carolyn’s debut YA historical Daughters of a Dead Empire. It sounds like a fantastic Anastasia retelling. I love historical fiction and am excited to read it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

An alternate history set during the Russian Revolution.

Russia, 1918: With the execution of Tsar Nicholas, the empire crumbles and Russia is on the edge of civil war—the poor are devouring the rich. Anna, a bourgeois girl, narrowly escaped the massacre of her entire family in Yekaterinburg. Desperate to get away from the Bolsheviks, she offers a peasant girl a diamond to take her as far south as possible—not realizing that the girl is a communist herself. With her brother in desperate need of a doctor, Evgenia accepts Anna's offer and suddenly finds herself on the wrong side of the war.

Anna is being hunted by the Bolsheviks, and now—regardless of her loyalties—Evgenia is too. 

Follower News

Before I get to my interview with Carolyn and Andrea, I have Follower News to share. Sandra Cox has a sequel to her paranormal police mystery series, Maeto’s Blood Brother, that released recently. Here’s a blurb: Behind the amicable façade is a man who’s tough and determined. He’s Mateo’s Blood Brother. Here is a buy link: https://www.amazon.com/MATEOS-BLOOD-BROTHER-Sequel-LAW-ebook/dp/B09VYNPPP6

Interview with Andrea Somberg and Carolyn Tara O’Neil

 Hi Andrea and Carolyn! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. For Carolyn: What was your querying process like and why were you drawn to Andrea as an agent?

I first queried Daughters in 2017; I wrote nearly 20 agents and got only 1 response. Something was wrong with my package. I realized the problem was my manuscript, not the query letter. I spent a year revising Daughters from a single-POV into a dual-POV novel, then queried again from scratch in late 2018. My results were much better the second time: 1/3 of the agents I queried requested a full, and two offered representation. I was initially drawn to Andrea’s portfolio of YA novels, the diversity of genres she represents, and her strong sales record, but ultimately it was her persistent and strategic approach to submission, her knowledge of the field, her client referrals, her patience, and her enthusiasm for my novel that really sold me!!

2. For Andrea: When you received Carolyn’s query and first pages, what appealed to you in her writing? What about after you read her entire manuscript?

I’ve been fascinated by Anastasia ever since I saw the 1980’s movie Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna (it was on while I was at a neighbors’ house – I think I was probably way too young to be watching it at the time!). So, when I received in Carolyn’s query I was already intrigued. But as I read on, I soon realized that the book was a fascinating story that went beyond the legend, a really moving tale about the friendship between two girls who must bridge a huge cultural divide and way of being in the world. And I thought that, in many ways, the themes interwoven throughout really spoke to our current era. I also loved it because it was just a really fun and gripping read.

3. For Carolyn: How many revisions of your manuscript did you go through with Andrea? What did you learn from the process?

Andrea has a great eye for pacing, stakes, and character arc that helped make the manuscript much stronger before we went out on submission. It was a joy to have feedback that was so clear-eyed and purposeful, honed through years of working with authors like me. She helped me learn to be a little more demanding of what gets left in the story, and more willing to take things out if they aren’t earning their keep.

4. For Andrea: What is your approach to working with authors on revising their manuscripts before going on submission? What was something you enjoyed about working on revisions with Carolyn?

It’s such a tough market, with editors taking on fewer and fewer projects, and so it’s so important that the manuscript be as strong as possible before we go on submission. That might mean working together on edits on an overarching level – things like plot progression, character development, etc. – or it could mean tightening the prose on a line-by-line level. Caroline’s writing was already very strong so it was really just looking at the story to see if the tension could be increased in any way or the character development slightly more fleshed out. Carolyn is such a talented author that she was able to take any feedback – both from me and ultimately from her editor – and make what was already a really strong manuscript even better (it’s part of the reason why her book was chosen as a Junior Library Guild selection). I think one of the most challenging parts of the process was figuring out a title! 

