Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Kelly Dyksterhouse Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 12/12/2022
  • Savannah Brooks Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 12/19/2022

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • All Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated as of 7/15/2020, and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for them to be fully updated in 2023.

Getting Revise & Submit Requests From Publishers by Agent/Author Kari Sutherland and Rimma Onoseta & How You Grow Wings and Query Critique Giveaway and IWSG Post

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Rimma Onoseta and her agent Kari Sutherland here to share a guest post to celebrate the release of Rimma’s YA contemporary debut, How You Grow Wings. It sounds like a powerful story about the lives of two sisters, and it’s set in Nigeria. I’m really excited to read it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

 

An emotionally riveting novel for fans of Ibi Zoboi and Erika L. Sánchez about two sisters in Nigeria and their journey to break free of an oppressive home.
 
Sisters Cheta and Zam couldn’t be more different. Cheta, sharp-tongued and stubborn, never shies away from conflict—either at school or at home, where her mother fires abuse at her. Timid Zam escapes most of her mother’s anger, skating under the radar and avoiding her sister whenever possible. In a turn of good fortune, Zam is invited to live with her aunt’s family in the lap of luxury. Jealous, Cheta also leaves home, but finds a harder existence that will drive her to terrible decisions. When the sisters are reunited, Zam alone will recognize just how far Cheta has fallen—and Cheta’s fate will rest in Zam’s hands.
 
Debut author Rimma Onoseta deftly explores classism, colorism, cycles of abuse, how loyalty doesn’t always come attached to love, and the messy truths that sometimes family is not a source of comfort and that morality is all shades of gray.
 


Before I get to Rimma's and Kari’s guest post, 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 this month are Tara Tyler, Lisa Buie Collard, Loni Townsend, and Lee Lowery!

Optional Question: When you set out to write a story, do you try to be more original or do you try to give readers what they want?

For me, it’s some of both. I want to create a unique magical world, but I want to create a story that readers would want to read and would expect in the fantasy genre. It wouldn’t be worth writing something really different if I didn’t think readers would like it.

I also think it’s harder to make some genres super unique. For example, I think this is true of mysteries, where you can make them really interesting by creating unique settings and memorable characters. But you do have to follow certain rules about how to create and solve the mystery.

What do you try to do?

Getting R&R Requests From Publishers by Rimma Onoseta and Kari Sutherland

RO: Hi everyone, I’m Rimma Onoseta, and my contemporary YA debut, How You Grow Wings, releases from Algonquin Young Readers on August 9, 2022. Today I’m talking with my agent, Kari Sutherland, of KT Literary Agency.

KS: Hi everyone! Hi Rimma, it’s an honor to be here with you today. The topic we’ve chosen is R&Rs which stand for Revise and Resubmit. This is when an editor enjoys a manuscript, but feels as though changes need to be made before they can bring it to acquisitions and offer editorial suggestions with that goal in mind. I think it’s reassuring for authors to hear that an R&R can have a happy ending. Like yours did!

RO: As an agent, when do you advise an author tackle a revision after getting an R&R request from an editor?

KS: A lot of it depends on where we are in the submission process. If it’s really early, I’d advise holding off and waiting to see if anyone else is invested enough in the story as it is because I don’t want my client to edit it to one editor’s specifications if there might be others who wouldn’t want the changes that have been suggested. So unless it’s the author’s dream editor and publishing house, if it’s the first round, I’d hold off.

RO: What is the editor’s expectation when they ask for an R&R?

KS: Sometimes an editor will ask for an exclusive R&R before they spend a lot of time and energy providing detailed feedback. We might hop on a call with the editor, make sure the editor and author click and get a rough idea of the scope of the changes they’d request. Or we might have feedback from multiple sources or more than one R&R request, so we won’t agree to an exclusive and don’t get detailed notes as a result. If we do give an exclusive first look, if that editor winds up passing, then we can take that revision out wider. Often an editor only gives topline notes and doesn’t ask for an exclusive, and then we can take it out wide once it is ready.

KS: I know it’s easier for me, as an agent, to agree to an R&R, but you’re the one doing the work! Including the emotional work. What advice would you give to an author when they get an R&R from an editor?

RO: It depends on how the author sees it. I love feedback. Even when I was querying looking for an agent a lot of times it was just passes then sometimes an agent would say I’m passing on this, but this is why and then I’d know I was on the right path. So I really enjoyed R&Rs because it made me feel like there was hope and I just need to focus on certain things and just hearing that feedback made me think about what was working and what wasn’t working and why is a particular editor seeing something this way and whether it wasn’t what I wanted to convey.

