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Query Series with GIVEAWAY: Meagan Spooner and Josh Adams discuss SKYLARK

In our Query Series, writers share with us the letter that helped land them an agentand why the letter worked, from the agent's point of view. Today we are pleased to welcome YA author Meagan Spooner and her agent, Josh Adams of Adams Literary. Meagan's YA dystopian, SKYLARK, debuts Aug. 1 from Carolrhoda Lab. To celebrate the book's launch, YA Highway is giving away a copy of SKYLARK. Just comment (please include your email address ) below by noon PST, August 5th (US and Canada only) and we will pick a random winner. 

To learn more about SKYLARK, please check out this facebook page. To learn more about Meagan and Adams Literary, you can follow them on twitter: @MeaganSpooner + @adamsliterary

From Meagan: 

I was crazy over-prepared for querying. I’d been gathering info on agents ever since the day I started writing SKYLARK (then called THE IRON WOOD) because as soon as I got the idea I knew I wanted to try to sell it. By the time I finished the first draft I had an excel spreadsheet with almost a hundred agents who represented what I wrote, organized in order of how badly I wanted them. It also included things like what materials they wanted with the query, their response times, other clients of theirs whose work I enjoyed, etc.

I was prepared. I was more than prepared. I was a MACHINE. I knew exactly who I wanted, and in what order. I had a system.

But the funny thing about finding an agent is that it isn’t necessarily going to turn out the way you expect.

I got my first offer of representation from an agent I hadn’t even queried, who saw my website and summary and asked to speak with me. (Yes, guys, it happens!) I alerted all the other agents who had my query, and a few days later I got The Call from the number one agent on my list. A couple more offers came in, which gave me options, but I had my dream agent! Everything was going according to schedule, and I was feeling pretty smug.

Except then I got a call from Josh. And he completely blew me away. With his love of my book, with his commitment to my career, with his industry savvy. I knew as soon as I hung up the phone that he was the one I wanted championing my work.

You can never plan on clicking with someone, especially when you’re new to the business and don’t necessarily know what you want yet. And while organization and research is fantastic—and a big part of why I ended up with multiple offers of rep—you can’t let it make your decision for you. Sometimes you have to just trust your instincts.

The query:
Dear Mr. Adams,

I am querying you because of your interest in young adult novels.  I very much admire the Adams Literary approach to agent-client relationships, that you look to sign people, not books, and grow their careers.  I recently saw the sale announcement for [BIG ADAMS LIT BOOK DEAL], which sounded eerily similar to my novel.  It may be that with that project you’re no longer looking for similar works, but it may also mean that you’re especially interested in it--and I’d kick myself forever if I didn’t try!

THE IRON WOOD is a 100,000 word young adult dystopian fantasy novel.  

Sixteen year-old Lark Ainsley has never seen the sky.

Her world ends at the edge of the vast domed barrier of energy enclosing all that's left of humanity. For two hundred years the city has sustained this barrier by harvesting its children’s innate magical energy when they reach adolescence. When it's Lark’s turn to be harvested, she finds herself trapped in a nightmarish web of experiments and learns she is something out of legend itself: a Renewable, able to regenerate her own power after it’s been stripped.

Forced to flee the only home she knows to avoid life as a human battery, Lark must fight her way through the terrible wilderness beyond the edge of the world.  With the city’s clockwork creations close on her heels and a strange wild boy stalking her in the countryside, she must move quickly if she is to have any hope of survival. She’s heard the stories that somewhere to the west are others like her, hidden in the Iron Wood – but can she stay alive long enough to find them?  

I am a 2009 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, and a 2009 Writers of the Future finalist. THE IRON WOOD is my first novel.  

Thank you for your time and consideration!

Sincerely,

Meagan Spooner
 

From Josh:

When Meagan's submission came to me in December 2010, we were already beginning to wind down the year in preparation for the winter holidays. My colleague Quinlan had begun reading her novel, and was enjoying it, when Meagan notified us that she'd received an offer of representation from another agent. Typically in situations like this, in which an author has one or more offers, we know we have to act fast or bow out, as we'll only enter multiple-offer situations for books worth fighting for—those that we feel we truly can't live without. So after discussing with Quinlan and Tracey, I decided to take a look to see how we'd proceed.