5. For both Carolyn and Andrea: Share about the process of going on submission and how decisions were made on which publishers to submit to.

Andrea: When I’m reading a manuscript for the first time, one of the things I’m thinking of is what editors would be a good fit. So by the time I offer representation, I usually have a good idea of who I’d like to send it to. I then consulted with Carolyn to get her thoughts – if there were imprints she was particularly excited about, editors she’d like to approach, etc. We had several interested parties but ultimately the editor who ended up acquiring the book, Mekisha Telfer at Roaring Brook Press, was someone who had corresponded with Carolyn previously during a DVPit critique giveaway, and was an advocate of the manuscript from the start.

Carolyn: So it turns out being on sub is just the worst! When you’re querying you’re so excited for every step forward, but going on submission is truly one of the most emotionally draining aspects of the publishing process. You are so close and yet close means nothing until you have an offer in hand. I’m incredibly grateful to have had Andrea guide my way with full transparency, interpreting for me what did and didn’t matter and what I might expect at every stage. I mostly deferred to her in terms of who we submitted to and when, and I trust her judgment and connections to make those calls.

6. For Carolyn: Once you signed your publishing contract, how often do you communicate with Andrea? How has she helped you now that you’re working with your editor?

This is another thing I had no idea of before I sold Daughters. While the goal is of course to sell your book, agents are just as helpful after the sale — in negotiating the terms of the contract. In monitoring and following up on royalties and payments. In selling foreign rights and translations and film rights. In advocating for you when things don’t go smoothly with the publisher. In looking for marketing opportunities and advising you on where to spend your efforts. Even in brainstorming ideas for your next novel. An agent’s work doesn’t end once a book is sold — they do so much.

7. For Andrea: What is your role in an author’s career once they get their publishing contract?

Getting the publishing contract is just the beginning – the hard part is ensuring that the book has the best chance possible to thrive once it makes its way into the world. So that means helping the author get blurbs, bolstering efforts by the marketing and publicity team, brainstorming ways to get attention for the book, selling subsidiary rights such as translation and film/tv, and making sure that the book is getting the support and attention it needs from the publishing team. And it also means strategizing next steps for the author’s career.


8. For both Andrea and Carolyn: How have you been working together on developing Carolyn’s next project?

Andrea: Carolyn has a lot of fantastic ideas, and we’ve been working together to brainstorm the next book and what makes the most sense for her career. Part of my job is to share my knowledge of what it is that editors – and the market – seem to be looking for, but I think that it’s also really important for Carolyn to be true to her passions and what she’s interested in pursuing. I’m here to help in any way that I can – read drafts, help brainstorm, and offer support every step of the way.

Carolyn: Book 2 is stressful for a lot of authors, and for me, as a pantser, the shift to thinking about market before I invest all my time into a story is a really hard one. I spent five years drafting Daughters before I signed with Andrea. As my business partner, she would probably hate to see me spend another 5 years on a new novel that didn’t go on to sell. Trying to shift my own process to focus on pitches that appeal to editors is a learning experience for sure. Here’s hoping it leads to some good stuff coming your way! :-)

9. For Carolyn: You already have been interviewed and been on panel discussions. Share how you were able to get these opportunities. What you have been doing promote your book when it released and post release?

Networking with other authors has probably been the best thing I’ve done — both for sheer fun, and for identifying those opportunities. My class of debut authors (the 21ders, and then 22debuts when my pub date got pushed back) turned out to be an incredible space to connect with other kidlit authors. We’ve applied for and been accepted to conferences together, attended (and even co-hosted) one another’s launch events, emotionally supported one another through the ups and downs, and continue to share what we’re learning as we move on to books 2, 3, and beyond. On my own, I’ve also reached out to blogs (like this one!) and bookstores to pitch events, Bookstagrammers who partnered on my cover reveal and release day, and done lots and lots of social media pushes and outreach. An author’s work never ends!