RO: When you and a client do decide to take on an R&R what are the steps?

KS: I look at the notes from the editor who has requested an R&R and I also look at all the other feedback that has come in from editors who passed. Did they point out something similar or something that can work in tandem with the notes? If you’re going to revise then you may as well go in and do a bigger massaging of the book because if it came close enough, you want to make it as strong and irresistible as possible. I coalesce all the feedback and take my own notes from my read and put them together in an edit letter. But as with all my edit letters I really want my authors to be the guiding force of the manuscript and take only the notes and directions that resonated with them. RO: From your experience, have you seen any patterns in R&Rs in terms of what issues come up? Is it the pacing, the characters, the general vibe of the story? What do editors typically give R&Rs for in terms of what’s not working for the story?

KS: Oh, wow, I should look through some notes to see if there is a pattern! But it won’t be voice. If an editor is going to ask for an R&R, they already love your voice. And plot is often something they’d be willing to tackle in a revision themselves, post-acquisitions. A common one is chemistry between characters. So an editor might say, “I don’t believe the relationship between these two characters.” Sometimes it’s an age-related market concern: “this felt young for a YA to me, can you make it edgier, bring it up to be truly YA because there’s a romance storyline so we don’t want to put it in middle grade.” Pacing is another one because it’s really challenging to edit. Would you agree?

RO: Oh yes, for me pacing is such an issue with my writing because I want to spend so much time getting to know the character so it slows down the storyline.

KS: I love your characters! But yes, it can be so tricky to pinpoint where the pacing is off. I’ve had feedback from multiple editors on the same project where some thought the pacing was too slow and others thought it was too fast! When you’re given revision notes, how do you tackle a revision?

RO: I typically start at the beginning or focus on the section that note is tackling. For me personally, when I get notes I take some time with it and think about it and look at different directions it could go in. If I do revise it in this way, how is it going to affect this character, this situation, this scene? I really take my time with it to see if I necessarily agree with the notes. There’s certain notes where I’d thought about it, but I hadn’t been able to pinpoint the point I was trying to make and then I’ll get feedback and it’s exactly what I was feeling but I couldn’t put it into words or into action and so the feedback is seeping into those original thoughts so I finally know where this is going. Other times I’ll say “No, I want to keep this.” And if I do want to keep this or I didn’t agree with that note, why, why didn’t I agree with it?

KS: I’m really glad you brought that up because I want to remind authors that their stories belong to them and feedback is important because it helps show what the audience reaction is going to be and how readers are going to perceive the story. So if someone says this scene didn’t feel necessary and I didn’t want to get back to the story. Then you say okay this scene maybe isn’t compelling enough and how can I make it compelling? Or do I need it? Is it essential to the arc? What can I add to it to pull the tension into this chapter? But their voice is the most important in deciding what revisions to make.

RO: When would you not recommend an author revise based on an R&R?

KS: First and foremost, when the editorial notes don’t align with the author’s vision, as we discussed above. But I want to be candid there are some times when I have noticed a particular imprint or publisher is asking for R&Rs a lot and if I feel like a revision request wouldn’t carry through to acquisitions in the end, I look at those notes very carefully. Because I don’t want to waste my client’s time on a revision that I don’t think will result in a sale or that doesn’t make the book stronger. For any editor feedback I pass along, I always try and provide context for my clients. Sometimes if I get an R&R and I know it’s not what an author is going to want to do because it changes the heart of the story too much, I’ll say “hey, this is this editor’s vision of the book, but I don’t think it lines up with yours so let’s discuss.”

RO: Worst case scenario, you get a bunch of R&Rs and the author revises but it doesn’t sell. What comes next? Do you keep working on it? Work on something new? What comes after the R&Rs if there is no sale?

KS: It’s going to depend on what the reasons were that it didn’t sell, or the reasons we can pinpoint anyway. If it’s a book that the editor acknowledges that we addressed what they wanted addressed, but they are passing then we’d take it out on a wider submission because it’s already been acknowledged that it’s a stronger book. If it still doesn’t sell, I’d recommend the author channel their energy into something new. Even while it’s out on submission, I’d suggest my author be working on something new both to distract them and also so we have something else to take out if the previous one doesn’t sell for some reason.

KS: When we were on sub for How You Grow Wings, what were you doing to keep yourself busy?