I was impressed with Meagan's submission letter. We like authors who "do their homework" before querying—and it was clear that Meagan had done hers. She made mention of our philosophy and approach, and also referenced a recent, well-publicized deal of ours, so it was reassuring that she'd spent time researching and reflecting on why she'd submitted to us, rather than taking a shotgun approach to querying. Since we work as a team amongst ourselves at Adams Literary, as well as with our clients, finding a good fit is paramount.

I was intrigued, too, by Meagan's pitch: Magic. Power. A nightmarish web of experiments. Clockwork creations. It all sounded very cool, and just like the type of book I'd like to read. It's important to us to find books that feel fresh and stand out from the crowd—especially in a popular or emerging genre—and the premise of Meagan's novel seemed wholly imaginative and original. I especially liked the blend of magic and dystopia, which was something I hadn't seen before.

After reading the query, I visited Meagan's website, which was nicely designed and professional and gave me a good sense of her personality and literary influences. There I began reading a sample chapter from the middle of her novel. I was immediately captivated by the unique world she'd created, her beautiful prose, vivid description, and page-turning sense of pacing. We tend to look for books that are very literary or very commercial—and love it when we discover one that's the elusive blend of both. I knew I'd have to read on.

I then loaded Meagan's novel onto my iPad (which is always a good sign, because most don't make it that far) to start from the beginning. The first chapter was just as memorable as the sample I'd read online, and by the third chapter, I'd decided that this was something we'd have to pursue—even if it meant dropping everything else. 

At that point, I emailed Meagan to let her know I was enjoying her work and to schedule a convenient time to speak (which was no easy feat, considering she was living in Australia at the time). I also asked to see brief descriptions of her next books (she'd planned a trilogy), and to learn about any other works she might have written or be planning. This is extremely important to us, since we represent authors, not books, and we want to have a clear sense of how an author envisions her career to make sure we can work from the same page to accomplish those goals.

I read on, hoping that the strength of her work—and my growing enthusiasm—would continue to build as the novel progressed. Thankfully, it just got better and better. By the end, I knew we would offer representation. This was most assuredly a Book Worth Fighting For. (And I secretly hoped my blackbelt in taekwondo might help in the fight!)


A day or so later, we had a nice, long conversation with Meagan about her work and her career goals, and I hoped we might earn the chance to work with her over the now-multiple offers of representation she'd received from other agents. Thankfully, I didn't have to pace nervously for too long awaiting Meagan's decision. Soon thereafter, when I learned that she'd accepted our offer, I was thoroughly ecstatic. It was my last official business of 2010—and one of the best presents I could've ever received.


Thank you, Meagan and Josh, for taking the time to share your thoughts with us!

Stephanie Kuehn

Stephanie is the William C. Morris award-winning author of Charm & Strange, Complicit, Delicate Monsters, and The Smaller Evil.

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32 comments:

  1. Great interview!

    *takes notes*

    I really love this query series and I can see why Meagan's query got so many offers. Skylark sounds AMAZING. Thanks for the giveaway! :)

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  2. I loved hearing from both Josh and Meagan how they came to work together. Josh is at the top of my list of agents. I love his agency and their philosophy toward working with their clients.

    I'm reading Meagan's book now for an interview with her and it's so awesome.

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  3. How cool to hear from both sides. Encouraging and inspiring!

    Skylark sounds fabulous. Thank you for the chance to win it!

    nicnac63 AT hotmail DOT com

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  4. What a fantastic query! I wanted to read Skylark before, but now I'm literally jumping up and down with excitement (yes, real seat-jumping has occured). Good luck Meagan on the rest oif your trilogy and I look forward to seeing more!

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  5. I'm so glad you've all enjoyed reading about SKYLARK and Meagan's query journey! And I will edit the post, but also a request to please put your email address in your comment if you are interested in the giveaway...so we can find you! Thanks so much.

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  6. Skylark has been on my wishlist for months. Meagan is such a sweetie!! The query journey sounds very difficult, but worth it!! Congrats :)

    Vivien
    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

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  7. I love these stories! Gives us insight into the process :) Thank you for sharing! Congrats!