10. For Andrea: How do you help authors you represent to get the word out about their book? What advice do you have for debut authors on marketing?

There are so many books being published – getting attention can be one of the most challenging aspects of the entire process. When clients sign a book deal, I send them detailed information about marketing and promotion, but because every book is different it’s really important to take an individualized approach. Authors will of course be assigned a publicist and a marketing team by the publisher, but they have so many projects on their list, it’s important to make sure that the book is getting the attention it deserves. We’re also in a time when there is less and less space devoted to book coverage  -- it’s important to see whether there are audience-facing opportunities or other avenues to promote the book.

Thanks for sharing all your advice Carolyn and Andrea. You can find them at: www.carolyntaraoneil.com, www.andreasomberg.com, and on Twitter @CarolynTara and @AndreaSomberg.

Giveaway Details

Carolyn has generously offered a hardback of Daughters of a Dead Empire and Andrea 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 April 30th. 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, April 25th I have a guest post by debut author Christina Matula with a giveaway of her MG contemporary The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei

Wednesday, May 4th I have an interview with debut author Betty Yee and a giveaway of her YA historical Gold Mountain

Monday, May 9th I have an agent spotlight interview with Jennifer Unter and a query critique giveaway

Tuesday, May 10th I’m participating in the Life’s a Beach Giveaway Hop

Monday, May 16th I have a guest post by Donna Gallanti and a giveaway of her MG fantasy Unicorn Island: Secret Beneath the Sand, and I'm participating in the Moms Rock Giveaway Hop

Monday, May 23th I have an agent/author guest post by Natalie Lakosil and Tracie Badua with a giveaway of Tracie’s MG contemporary Freddie vs. The Family Curse and a query critique giveaway by Natalie

Hope to see you on Monday!






Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

That was so smart of Carolyn to rework her manuscript before the second round of querying. Congratulations!

mshatch said...

Another great interview, and what sounds like an awesome book! I do love a good historical novel :)

Ann Finkelstein said...

Thanks for another interesting interview.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Certainly helps to work with an author that takes feedback well.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Great interview. Congrats!

Sandra Cox said...

Thanks so much for the mention, Natalie;)

kathrynjankowski said...

A timely book and interesting interview.

Danielle H. said...

Thank you for the interview. I now know more about the job of an agent and all of the work they can do for clients. Please enter me for a chance to win a copy of this book, but not for the critique. I follow Natalie on Twitter and shared: https://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/681899907409412096/agentauthor-andrea-somberg-and-carolyn-tara

Liz A. said...

It sounds like networking really helps get those promotion opportunities.

Melissa Miles said...

Great interview! Thanks for the chance to win!

Unknown said...

And another book now teeters atop Mt. TBR. Thanks for including YA HF in the mix. Once again, another well-edited, informative interview.

Unknown said...

I just realized my comment didn't include my email--it is kimberlyhaysdemuga@gmail.com. Thanks again

Kelly said...

I admire your tenacity in revising your book after the first round of querying. Congratulations!

Shanah Salter said...

Great interview! I'd love to be considered for a critique. I've shared on Twitter.

Donna said...

Wonderful interview! I love historical fiction. Congratulations, Carolyn! All the best to you. (Do not include me in the critique giveaway...although it's a very generous offer :) )

Computer Tutor said...

Great interview. Lots of good information--and love Sandra's cover!

tetewa said...

Thanks for introducing me to another new author, would love to get a copy!

Sarah said...

Thank you for this post! Informative as always.

I'd love to be entered in the critique giveaway. My email is sgallison01@gmail.com.

Sandra Cox said...

This sounds like a fascinating read.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Congrats to Sandra! I really enjoyed the story.

Nancy P said...

Sounds fantastic positive.ideas.4youATgmail.com

BrookeC said...

Thx for sharing the dual pov on getting 'daughters' to market. Congrats!

Lauri Meyers said...

Carolyn - this sounds fascinating, and I can imagine how the dual POV really brought the friendship and struggles to life. (laurimeyers@gmail.com)

Xavier Clayton said...