RO: I was trying to write and not quite writing. I was just so anxious about being on submission and just wanting the book to sell so badly so I sort of got in my mind too much: “If this first book doesn’t sell, why do I think I’m a good enough writer to even write a second book?” So it stalled my writing. I had also started a new job, so that was taking up more of my time.

KS: Your book sits between YA and adult, there’s a lot of crossover appeal. Your characters are on the cusp of adulthood dealing with things both in the peer world of the YA but also in the grown-up world in how they break free from their past and their home life and this dysfunction they’ve experienced all their childhood. So it was an interesting title we could take out to both adult and YA editors and we had several editors interested in it. For one it was new, but two of them had actually seen the previous version and while they had reacted positively to the earlier one and given some suggested edits, they loved this and both offered. That’s a hopeful thing for authors to hear. How did it feel that editors who hadn’t taken it before were offering now?

RO: The feedback that I had gotten from the editors was feedback that I did agree with and there were notes that I could see working out so when it panned out and they did want it, it reinforced my belief in myself as a writer. Writing and revising are two very different muscles. I knew I could write and after taking on those notes and then having editors be interested afterwards I knew that I can revise, too!

KS: Even before revise and resubmit notes from editors, how do you navigate feedback from readers you know, critique partners or friends and family who read your story, etc.? What’s your advice?

RO: Getting feedback from readers versus editors felt different in that it felt more personal when it came from writer friends or family because it felt like “You of all people should understand what I’m trying to do with this story!” Try to take the personal out of it and look at it objectively and sincerely. I feel like the first reaction is always defensive, to defend the story or defend the characters, but taking a step back and looking at it from a different viewpoint is helpful.

KS: When an author gets a note that doesn’t resonate with them and they really disagree with – what’s your advice for when to incorporate a note and when not to?

RO: I tend to go by a feeling. Writers need to be very honest with themselves are they looking at the feedback objectively or are they taking it to heart? It can be difficult when you really want something, like especially if it’s an R&R and you feel like you’re so close, so you think “let me just do this and I’ll get a book deal,” at that moment it can be hard to stay true to yourself and your story. But be sincere and be honest when you’re taking in the feedback and if it’s something that doesn’t feel right for the story, it can be hard to say no, but your future self will thank you for staying true to the story.

KS: Definitely. 😊

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Rimma and Kari. You can find them at:

Rimma Onoseta:

IG: @rimmaonoseta

Twitter: @rimmaonoseta

Website: rimmaonoseta.com

Kari Sutherland:

Twitter: @Kari Sutherland 

MSWL: Kari Sutherland - The Official Manuscript Wish List Website

Query Manager: Query Submission (querymanager.com)

Website: www.ktliterary.com

Giveaway Details

Rimma has generously offered a hardback of How We Grow Wings and Kari 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 August 20th. 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 giveaways is International.

Upcoming Interviews and Guest Posts

Monday, August 1st, I'm participating in the Apple a Day Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, August 3rd, I have an agent/author guest post with Kari Sutherland and debut author Rimma Onoseta and a giveaway of Rimma's contemporary YA How You Grow Wings and a query critique by Kari and my IWSG post

Monday, August 8th, I have an agent spotlight interview with Monica Rodriguez and a query critique giveaway

Monday, August 15th, I have an agent/author guest post with Marlo Berliner and debut author Refe Tuma with a giveaway of Refe’s MG contemporary fantasy Frances and the Monster and a query critique by Marlo

Tuesday, August 16th, I’m participating in the Old School Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, August 17th, I have an agent spotlight interview with Lynnette Novak and a query critique giveaway

Monday, August 22nd, I have a guest post by debut author Christyne Morrell with a giveaway of her MG science fiction Rex

Hope to see you on Monday!

 

 

61 comments:

Liza said...

I learned a lot from this interview. Congratulations on your debut, Rimma.

Jemi Fraser said...

Congrats on the book Rimma - sounds fascinating!

Natalie - I think being aware of genre expectations is so important. Like you say, being unique is great...as long as you don't alienate the readers by defying conventions :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

There are certain genres that have to follow a standard form. Deviate too much and fans won't like it.

Cathrina Constantine said...

Congrats Rimma!
I like writing fantasy because a writer can go outside the box, so to say. There are many fantastical realms in the writer's world. It's amazing how original they all are, even though, the plot is thick with familiar elves, dwarves, faeries, witches, vamps, werewolves...etc....
I agree when it comes to mysteries, there is a standard form to intrigue a reader to continue to the end.

Mary Aalgaard said...

Great info on working with an editor and revision. Your book sounds great!

Pat Garcia said...