    Molly

    mollylee14(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  8. Aww... It's so cool to hear how everything worked out. I guess it pays to do your homework!

    findjessyhere at gmail dot com

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  9. Thanks for doing this series. It's great to see examples of letters and responses as to why they got accepted.

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  10. Wow, this sounds like a dream come true for both of them. Skylark sounds amazing, as was the query letter that carried it.

    charlottesoulsby at yahoo dot com

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  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  12. I'd seen Skylark around the internet and was drawn by the beautiful cover. The blurb sounds amazing! Thanks for sharing this query tale, from both sides. It really helps aspiring writers who are trying to land agents get a feel of what to do correctly.
    kaylieeausten@gmail.com

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  13. How incredible. Congratulations and great work.

    Take care,
    Jennifer

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  14. Wow. I know every author's experience with getting the perfect agent is different. But I'm glad you got one that you really wanted to work with, Meagan! That's awesome! And, this is random, but I actually like the title "The Iron Wood". lol. Congrats on your debut novel success, Meagan! :)

    Alyssa Susanna
    lilleetleet(at)verizon(dot)net

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  15. Very interesting to see the business side of the book industry. Skylark's been on my radar since I first heard of it and I can see why she received multiple offers! Thanks for the opportunity to win this one! steph(dot)osborn5802(at)gmail(dot)com

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  16. Beautiful cover, and love the mix of magic and sci-fi--feels very fresh and intriguing! Can't wait to read it.

    katherynlnorris(at)gmail(dot)com

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  17. I've been wanting a copy of Skylark for ages! It sounds like a beautiful novel.

    oladokunalexander(at)gmail(dot)com

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  18. I loved learning about the querying process through both Meagan and Josh's perspectives. Skylark sounds like an amazing book, and I can't wait to read it!

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  19. I was surprised to learn that the original title of Skylark was The Iron Wood (Skylark wins by far btw.) It always makes me happy to hear an author's success story even if I'm not a novelist. I'm so happy that you landed such a wonderful agent who is genuinely passionate about your work (even if you had to turn down the number one agent)!

    Reading Josh's reaction to the manuscript has made me even more excited to read the final novel!

    lilianxchengATgmail.com
    Lilian @ A Novel Toybox

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  20. this book really does sound interesting! I am currently writing a book myself, and this really encourages my want to finish it! :)

    aliciarules442@yahoo.com

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  21. This is very interesting! I'll have to remember several things from this article. The book description is very intriguing. It's on my to-read list! Congratulations Meagan!

    shatteredfantasia(at)rocketmail(dot)com

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  22. Stories like this--a writer actually being pursued by not just one, but several agents--are so rare. Congratulations Meagan! The query is amazing and I can't wait to read the novel.

    booksbyhc@gmail.com

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  23. I am actually in the midst of querying and I have really learned a lot from your experience. Thank you for sharing!! Congrats on all of your success Megan, you certainly deserve it:)

    kissedbyink@gmail.com

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  24. Granted, I'm not an expert on queries (I'm just a fan of Query Shark), but even I can tell that Ms. Spooner's query a sparkling example of what to do! SKYLARK has been on my to-read list for quite some time. I hope I win!

    shelver506 at gmail dot com

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  25. Megan's novel sounds great, would love to read it!

    kristie at kristieandaaron dot com

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  26. I'm eating this info up.

    sophiathewriter at gmail

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  27. This is the neatest thing EVER! Love it. I plan on sharing it with my students.

    themgowl at gmail dot com

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  28. I would love to read Skylark and then booktalk it to my students. Sounds like it wouldn't spend much time in my classroom library. Thanks so much for sharing!

    awamom at yahoo dot com

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  29. Thank you for a great post. I like the query. It looks like you were definitely prepared and I'm glad it paid off for you.

    Cambonified(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  30. This series continues to impress me!

    And that cover is GORGEOUS - thanks so much for sharing!

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  31. I hope to one day have a story like this to tell when my novel gets published :)

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  32. Excellent story! Hope to read Skylark soon:)

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Item Reviewed: Query Series with GIVEAWAY: Meagan Spooner and Josh Adams discuss SKYLARK Rating: 5 Reviewed By: stephanie kuehn