Dear Ms. Somberg,
What a great and insightful interview with you and Ms. O’Neil! The author-agent partnership you share is something I hope one day to experience, as well. Ms. Aguirre’s blog is so full of tips and information – direct from the source. I’m very happy to be a follower and for the opportunities to analyze query letters! For me, I have a one-page QL, a 2-page synopsis, and the opening chapter of my first MG Action-Adventure novel to send you if selected:
“Skyler Bluestone and The Kaleidoscopic Hat.”
The urgent, non-stop journey Skyler goes on to save his dead twin brother makes it, globally, an action-adventure. But deeper than that, its sub-genres are MG Fantasy, Family Drama, and Magical Realism. At 110,000 words, it is a stand alone first book in a Trilogy. I’m a first-time novelist, and my book has never published, self-published, nor is part of a saga.

A year ago, when it was at 50,000 words, I had it beta-read twice by two paid, professional MG, genre-specific readers. They helped me develop the simultaneous character- and plot-driven revisions that Skyler, Zengar, Sara, and Mayor Finn (The Antagonist) go through in every chapter (… and scene) on their journeys through the magical forest-world I’ve created.
But more than that, there’s a lot of humor, suspense, and plot twists as Skyler’s coming-of-age path unfurls! “I enjoyed visiting all the forest domains… Every one!” as one of the Beta-readers has told me.

These last weeks, I have been lovingly going over my manuscript once more before sending it to a copyeditor – However, the QL has been written for quite some time. That’s why I was so happy to read your interview and your query critique opportunity. I would love a professional like you to read its opening 2-paragraph hook to know your thoughts. You’d be Skyler’s first step into the publishing industry!

To enter this contest, here is my email address: xclayton@hotmail.com

I am a 20-year scientist and published, Non-Fiction author of spirituality books based on scientific research: “The Two Paths to God” (Adelaide Books.org - New York and Lisbon) and “Awaken Your Inner Phoenix” (Amazon and ACX audiobook).
“Skyler Bluestone and The Kaleidoscopic Hat” is a novel based on some of the universal theories found in my spirituality books… especially its ending!

Kind regards to you both!
…and Thanks again,
Xavier Clayton

ashley said...

I love historical fiction. It sounds like a great read! ashleyp128@gmail.com

Judith L. Roth said...

Andrea sounds like a dream agent. Thanks for this interview!

momo said...

This sounds like a very good book to read, I would like to read it and then pass it on to my daughter to bread also.

Angie Quantrell said...

Wow, this sounds fascinating! Can't wait to read it. Congratulations!

I tweeted this post.
angelecolline at yahoo dot com

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

I love historical fiction and have always been fascinated by Anastasia - a similar movie came out in the 50s, starring Ingrid Bergman as Anastasia. I will look for that book once it comes out (bypassing the contest, since I'm in Portugal). This was such a great interview, though. Loved the depth of the questions and the detailed answers.

Chelly Writes said...

This sounds fantastic! Adding it to my TBR. Thanks for the great interview!

Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction said...

Thanks for sharing this book. It sounds really interesting!!

Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

Anonymous said...

What an interesting interview. I wonder, if editors are taking less projects is it due to the pandemic? I would love to enter the critique giveaway: shamaila.siddique@gmail.com

Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.

lanivcox said...

Congratulations, Carolyn. The book cover is beautiful, the title catching, and it's a story that I'd love to read. It also sounds like Andrea is the perfect agent!

Thanks, Natalie for hosting these interviews and giveaways.

Claire said...

So impressed and inspired by Carolyn's transparency about her initial round of querying. Thank you for giving us a peek into your journey as I feel that's so often glossed over! Also, loved hearing Andrea's insider knowledge about book marketing in this oversaturated environment we're in. Thank you both, and thank you Natalie for continuing this blog! Would love to join the query critique giveaway if it isn't too late.