Hi,
the book How You Grow Wings really sounds like a good book that I would like to read. It is something different.

Shalom aleichem,
Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Mysteries do have a certain formula and expectations.

Melissa said...

Great minds think alike. LOL Thanks for visiting my blog.

Anonymous said...

Congrats, Rimma.
Great info here.
'Lo,Natalie. Thanks for offering to help me get the word out. Appreciate ya.

Jacqui Murray said...

Well said, Natalie--the balance of writing for oneself and readers. What is the sense of writing if you don't reach readers?

Love the book title!

J.Q. Rose said...

Once again, a jam-packed blog post for us to digest. Congrats to Rimma! You and I have the same thoughts on readers expecting specific elements in mysteries.

Sonia dogra said...

Hi Natalie. I really like the value you bring to the IWSG Day by giving us these Q&A. I am intrigued by the storyline and enjoyed this informative exchange.

Dedra Davis said...

I loved reading this insight. Thank you! I finished my first YA this year, and I've been revising and reading all I can to learn. I would love to win your beautiful book or a query critique! Thank you for this opportunity!

Michelle Wallace said...

How You Grow Wings has a great cover! Congratulations to Rimma Onoseta.
Natalie, thank you, once again, for all the hard work that you do to support authors.

C. Lee McKenzie said...

As usual the interview was wonderful. I don't know how you do this regularly, Natalie, but you do, and I appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

Congrats Rimma, I’d love to read your story so I hope to win the free copy! Learned a lot in the R&R discussion with Kari. I had an R&R request on my first novel. I balked at first, then realized it was a valuable (and free) critique from a professional. The suggestions made my story stronger and I sold it shortly after the revision, although not to the editor who requested the R&R. My email is juliehmata@gmail.com.

Jean Davis said...

Genre expectations definitely play into the writing for readers equation. I do try to pull in a little something outside the box to give the plot or characters a bit of an original spin. Fantasy and Sci-fi do lend themselves to that more than some other genres, which may be why I like that playground most.

Kate Larkindale said...

A lot going on here! You do an amazing amount of work on each post. I'm very impressed.

Loni Townsend said...

Yeah, there's a lot to consider, especially with genre expectations. It doesn't give a whole lot of wiggle room to be unique in some cases!

Danielle H. said...

Thank you for the informative interview. You both gave us lots of excellent insight into revising and submitting. I would love to win a copy of this exciting book that's on my wish list, but I do not wish to be included in the critique opportunity. I follow Natalie on Twitter and shared: https://www.tumblr.com/blog/view/yesreaderwriterpoetmusician/691588682590846977?source=share

Victoria Marie Lees said...

Yes, Natalie, genre expectations need to be met. We make the story unique by the characters and inner and outer conflicts in the story.

Always great interviews here, Natalie. I learn something new each time. Thank you! Great book, Rimma!

Carol Kilgore said...

All my books are mysteries at heart. But I try to make my characters as unique as possible without being traditionally "quirky."

Tyrean Martinson said...

Natalie - I agree, sometimes genres have specific expectations we need to meet, but I always write the heart of the story first - the characters and their quest for their heart's desire, and then, in revision, I start thinking about what readers need for this story to work within a specific genre.

Olga Godim said...

@Natalie: Yes, we have to comply with the genre expectations if we want to retain our readers. The originality should come from the inside the story.
@Rimma: Congrats on your new book!

Lee Lowery said...

Anyone can publish. But authors who want to successfully publish commercially do have to consider reader expectations. Writing might be an art, but selling books is a business.

Anneliese Schultz said...

The book sounds excellent, and what a fascinating conversation, though I thought it might also cover getting an R&R from an agent, which can be confusing. I'd love to have the opportunity for a query critique.

Erika Beebe said...

I like how you relate your work to genre. It's true. Some are bigger than others. And readers do have certain check boxes they like while reading.

Anonymous said...

I agree that both originality and making readers happy are part of the process. It looks like that's the consensus.

Debs Carey said...

Natalie, you make an excellent point about the expectations of certain genres, but I love that it sounds like you get pleasure from those expectations rather than feel pressure - fabulous!

Edie Parsons said...

Thank you Rimma, Kari, and Natalie. This was a very interesting discussion. Congratulations on your book, Rimma!

Sarah Meade said...

Such an insightful and helpful post. Thank you! --Sarah Meade

Ella said...

Wonderful interview, thank you! I would like a query critique. I've mentioned this post on Twitter (I'm also a follower):
https://twitter.com/ElaMishne/status/1555188932505210880

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Rimma's book sounds really good. Thanks for the info about read and revise.

Daniel Mishne said...

Thank you for the great interview. I would like a query critique and I've posted this giveaway on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DanielMishne/status/1555199842359574530

Tanya Elchuk said...

Thanks for the great interview - helpful to see an in-depth look at this process. And thanks for the giveaway! I've mentioned this post on twitter and I am a follower too :) (tanyaelchuk(at)gmail.com)

Mary said...

I've been eagerly waiting to read HOW YOU GROW WINGS and would love to win a copy, and or the query critique. So happy to post this on twitter and facebook! I'm an avid follower of this blog. Natalie, thank you for your generosity in the kid lit community.

Chelly Writes said...

Great interview. Thanks for sharing!

I shared via Twitter

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

The book sounds intriguing... I agree that one has to keep genre expectations in mind while creating something new.

Anonymous said...

Hi Natalie. It's Michael Di Gesu....Sorry about the anonymous, but I can't leave a comment any other way.

Congrats Rimma! Your book sounds amazing, All the best with your breakthrough story! I love the title...

I agree with you, Natalie. Although we like to write for ourselves we do still have to follow some pattern or rule depending on the genre...

Judith L. Roth said...

Great post. Sounds like an intriguing book!

tetewa said...

Congrats on the release, would love to get a copy! tWarner419@aol.com

Jenni said...

This sounds like an intriguing book. I love that it's about sisters! What a fascinating interview. I liked what they said about trusting your gut and revising only if it jived with your vision.
Great points about originality and pleasing the readers, too!

Kerry Hansen (she/her) said...

I love the focus of this interview. The book sounds absolutely beautiful.

Rachel said...

Thanks for the informative interview, there were some great pointers on tackling revision.

J Lenni Dorner said...

Looks like a great book. You're right that mystery novels do need certain elements to fit in their genre. I like the tip about looking at a scene to figure out how to make it more compelling if it's to be kept. That's smart.
“Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.”
―Anne Herbert
My IWSG blog post discussed my love of originality. I'm looking forward to the bout of books readathon and WEP's flash fiction later this month.
Life threw me a curveball with a neighborhood crisis this week, but we got through it.
Winnie the Pooh is the world’s Ambassador of Friendship. In the US, National Friendship Day is the first Sunday of August. #FriendshipDay2022

J Lenni Dorner (he/him 👨🏽 or 🧑🏽 they/them) ~ Co-host of the #AtoZchallenge, OperationAwesome6 Debut Author Interviewer, Reference& Speculative Fiction Author

DMS said...

What a great interview. Sounds like an intriguing book too. Best of luck to Rimma!

Nancy said...

Love interviews with author agent combos. It’s super helpful to see both perspectives.

Rebecca M. Douglass said...

I always strive for originality without totally messing with the expectations of the genre. Some genres have tighter “rules” than others, of course. Can’t have a mystery without a mystery (there is debate over whether a murder is necessary), and can’t have a romance without a love story!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Testing to see how my comments are working.

Lauri Meyers said...

Remembering the story is your won is such great advice in general, even for critique groups.

Jasmine Krouse said...

The book sounds very interesting and would love a critique. I tweeted the interview. Thank you, Natalie. https://mobile.twitter.com/JasmineKrouse/status/1558284637952155648

Jasminekrouse07@gmail.com

Andrea Mack said...

Thanks for all the insights on R&Rs. Congratulations on your book! Sounds intriguing.

Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.

Shanah Salter said...

Can't wait to read this book! I have shared on Twitter and would love to be considered for a query critique. Thank you!

Cathy Sheafor said...

Congrats! And, thanks for sharing such valuable information and for the generous giveaways!

Nancy P said...

Sounds fabulous. Book only please. positive.ideas.4youATgmail.com

Kathy Kelly said...

Thanks for the helpful advice on R and Rs.

Kathy Kelly
kkelly403@comcast.net

Anonymous said...

Writing is baring your innermost thoughts. It is sometimes difficult to listen to feedback without getting defensive. This article helps writers realize that writers are all dealing with this same thing. Please enter me in the giveaway. whoopie@whoopiechicken.com

Emily said...

Thanks for the insight on R and Rs and how to really think about where to make your book stronger!

Ilona Bray said...

I never imagined there were so many nuances and needed strategizing within the world of R&Rs. Many thanks for this discussion!

Nick Wilford said...

What an insightful interview from both. I think there are inevitably certain expectations readers have in some genres. It can be fun to test them a little but we don't want to alienate the reader.